Tale of the Tape: Lions Shore Up Glaring Weakness Ahead of Seahawks Clash

Here we stand at a pivot point in the Seahawks season. Even is their record. Ascending is their level of play. Enter the Detroit Lions. A team that started their season getting blown out by a rookie quarterback and the New York Jets and then became the only team to lose to the San Francisco 49ers. They have rebounded to beat the Patriots, Packers, and Dolphins, while losing a close one to the Cowboys. Both teams can make a strong case that they are a different team than the ones that exited the first two weeks of the season without a win.

Detroit gets the benefit of playing at home, and also made a big trade (literally and figuratively) this morning to acquire former All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison from the New York Giants. That move should go a long way toward addressing a major weakness on the Lions defense, and could play a significant factor in a game against the suddenly run-centric Seahawks. This begins a stretch of five straight tough games for Seattle. It is not hard to make the case that this game is the most winnable of the bunch. Lose on Sunday, and the playoffs became far less likely. Win on Sunday, and the Seahawks will have crossed another threshold on the journey toward relevance in the NFC.

This game feels as much like a toss-up as any we have seen this season. In games like that, the edge goes to the home team.

The way this works: Each offense will be pitted against the opposing defense and compared on an array of key statistical attributes based on their respective rank in the NFL. The tables that follow show the rank of each unit for each of these categories. 

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Seahawks Offense vs Lions Defense



Lions key advantages on defense

The Lions pass rush is sneaky good. Devon Kennard has 5.0 sacks, Romeo Okwara has 4.0, and guys like Da’Shawn Hand are creating interior pressure. The Seahawks sack rate ranking is misleading. They are one of the best teams in the NFL at pass blocking over the past four weeks in terms of pass block efficiency. Even in sack rate, they rank 17th since week three of the season. Detroit represents a significant challenge. Even with Germain Ifedi’s improvement, this is the type of game where he could wind up as the goat between the Lions edge rushers and the crowd noise. Expect the Lions to try and get Seattle into obvious pass situations and attack the right side of the line.


Seahawks key advantages on offense


Before this morning, I would tell you the Seahawks have a tremendous advantage in the run game. Take a look at the Lions run defense even over their more successful last four weeks:

Teams have been thrashing the Lions run defense, especially around the left side. Detroit is dead last in yards per carry allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed. Seattle has to be salivating at the thought of slowing down that pass rush with a steady diet of run plays and then play action shots against a very suspect secondary. Harrison is one of the best run defenders in the NFL, and gets inserted right in the middle of this Lions defense.

Interestingly, the Lions have not struggled as much to defend runs up the middle, where Harrison is likely to be most impactful. Whether Seattle will test the edges is a key tactical decision. Russell Wilson has yet to carry the ball on a neutral script first down rush so far this season after accounting for 20% of those plays in each of his healthy seasons.

Russell Wilson has not been part of the rushing game at all this year

Maybe this is the game where Seattle unleashes Wilson a bit more, and takes the Lions by surprise.

Seattle also has some real advantages in the passing game. If Doug Baldwin is back to being even 80% of his former self, David Moore continues his rise, and Tyler Lockett just keeps on keeping on, there should be big plays to make against a secondary without any particularly talented players. Darius Slay has been torched this year, giving up 4 touchdowns and being called for 3 penalties. He has allowed a 114.7 passer rating. Here is the top six players on the Lions in terms of coverage snaps and their passer rating allowed:

  1. Safety Glover Quin 105.2
  2. CB Darius Slay 114.7
  3. Safety Quandre Diggs 79.9
  4. CB Nevin Lawson 93.0
  5. LB Jarrad Davis 108.5
  6. CB Teez Tabor 150.7

That’s…uh…not good. Any semblance of a run game should unlock some big plays for the Seahawks through the air, and should they fall behind, Wilson should still have a chance to put up big numbers if the offensive line can do their part.

