The Detroit Lions head West in search of their first playoff victory since 1991 as they clash with NFC West Champions, the Seattle Seahawks. As for the Seahawks they’ll be aiming to record their eighth playoff victory under head coach Pete Carroll as they begin their quest to reach the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. During the last five meetings between the two teams, the Seahawks have emerged victors on all but one occasion, however going into the game the both teams have been somewhat inconsistent throughout the final few weeks of the regular season. The Lions have failed to register a victory during the last three games, whereas the Seahawks turned in a tepid display in Tampa and have won just three out of their last six games.
Despite being plagued by an ongoing injury (finger) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s heroics/performances under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has warranted MVP talk. 2016 has been Stafford’s most complete season to date, recording his second highest completion rate (65.3%) as well as posting a career low in interceptions (10). Russell Wilson has produced as you’d expect and remains one of the more consistent quarterbacks within the NFL. Through Wilson’s first five seasons his completion percentage has never been below 63.1% intertwined with his average of 5.6 yards per carry the Lions will need to be at their best to stop Wilson taking over the game. Despite the heroics, Wilson does show signs of being human, evidently by his last five playoff appearances during which Wilson’s completion percentage dropped below 60% (56.9% in 2014, 59.5% in 2015) and he’s also thrown 8 interceptions in that five game span. A worrying concern especially when his highest interception total during a 16 game regular season is 11, hope for the Lions defense?
Pete Carroll On the Lions’ passing game:
“[Matthew] Stafford makes this really difficult. He’s so equipped with everything, he can do it all. He’s going to read your coverage, read your pressures, change and affect their protections properly and make it as hard on you as possible. He’s tough, he’s competitive, he’s resourceful. He runs, he’s got a rushing average, he’s averaging over five yards a carry. You would think of him as a pocket guy but he’s more than that. Take all that and put that aside, look at what he’s done at the end of games. He has been phenomenal finishing games. There’s nothing more than I respect than a guy who can finish like that. He’s had eight games winning in the fourth quarter. Nobody has ever done that before, I heard. I don’t know who keeps that stat, but that’s remarkable. We will treat him with the utmost respect, he’s got terrific players.”
Golden Tate returns to the Seahawks for the second time and will hoping to improve on his first visit during which he reeled in 3 passes for 29 yards. Going into the contest Tate has accounted for 1077 yards receiving and has been in fine form of late as he’s reeled in six or more during his last five games for 460 yards.The matchup against Richard Sherman should be an enthralling contest. Outside of Tate tight end Eric Ebron has emerged during the last two games reeling in 14 of 18 targets for 154 yards.
Pete Carroll on Golden Tate: I love that guy, I had a blast coaching him, he’s a terrific football player, I always liked his attitude, he was a screwball and had fun, always loved playing the game. He was as much fun as anybody we’ve had to coach. It’s been fun to watch him and he’s played really well and they’ve utilized him great.
When you think about Seahawks playoff football for myself I think about that devastating running game from seasons past, but times moved on and the Seahawks now have a number of quality backs, that on their day can be game winners on their own right. The trio of Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls and CJ Prosise (out shoulder) has amassed for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns. Whilst the running game has been below par the passing game has proved to be the deciding factor on numerous occasions. Doug Baldwin’s connection with Russell Wilson is almost telepathic accounting for 1128 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Tight end Jimmy Graham (923 yards, 6 touchdowns) and fellow wideout Jermaine kearse (510 yards,1 touchdown) will be looking to expose any soft coverage should the Lions focus on stopping Baldwin.
Matthew Stafford On Bobby Wagner:“I think he’s got four and a half sacks, doing a nice job of rushing the passer. When he’s getting matchups with running backs he’s winning those matchups. He’s a run and hit guy, he can really fly sideline to sideline, he’s very instinctual, plays the gaps well and does a nice job in pass coverage’s as well. He’s one of the key guys on that defense in my opinion, from what I see, and he does a really nice job
Enough’s been written about the impact on the team in regards to the loss standout safety Earl Thomas. That loss can be somewhat accounted for when you factor in the greatness of defensive end Michael Bennett and linebacker Bobby Wagner (both selected to the Pro Bowl). The pair will would be wise to keep running back Zack Zenner in check during the contest. Zenner has been the go to guy in recent weeks, with 32 carries for 136 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 6 receptions for 46 yards. Defensively for the Lions standout defensive end Ziggy Ansah will be looking to improve on a disappointing regular season (2 sacks) against a offensive line that’s not been without its struggles. Should he fail to overcome an unspecified injury, the Lions will look to DeAndre Levy to inspire the defense.
Quotes referenced within the article are via the respective team(s) media guide(s).