The Opposing View: An Insider's Look At The Detroit Lions

DetroitLions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman answers six questions about the Seahawks’ Week 8 opponent. 

Following their bye week, the Seahawks are back in action this week and will travel to Detroit to play the Lions, who like Seattle come into this game with a 3-3 record having won three of four following an 0-2 start.

To learn more about the Seahawks' Week 8 opponent, we reached out to DetroitLions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman for the inside scoop in the Lions:

Q: Like the Seahawks, the Lions have won three of their last four following an 0-2 start; what has been the key(s) to that turnaround?

Twentyman: Taking care of the football for one. After throwing four interceptions in a Week 1 blowout loss to the Jets, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown just one interception over his last five games. He has 11 touchdown passes over that same span.

Defensively, the Lions have been able to overcome the loss of defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who hasn't played since the second quarter of Week 1 due to a shoulder injury, and are currently fourth in the league with 21.0 sacks.

In wins over New England and Green Bay, in particular, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were frustrated all game long by there being nowhere to deliver the football because of the marriage of coverage and rush the Lions throw at teams.

Lastly, Detroit has found themselves a run games, led by rookie second-round pick Kerryon Johnson, and that's given this Detroit offense much more balance than they've had since probably the Barry Sanders years.

Q: What has Matt Patricia brought to the organization in his first year as head coach?

Twentyman: The two things that jump out to me are discipline and attention to detail.

During training camp, if a back fumbled the ball, everything stopped and the offense ran. A lineman false started, the offense ran. Players didn't move fast enough from drill to drill, Patricia let them know about it, then they went back the drill, did one more rep, and you better believe they ran hard to the next drill.

An example of the attention to detail is the way the Lions hydrated and rested, starting early in the week, before their Week 7 matchup in Miami in the 89-degree heat. The Lions were well prepared and actually looked like the more conditioned team in the fourth quarter than Miami, a team used to those conditions. For Patricia, the little details are important.

From a scheme perspective, his defense is very multiple and much more complex for opponents to unravel. He came in putting an emphasis on being a better running football team and we've seen that through six games.

Q: Balance hasn't exactly been a word you'd associate with Lions offenses in recent years, but it looks like the running game has a big role in this year's offense. What led to that change, and how has it helped Matthew Stafford and the rest of the offense?

Twentyman: "I think when I look back at our team last year, all those critical situations, like it's goal line, we can't run the ball like half a yard. That bothered me."

That's a quote from Lions GM Bob Quinn right after last season, a year in which the Lions finished dead last in rushing yards per game and average per rush. That's really where it all started.

Quinn drafted guard Frank Ragnow in the first round. Ragnow is currently the fourth highest graded guard in all of football in run blocking by Pro Football Focus.

Running back Kerryon Johnson, who Quinn drafted in the second round, leads all rookie backs with a 5.7-yards per carry average. Johnson's 444 yards trails only Saquon Barkley's 481 yards among rookies, but Barkley's played in one more game than Johnson.

Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount has added a toughness-factor to the backfield, and this team added the fullback position back to the roster, which they'd cut out of the mix in previous seasons.

All of it has led to much more balance. You guys in Seattle know how dangerous an offense can be when the threat of the run and the pass is on an equal playing field.

The impact on Stafford has been profound. Consider this, Stafford has recorded better than a 100.0 passer rating in five straight games. That's the most in his career and the longest active streak in the NFL right now. It's not a coincidence that has coincided with the Lions being more balanced than they ever have in his tenure. Before this season, Stafford had a 100-yard rusher just seven times in nine years. Johnson's already reached 100 yards in two games this season.

Q: Even without Ezekiel Ansah for most of the season, the Lions are close to the league lead in sacks with 21; how has the defense found success rushing the passer minus a Pro-Bowl defensive end?

Twentyman: The Lions have a pretty experienced group in the secondary, led by All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay, who have played a lot of football together. Detroit's played pretty well in the backend on defense, and that's allowed time for those rushers to get home.

Five different players have recorded multi-sack games for the Lions this season, the most in the NFL. Detroit's gotten a lot of contributions from a lot of different players rushing the passer, especially from the linebacker position. This is a much different scheme under Patricia and the linebackers are used a lot to rush the quarterback. Devon Kennard (5.0), Eli Harold (3.0) and Jarrad Davis (3.0) are all linebackers with multiple sacks.

The Lions have to be pretty excited about the prospects for this pass rush when and if they do get Ansah back in the fold.

Q: Luke Willson and DeShawn Shead were both fan favorites during their time in Seattle, what kind of contributions are they making in their first season with the Lions?

Twentyman: Willson is obviously a great player in the locker room. He's got a great personality and has quickly become of the beat writer's favorite players to talk to. On the field, he hasn't made a huge impact catching the football, but he's played a big role in the run game as a blocker on the edge and in the second level. That's played a big factor in the run game being what it's been so far in Detroit.

Shead is kind of a Swiss Army Knife in the secondary. When the Lions play bigger more physical pass catchers, we see Shead more. He's a matchup piece on defense and has made some plays so far.

Q: What are the Lions hoping the trade for defensive tackle Damon Harrison will do for the Lions defense going forward?

Twentyman: The Lions have been brutal against the run this season. Going out and acquiring Damon Harrison via trade with the Giants was a significant move, especially ahead of this week's game against Seattle and that seventh-ranked rushing offense of theirs.

The Lions are allowing on average 139.3 yards per game on the ground. That ranks 30th in the NFL. Opponents are averaging 5.3 yards per carry. That's the highest in the league. The Lions have given up four runs of 40-plus yards this season, the most in the NFL this season.

In Harrison, Detroit's added arguably the league's best run defender over the last half decade. The expectation is for him to make an immediate impact and significantly help an area of need moving forward.

The Seahawks and Lions will meet for the 14th time in the regular season this Sunday in Detroit. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.

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