NFL Wild-Card Playoffs: Seahawks overpower Lions as Thomas Rawls runs wild


At this point, traveling to Seattle during the playoffs is a suicide mission. The Seahawks just don't lose.

Their 26-6 win over the Lions on Saturday night marked the Seahawks' 10th straight postseason win at home. But in order to journey deeper into the playoffs, the Seahawks will need to win away from Seattle -- in Atlanta -- next weekend. That's a story for another day, though.

The story of Saturday was how the Seahawks -- a team that looked vulnerable over the final six week of the season -- rediscovered their running game.

The Seahawks rebounded from Marshawn Lynch by using 18 different players to run the ball in the regular season (seriously). Over the course of the 16-game season, the Seahawks averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

Against the Lions, the Seahawks averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Thomas Rawls powered the Seahawks offense. In the first half alone, Rawls racked up 107 yards on 15 carries, which means he posted a season-high in yards during the second quarter. The holes were there for him and Rawls repeatedly rumbled through arm tackles, so the Seahawks handed him the ball over and over again.

He racked up 161 yards on 27 carries, while Russell Wilson was reduced to the role of a game-manager and, for a brief moment, lead blocker.

As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, Rawls rushed for 56 yards in his previous three games -- combined. According to the NFL's research group, Rawls became the first player with more than 150 rushing yards in a playoff game since Marshawn Lynch's 157-yard outing against the Packers in the 2014 NFC title game. And, oh yeah, Rawls ended up setting a Seahawks franchise record.

The Seahawks' win wasn't overly impressive considering they thoroughly outplayed the Lions, but still let them hang around, only pulling away with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but it did reveal a scary and effective formula that they can potentially ride all the way Houston. If the Seahawks can run the ball and play the kind of defense that they did Saturday night -- they held the Lions to 4.6 yards per play -- there's no reason why they can't beat a Dallas or Atlanta, not when everything is going their way.

The question is, can the Seahawks replicate their performance against teams that are better than the overachieving Lions? We'll find out in a week.

Read on for more takeaways from the game.

The Lions' shortcomings

The game was also about the Lions' failure to beat a playoff team for the sixth time this season, which means the Lions still haven't won a playoff game since 1991.

This is almost unbelievable:

The simple fact is, the Lions aren't a good football team. They were a team that overachieved all season and relied on Matthew Stafford's ability to bail them out in the fourth quarter -- he set a single-season record for the most fourth-quarter comebacks. Once Stafford suffered his finger injury, the Lions dropped dead.

Against the Seahawks, Stafford went 18 of 32 for 205 yards and a 75.7 passer rating. So, in the four full games since that injury, he threw two touchdowns and three picks -- a significant drop-off from his MVP-caliber play earlier in the season.

As a result, the Lions dropped the final three games of the regular season, losing out on their chance to host a playoff game instead of traveling to Seattle. Then they were a complete no-show against the Seahawks, committing dumb personal fouls, dropping countless passes, getting manhandled by a shaky offensive line, and using questionable decision making.

Early in the game, the Lions decided to go for a fourth-and-short. I loved the decision, but not the play call, which resulted in a pass thrown to a tight end behind the line of scrimmage.

This did not go well:


So, it's worth pointing out that the Lions probably didn't intend to throw the ball to their tight end -- that's just how the play developed. But it's also worth noting that the Lions got too cute. Just run the ball to pick up a yard.

Paul Richardson says hello

The Seahawks earned the first touchdown of the game, journeying 14 plays for 60 yards to reach the end zone. On that drive, they ran the ball 11 times, converted two fourth downs, and scored on arguably the greatest catch of the season.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2, the Seahawks gambled and went for the touchdown. This happened:


Paul Richardson definitely tugged on the defensive back's facemask, but defensive pass interference got called instead. Regardless of the incorrect flag, that drive was awesome. It was the Seahawks bullying the Lions up front. It was Rawls looking like the back he was a year ago. And it was Seahawks making magic happen when it absolutely shouldn't have.

One more look:


I know, I know -- that face-mask. If it makes Lions fans feel better, the officials admitted to Jim Caldwell that they missed the call.

Yeah, that probably doesn't help.

Back to Richardson -- because he absolutely exploded Saturday night. He ended up catching three passes for 48 yards. All three were spectacular.

What's next?

The Seahawks will head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, who stole away the No. 2 seed late in the season.

Back in mid October, the Seahawks edged the Falcons in Seattle, 26-24. It was an incredible game, which featured a 21-point explosion late by the Falcons in the third quarter, a questionable no-call against Richard Sherman, a block that Michael Bennett claimed was dirty (he had a NSFW way of describing it), and Sherman blowing up on the sideline.

The last time the two teams met in the postseason? The 2012 playoffs. Wilson, a rookie, faced a 27-7 fourth-quarter deficit. The Seahawks took a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left before giving up a game-winning 49-yard field at the final gun.

A rematch should be fun.

Live-blog recap

Below, you'll find our live-blog of the game.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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