The Seahawks are back home for a Monday Night Football showdown with the Detroit Lions, their second straight home game after opening the season with two losses on the road. Detroit, a playoff team a year ago, is off to a surprising 0-3 start, but the Seahawks know the Lions have playmakers on both sides of the ball who will present tough challenges Monday.
Seattle took a step forward in its 26-0 victory over the Bears, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows there is still plenty of work to be done to have the Seahawks operating at the level at which they expect to be playing.
"We have a long ways to go to get our ball right, but we're working at it and we're trying to find our ways in every aspect of our game day, improve and clean things up and be more fundamentally sound," Carroll said. "It's going to take a really good effort. This is a really exciting team. When you look at Detroit, they have players at all the spots that can make things happen, they've had a chance in every game to win, and I can see why. They've just got talent, and they have an attack approach with their offense, and the strength of those receivers and the quarterback. It really drew our attention, so it's a big matchup for us. Excited about this challenge and hopefully we can play really well this weekend."
Here are three key matchups that will help determine who comes out on top Monday:
1. Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game vs. Seattle's pass defense.
While the Seahawks have focused on a balanced offense under Pete Carroll, the Lions are at their best throwing the ball, with Matthew Stafford having thrown for at least 4,200 yards while attempting at least 600 passes in each of the past four seasons. For a comparison, consider that Russell Wilson's career highs in those categories came last season when he attempted 452 passes and threw for 3,475 yards.
And the Lions like to throw the ball for good reason. Not only is Stafford one of the league's most talented quarterbacks, he has one of the best receivers, Calvin Johnson, as his top target, and another very good receiver, former Seahawk Golden Tate, as his No. 2 target.
Conversely, the Lions are last in the league in rushing, with 45.0 yards per game, and while they'll likely at least try to establish some semblance of a rushing game to keep the Seahawks honest, the Seahawks know that stopping the Lions means keeping Stafford and the passing game in check.
"They've got a lot of weapons, when it comes down to it," Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. "They've got a gunslinger at quarterback and they've got a lot of weapons that they can throw the ball to. They're just doing what they do best."
2. Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham vs. whoever Detroit has covering him.
The Lions gave up 199 rushing yards to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago, so they know priority No. 1 has to be stopping the run, but a close second has to be dealing with Jimmy Graham, who is coming off of a 7-catch, 83-yard performance in which he caught his second touchdown of the season. Graham is a matchup nightmare for any team, and the Lions have to be especially concerned having allowed a touchdown to a tight end in each of their first three games.
The uncertainty on Marshawn Lynch, who is listed as questionable for the game with a hamstring injury, could make the Seahawks passing game, Graham included, an even more important aspect of the game. Yes, the Seahawks will strive to be balanced no matter who is carrying the ball, but Lynch is one of the best backs in the league, so Seattle can't just assume they'll have the same rushing attack with or without him.
3. Detroit's ball security vs. a defense hungry for turnovers.
Winning the turnover battle has always been a huge point of emphasis for the Seahawks under Pete Carroll, but while Seattle's offense has done a good job taking care of the ball so far this season, the Seahawks have not had much luck taking it away since forcing three turnovers in the season opener. The Seahawks had just one takeaway against Green Bay, and none in their shutout victory over the Bears, and the Seahawks still don't have an interception in 2015.
"In due time, in due time," Richard said. "They do come in bunches. We do work our tails off, it's a point of emphasis every day. We know we want to get that football, so we have a whole day dedicated to it. At some point, they're going to start to roll, so we just want to be there to get them."
If the Seahawks are looking for a good opportunity to add to their turnover numbers, it could come against the Lions, who have turned the ball over eight times this season, which is tied for the second most in the league.