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SEATTLE, Wash. - The Seahawks beat the Detroit Lions 26-6 at CenturyLink Field Saturday night in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, meaning they have advanced to at least the Divisional Round of the postseason for five straight seasons and in six of seven under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. The Seahawks will play at 1:35 p.m. PT on Saturday, January 14 in Atlanta.
To beat the Lions, the Seahawks used a formula that hasn’t always been there this year, but has been Carroll’s preferred method of playing football over the years. They played dominant defense, ran the ball well, took care of it on offense, and made explosive plays in the passing game.
Here are five rapid reactions to Seattle’s win over the Lions:
1. Thomas Rawls and the running game looked really good.
The Seahawks finished the 2016 regular season averaging 99.4 rushing yards per game this season, which ranked 25th in the NFL, but coach Carroll has never wavered from the fact that his team would remain committed to the running game.
And it wasn’t that the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball at all this season—they had a four-game stretch in which they averaged 163.8 yards per game in November and December—but the consistency has not been there, as is evident in the Seahawks last three games in which they rushed for 72, 78 and 87 yards.
On Saturday night, the Seahawks got back to being a dominant, physical running team, with Thomas Rawls becoming the first player in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in the first half of a playoff game.
Rawls went on to break Marshawn Lynch’s postseason record for most yards in a single game with 161 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. And as great as Rawls was, it wasn’t just him making the run game go; Saturday’s game was also one of the more impressive displays of run blocking by Seattle’s offensive line all season.
2. What a catch. Three times.
For most of this season, Paul Richardson probably wouldn’t have been on the field when the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but with Richardson in a bigger role since Tyler Lockett went down with a season-ending injury, he was not just on the field in that situation, but the target of Russell Wilson’s pass attempt into the back corner of the end zone.
With the ball thrown slightly behind him, Richardson was the victim of pass interference, yet somehow he reached out with one hand and hauled in a spectacular catch while going to the ground. In what was a tight, low-scoring game most of the way, that catch wasn’t just big because of its degree of difficulty, but because of how significant those seven points were to the outcome of the game.
Richardson wasn’t done after that either, making an impressive leaping grab for a 19-yard gain on Seattle’s next possession, helping set up a field goal that gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Then just for good measure, Richardson hauled in a one-handed 27-yard grab in the fourth quarter while being interfered with.
3. The defense took care of business.
The Seahawks defense has had some ups and down in recent games, but was dominant on Saturday, holding the Lions to just 231 total yards and a pair of field goals. The Lions converted just 2-of-11 third-down attempts and had 13 first downs, and while the defense did not get a turnover, there was little else that didn’t go right for that unit.
Bobby Wagner continued to be a tackling machine with 10 more tackles, Cliff Avril added a pair of sacks and Michael Bennett had one as the pass rush got going late. DeShawn Shead also stood out, breaking up two third-down passes to get off the field and providing good coverage on another. If not for a dropped interception, Shead, who was credited with three passes defensed, could have had a huge game.
4. Doug Baldwin was everywhere.
Doug Baldwin broke Darrell Jackson’s team record for postseason catches early in Saturday’s game, but he was far from done at that point. Baldwin, who in the regular season matched Bobby Engram's team-record with 94 catches, had 11 more Saturday, gaining 104 yards, including a spectacular 42-yard sideline grab.
Baldwin was so dialed in on this night that he appeared to take a touchdown away from Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter. Whoever was supposed to get that ball, that score helped the Seahawks pull away and allowed Russell Wilson to match Matt Hasselbeck’s franchise record with his 18th postseason touchdown pass. Wilson had himself a nice game as well, completing 23-of-30 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 119.3 passer rating.
5. It was (almost) a clean day on special teams.
The Seahawks have had a few issues on special teams in recent weeks, particularly in the kicking game, so it could have been a cause for concern that they had to make a change at long snapper due to Nolan Frese’s Week 17 ankle injury. But newcomer Tyler Ott not only was clean on his snaps, he also made a nice play hustling down field to down a Jon Ryan punt at the 4-yard line.
The Seahawks were again solid on coverage, especially Jeron Johnson, who made two solo tackles on kick coverage to pin Detroit inside the 20-yard line, and new return man Devin Hester, while not spectacular, was clean on kick and punt returns.
There were a couple of penalties to keep it from being an even better day on special teams, as well as, perhaps most notably, a missed extra point, this one bouncing off the right upright.