The Seahawks head to Detroit this weekend looking to bounce back from a tough season-opening loss to the Rams, and they know a road victory won't come easy in the Motor City. After a strong finish to the 2022 season that saw them fall just short of the playoffs, the Lions opened this season with an impressive win in Kansas City over the defending champs.
"This is a big matchup opportunity for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Detroit looked great on opening night in Kansas City. They've had a lot of momentum coming off their year last year, and a lot of positive stuff going on. Big opportunity for them coming back home, opening game and all that stuff so it's going to be a really challenging environment which is great. We need to get in those situations and see how to handle the noise and how to handle just the ruckus of it all. It's a really good matchup for us coming up."
Here are five things to watch in Sunday's game at Ford Field:
1. How do the tackles hold up against a tough pass rush in a hostile environment?
With Abraham Lucas going on injured reserve and with Charles Cross ruled out with a toe injury, the Seahawks will be missing both of their starting tackles, which is a challenge for an offense in any game, but a particularly tough task when playing in what is expected to be a very loud environment and against a good pass rush.
As a domed stadium, Ford Field is pretty loud for just about any game, but with the Lions hosting their home opener in a season full of big expectations, it is expected to be especially loud on Sunday.
"This environment, we know it's going to be as loud as it gets," offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said. "… We're going on the road knowing that they're going to be loud, and that's where execution and the understanding of what our tempo and what our cadence is when we're on the road when we have that toolbox to utilize when we go on the road environment, making sure we're all on the same page and knowing that getting off on the snap count, all 11 firing off the ball at the same time is so imperative in these noisy environments, but we also look at the same way the positive side for us is then the defense has to deal with all of those same structural issues while they're on the silent communication for everything they've got to do."
The Seahawks seem likely to go with Stone Forsythe at left tackle and Jake Curhan at right tackle, the same duo that took over for the injured starters last week, and both should benefit from a full week of preparation compared to last week when they spent all week with the No. 2 offense before being thrown into action mid-game. While Forsythe's only start came last season at right tackle, it was in a game the Seahawks won with the offense performing well in a Week 17 game against the Jets, and Curhan started five games at right tackle in 2021, four of which saw the team rush for 170 or more yards, including 265 rushing yards in a win over the Lions.
"We have all the confidence in the world in both Stone and Jake," Waldron said. "Jake did a great job in 2021 against the Lions starting against those guys. Stone has had his chance to be in there. I know it's not always the easiest thing in the world to get thrown in the mix in the middle of a game like that, especially towards the latter half where we really need to get things done there, but we know execution, the things that they can do, the offense that they've been a part of now for the last several years makes us feel comfortable with them going in there and executing. Like everything else in football, it's not always going to be about one guy or two guys, it's about all 11 of us coming together on the field and executing at a high level so we can play that good complementary football. We can have a good balanced attack on offense and playing consistently through four quarters."
The noise will hardly be the only challenge for the Seahawks line. The Lions are aggressive on defense and won't be afraid to bring pressure, and they also feature last year's No. 2 overall pick, Aidan Hutchinson, who was runner up for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award after recording 9.5 sacks and three interceptions last season.
2. Can the Seahawks improve on third down on both sides of the ball?
Plenty of factors went into a season-opening loss to the Rams, but none were more obvious than the struggles the Seahawks had on third down on both sides of the ball. Los Angeles went 5 for 5 on third down on an opening touchdown drive, setting the tone for a game in which they'd convert 11 of 17 attempts, including eight of their first 10. The Seahawks offense, meanwhile, went just 2 for 9, had only one first down in the second half, and with the offense struggling to sustain drives and the defense struggling to get off the field, the Rams ran 78 plays to Seattle's 46, and won the time of possession battle 39:23 to 20:37. The Seahawks know that's not a way to win games, and especially not on the road against a good opponent.
For Seattle's defense, a big factor will be how much the pass rush can be a factor against Jared Goff and Detroit's offense. Last week Matthew Stafford and the Rams were able to have success in part because he had time to throw, with the Seahawks recording only two quarterback hits and no sacks on 38 pass attempts, an effort that Carroll said left him "frustrated."
"We need to be more pointed on some of the stuff we're trying to do," Carroll said. " We didn't get the game plan carried out the way we would like it as well. Communication is always part of that. First time out where they really got a lot of plays. We weren't as clean as we could be and we will be when we get better. (Jarran) J-Reed does a lot of that work and runs the show up there. It's getting together with him in game situations and responding well. He's really good at it, his experience shows all the time. We need to play off of him and get benefit out of him."
3. Can the run defense build off of an encouraging start?
If there was a silver lining in an otherwise difficult Week 1 loss, it was probably the play of the run defense. After finishing 30th in run defense a year ago, the Seahawks made that a big focus this offseason, and saw good results in the preseason, and that carried over into the opener, with the Rams averaging just 2.3 yards per carry.
Going against a talented and committed rushing attack, the Seahawks will need that run defense to show up again on Sunday.
"We don't do the moral victory thing, but you've got to find your positives and say, 'OK, let's hang on to this,' and we've got the other areas that we've got to continue to make our strides in and get better," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "That's how you've got to approach it. We're never going to come in here and make it seem like the world is coming down. There's a lot of football left to be played."
4. Will the Seahawks again handle an early start well?
For years, early starts were viewed with dread by Seahawks fans, as the team often struggled when tasked with playing games that kick off at 10 a.m. PT. Under Pete Carroll, however, the Seahawks have reversed that trend and become a very good road team, even when traveling across the country for an early game.
Dating back to 2018, the Seahawks have won 14 of their last 17 games in the early time slot, and they have a 22-9 record in those early games going back to the 2013 season. The Seahawks got a bit of a preview playing a 10 a.m. PT game in Green Bay during the preseason, so that at least gave rookies and newcomers a taste of traveling east, but now the Seahawks will do it for a meaningful game for the first of four 10 a.m. PT games on this year's schedule.
"This is the legit deal," Carroll said. "We're leaving on Friday and getting our two-day process going. We've really talked all about the Packer game in preparation for this game; the time frames and how things work, the sleep issues and all of that kind of stuff. We're on it, but it's still the first official time with a smaller group, but there's principles to it, in how you focus and in how you prepare and how we work together and hang together. There's going to be 70,000 (fans) against the rest of us. All of those elements are the same. At least we've got one under our belt."
5. Can the defense end another interception-less streak?
While the Seahawks had a very memorable interception in last year's win over the Lions, a pick-six made by rookie Riq Woolen, Lions quarterback Jared Goff did a good job overall of taking care of the ball, throwing just seven interceptions all season. And after not throwing a pick in last week's opener, Goff has now gone 359 attempts without an interception, the third longest streak in NFL history behind Aaron Rodgers' streak of 402 attempts in 2018, and Tom Brady's streak of 399 in 2022.
Interestingly, Brady fell just short of breaking the record because of an interception he threw against Seattle in Munich last year, a pass over the middle that was picked off by linebacker Cody Barton.
Against a tough opponent on the road, a turnover or two could make all the difference in what figures to be a tight game, so the Seahawks would love to end another streak on the road.
The Seahawks and Lions face off on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 at Ford Field. Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Lions.