The Seahawks play their final home game of 2021 when they host the Detroit Lions on Sunday, a game featuring two teams trying to finish strong despite a disappointing season. The Lions have shown life of late, winning two of their last four after starting the year 0-10-1, while the Seahawks are trying to close out the season on a high note despite being in the unfamiliar position of playing a game with no playoff implications, having last headed into a Sunday eliminated from playoff contention in 2011.
To learn more about the visiting Lions, Seahawks.com reached out to DetroitLions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman with twenty questions, man. OK, that would be too many, but Tim was kind enough to answer five questions about the Lions ahead of Sunday's game at Lumen Field.
What has improved for the Lions to allow them to pick up a pair of wins over playoff contenders (Minnesota and Arizona) after an 0-10-1 start, and what have those recent wins done for the team's confidence moving forward?
Twentyman: Look no further than quarterback Jared Goff and some of the advancements the team has made recently in the passing game. Head coach Dan Campbell took over play calling from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn after the team's Week 9 bye, tight ends coach Ben Johnson, who has a really creative offensive mind, added passing game coordinator to his duties, and Detroit's receiving corps, led by rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and veteran Josh Reynolds (acquired via waivers Nov. 10) settling into their roles, has really had a strong effect on Goff's play.
The Lions have a run-first mentality offensively. They've rushed for more than 1,600 yards with a 4.5 average per rush through 15 games for the first time since Barry Sanders was toting the rock back in 1998. But the consistency and play-making ability they've shown in the passing game over the last month has been a real complement to the run game and allowed them to be much more effective offensively.
Getting that first win against Minnesota a few weeks back got the winless monkey off their back and allowed them to play a little more loose. The win over the Cardinals a couple weeks ago proved that if they play good ball in all phases they can play with and beat anyone in this league.
Seahawks fans obviously know Jared Goff well from his time with the Rams, what has he brought to the Lions offense in his first year in Detroit?
Twentyman: I think Goff's real strength is in his play-action game, and with Detroit more of a run-first team under head coach Dan Campbell, Goff could be a nice fit here long term. There were a lot of moving parts and new pieces here offensively to begin the season, and it took some time and some mid-season changes for things to start to gel, but we're seeing a much more consistent Goff now.
He's built some trust with receivers like St. Brown (the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for Dec.) and Reynolds, who he had a history with while playing with the Rams.
Goff has thrown nine touchdown passes vs. only two interceptions with a 105.1 passer rating over his last four starts. As Seattle fans know, he's got a good arm, and when he trusts his receivers to make plays for him, which they've done the last month, he's not afraid to throw into some tight windows or offer up some 50/50 balls down the field. That's really made this Lions offense much more versatile and explosive the second half of the year.
It appears the Lions have been good running the ball regardless of who is in the backfield; is that a reflection of the offensive line? The running back depth? Both?
The strength of this football team entering the year was its offensive line. Taylor Decker is one of the better left tackles in the game, Frank Ragnow is arguably the best center, right tackle Penei Sewell has been everything the Lions hoped as the No. 7 overall pick this year and second-year left guard Jonah Jackson was just voted a second alternate for the Pro Bowl.
Amazingly, the Lions haven't had Ragnow (turf toe; IR) since Week 4, and Decker missed half the season with a hand injury, and still they've plugged guys in and not skipped a beat upfront. Credit offensive line coach Hank Fraley for that.
At running back, the Lions have a terrific 1A and 1B duo of D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. It's really their version of lightning and thunder. Swift can take it to the house anytime he touches it, while Williams is a thumper. Swift will be back this week after missing the last four games with a shoulder sprain. One thing Seattle fans need to watch out for him is what he can do in the passing game. Swift was leading all running backs in receptions (56) before the injury.
There was a two-week stretch where the team didn't have Swift or Williams (COVID) a couple weeks back and all practice-squad running back Craig Williams did is rush for 195 combined yards in those two starts. They've got great depth upfront and in their backfield.
Detroit's new identity offensively under Campbell is physicality and running the football. Seattle fans now a little bit about that from those Marshawn Lynch days.
What players/position groups need to step up most for the Lions to pick up a win this week?
Twentyman: Detroit's defensive front really dominated that game against Arizona and kept Kyler Murray in the pocket and harassed him all game. I feel that has to be a similar recipe for success against Seattle.
The Lions' 25 sacks are tied for the second fewest in the NFL. But even if they don't always get home, just speeding up Russell Wilson's clock and getting him off his spot is crucial for the Lions to limit Seattle offensively. The Lions need a strong effort from the guys upfront on defense in this one.
What are a couple of matchups you're looking forward to seeing play out on Sunday?
Twentyman: One that really stands out to me is Swift vs. linebacker Bobby Wagner in space. I've got all the respect in the world for the consistent production year after year from Wagner. Jordyn Brooks coming on the way he has this year has been big for that linebacking corps, too. Swift is one of the most dynamic open-field runners in the league. Can he shake one of the best in the business on the other side of the ball in Wagner this week?
One other matchup to watch is rookie third-round cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu if and when he gets matched up against D.K. Metcalf. Melifonwu missed a large portion of the season with a thigh injury, but he's back to finish the season, and the Lions want to see a good finish from him. He's got terrific length at 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, so that would be a big-on-big matchup anytime they square up from one another across the line of scrimmage.
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Detroit Lions for Week 17 of the 2021 season. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.