DETROIT – Greetings for Ford Field, where the Seahawks will close out the first half of their season today by playing the Lions.
This game is wedged between the third and fourth games of the World Series between the Tigers and San Francisco Giants, with the Giants taking Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 set for tonight – just across the street at Comerica Park. So you’ll have to excuse the locals if they’re a bit preoccupied, as well as frustrated.
But today’s game is very important to the Seahawks and the Lions.
For the Seahawks, it’s a chance to finish the first half 5-3, which would set them up nicely for the second half of their third season under coach Pete Carroll – when they play five of their eight games at CenturyLink Field, including back-to-back home games the next two weeks against the Vikings (Nov. 4) and Jets (Nov. 11) and that season-ending stretch where they’ll host the other three teams in the NFC West in the final month of the regular season. Whether there will be a postseason for the Seahawks will hinge on their success in those games, as well as the outcome of today’s pivotal matchup.
The Lions, meanwhile, are looking at this game as the right time to get their season heading in the right direction. After going 10-6 last season and advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the Lions have dropped four of their first six games this season. And they’ve done it in an erratic fashion, scoring 27 and 23 points in their victories over the Rams and Eagles; 41 in an overtime loss to the Titans; and 19, 13 and 7 in losses to the 49ers, Vikings and Bears.
“We can’t compare ourselves to what happened last year,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said during the week. “We’re playing different opponents, there are different games. … It’s just different. Everyone is different.
“We just have to do our best to win each one and not worry about what happened last year or even what happened last week. None of that matters. It’s about what you have this week, who you’re playing, having a good game plan, having the players coached well, have them execute a good game plan and come out with a win on Sunday. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Hmmm. Sounds more than just a little like what Carroll has been saying since the Seahawks lost 13-6 to the 49ers 10 days ago.
Despite that loss to the NFC West division leaders on the road, the Seahawks are just a game out of first place at 4-3. If the Cardinals can upset the 49ers in Arizona on Monday night, the Seahawks could pull back into a three-way tie for first. If they can do something that has been elusive this season – win on the road. While they’re 3-0 at home, the Seahawks are 1-3 on the road.
To pick up road win No. 2, the Seahawks will need to win the numbers’ game when it comes to minus-3, 9-to-81 and 4.
The minus-3 is the Seahawks’ turnover differential on the road, where they have turned the ball over nine times – including all seven of the interceptions thrown by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. They have forced six turnovers in those road games against the Cardinals, Rams, Panthers and 49ers.
The 9-to-81 is Lions QB Matthew Stafford (No. 9) throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson (No. 81). The Lions are averaging 46 pass attempts per game, and Johnson is Stafford’s runway favorite target. In Monday night’s loss in Chicago, the Bears used a physical style in coverage to limit Johnson to three catches for 34 yards – despite being targeted 11 times. The Seahawks need to match that blueprint, using 6-foot-4 cornerback Brandon Browner, 6-3 cornerback Richard Sherman and 6-3 strong safety Kam Chancellor to matchup against and muscle the 6-5 Johnson – and the speed and range of free safety Earl Thomas to help out.
The 4 is the fourth quarter, when the Lions have scored 80 of their 133 points, compiled 992 of their 1,926 passing yards and thrown all 7 of their touchdown passes. The Seahawks’ work-in-progress offense can’t expect to match that kind of late production, so it’s important to score early – and score touchdowns, not kick field goals, in the red zone.
Win these numbers’ games, and the Seahawks have a good chance of emerging from this game 5-3.
Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 10 a.m. PDT, televised coverage on Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and the radio broadcast on 710 ESPN and KIRO 97.3.