The Seahawks host the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football, and while Seattle rebounded from an 0-2 start with a shutout victory last week, the 0-3 Lions are still searching for their first victory of the season. To find out more about the Lions, we asked five questions of Detroitlions.com writer Tim Twentyman. I also answered questions about the Seahawks on the Lions website, you can find the answers here.
Q: On paper, the Lions certainly appear to be a better team than their 0-3 record would indicate. What's the mindset of the team right now heading into a Monday night game at Seattle, and how confident are players that they can turn things around?
Tim: It is a better team on paper, but the kind of football they've been playing of late is certainly akin to their record. They haven't been good on either side of the ball. They rank 27th on offense and 27th on defense, which isn't exactly a recipe for success.
The players have been fairly upbeat this week despite the 0-3 start and I think the reason for that has been that they feel a lot of their problems are self-inflicted, thus correctable. It would be different if they didn't match up with San Diego, Minnesota and Denver physically and were just beat up. That wasn't the case. As you know, every game comes down to a few plays and the Lions haven't made enough of those plays to win football games.
Q: What has Golden Tate added to the Lions offense since signing there last year, and how does he feel about a return to Seattle to face his former team?
Tim: Tate has always talked fondly of his time in Seattle, especially being on a Super Bowl winning franchise.
I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, however, that he enjoys Detroit's offense a lot more than the one he ran in Seattle. Seattle is a physical football team that likes to run the ball. Detroit's scheme is based more on passing and getting players in space to make plays.
Tate obviously showed last year (99 receptions, 1,331 yards) that style fits his game a little better. The Lions view him and Calvin Johnson as 1A and 1B in their offense. Tate's ability to run after the catch has been a huge boost to the Lions offense, even if it hasn't shown through the first three games.
Q: Detroit currently ranks last in the league with 45.0 rushing yards per game. Is that a concern, or just the result of being behind in games this season? And facing a good pass rush on the road, how important is establishing some sort of running game, or is it?
Tim: It's not just a result of being behind, though that certainly hasn't helped their total number of rushes, and it certainly is a concern.
The real problem has been upfront along the offensive line. Too many times Lions running backs are having to stop their momentum or shuffle their feet to avoid defenders in the backfield. The Lions are losing the battles upfront in the run game and that's very concerning heading into Seattle to play their physical front seven on defense.
The lack of a consistent run game has allowed defenders to pin their ears back and tee off on quarterback Matthew Stafford. He's been hurried 37 times already this season, which is the most in the NFL. Detroit has to find a way to establish some kind of run game in Seattle or it'll be a long day for Stafford and Co. Look for rookie Ameer Abdullah to maybe give them a spark with a bigger workload.
Q: How much has the loss of Ndamukong Suh changed the defense?
Tim: You don't lose one of the best defensive tackles in the game and expect that it won't affect you. Haloti Ngata, who replaced Suh, has been pretty good, but they are different players.
The bigger loss for the Lions has been linebacker DeAndre Levy, however. He's missed the first three games with a hip injury and that loss has really been felt, even more than Suh.
Levy was second in the NFL last year with 151 tackles and led the league with 117 solo stops. Just two seasons ago he led all linebackers with six interceptions. He's instinctive, equally good against the run and pass and the Lions have missed him dearly to start the season. He returned to practice for the first time since mid-August on Thursday. We'll see what his status is for Monday night later this weekend.
Q: After giving up a touchdown to a tight end in each of their first three games, how will the Lions try to stop Jimmy Graham, who has two touchdowns in his first three games?
Tim: I expect that we'll see strong safety James Ihedigbo on Graham some, but the Lions could also use their big dime package at times. They use three and sometimes four safeties in that look.
Priority number one for the defense is stopping the run, however. The defense called their effort against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings a couple weeks ago (199 total rushing yards allowed) down right embarrassing. Minnesota was able to control the game with their rushing offense.
It's likely we'll see a mix and match of defenders on Graham, mostly safeties and slot corners unless Levy is back in the lineup and up for the challenge.