Lions Offense vs Seahawks Defense

Lions key advantages on offense


Matthew Stafford and his receiving crew of folks like Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay are legit. They are tough to stop. What has really unlocked this offense is the play of rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. He has been incredibly impressive, and currently has a gaudy 6.4 yards per carry. That rushing attack piled up 248 yards last week in Miami, helping to pave the way for 457 total yards and 32 points. The Seahawks run defense has been inconsistent. There is very little chance Seattle wins this game if they cannot slow down the Lions rushing attack.

Watch out for Golden Tate against Justin Coleman. Coleman has had a terrible time with tackling this season, and Tate is one of the best tackle breakers at the receiver position in the league.

Seahawks key advantages on defense

The Seahawks secondary has managed to do a great job taking the ball away from opponents. The Lions have not had a turnover in three games. Detroit has a pretty good pass-protecting line. Seattle showed some ability to create pressure last week against a terrible Raiders line. If they can do even half as well this week, it increases the chances the secondary can make a turning point play.

Special Teams


Special teams could play a meaningful role. They are playing in a dome, and the Seahawks have an advantage in the punting game.



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  1. These weekly “Tale of the Tape” chartings are always fun to churn over, though given individual team match ups I’m not altogether convinced how predictive they are. But, we’ve got to have something to chew on…..

    Just some tidbits. Some seem concerned that Detroit just made a huge improvement to their defense with the acquisition of Harrison. Maybe. But keep in mind that the, perhaps, biggest improvement to our O line is Fluker (and of course Solari). How many times have you watched that clip of Fluk pancaking Suh? Yeah!! Now, remember that D.J. (and Solari) practiced against “Snacks” regularly. Might just know his tendencies/moves pretty well (though the other side of that coin is there too). Snacks alternative is Sweezy, but that might not be an improvement. Another wild card is Dickson finally making the roster at TE. He can’t be in game shape, Vanett might not really be full go, so Fant will probably still have a role to play. Russ seems more willing to step up into a pocket now, perhaps it’s a developed trust, but whatever the reason, it’s a good thing. Defenses have figured out, to a degree, his spin out from a deep drop moves, that’s why pincer schemes have been more effective against him. Step up and quick throw is an effective alternative. I’m hopeful that this is that game we see from time to time where our running backs have a huge stat day……………..and that helps the defense as well.

    On defense our best situation is health nearly across the board. KJ returning is great, and hopefully he’s at or near 100%. Bobby hasn’t quite looked the same without him in there. Sunday might see a marked improvement behind the front. And that could be good for what seems to be the other big fear out there. Stafford ripping the secondary apart. As “proof” the “smart set” offer how easily the Rams kept moving the ball to their receivers, no matter which ones were on the field. Two things to keep in mind. One is, Jim Bob Cooter, as good as he is, is not a McVay savant for route scheming. Two, it’s a feature of a Carroll defense to leave a soft middle……….”keep the play in front of you” philosophy. Bright minds like McVay can capitalize on that softness, others haven’t shown to be as effective. It will be interesting to see who in the secondary the Lions think is the weakest link. One of our boys just might have a productive turnover day.

    All that being said, the Lions have morphed into a team very much like our Seahawks. A handful of name players surrounded by the rest who are not particularly well known outside of their market. They whip on some good teams, whiff on some lesser ones. Hard to really predict. Given that, I feel the home team has the advantage, especially against a team that is mediocre when traveling to an early game. If the Hawks win it will probably be a thin one, 1-3 points.

  2. I was thinking this would be an easy win for Seattle. Then I read Aaron Schatz say that while Detroit ranks 28th in DVOA, if you take out the Jets game they rank 14th. The Jets game is the one where the Jets said they were able to steal the play calls and knew every play that was coming, substituting the personnel to counter it.

    Which means Detroit is a much better team than I thought they were and this game is going to be a tough one. We really have a brutal schedule from here on out.

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