Seahawks' answer for Lions' balanced offense? 'If you hit him, you're gonna be fine'
SEATTLE – Somebody’s hot streak is going to cool off Sunday.
The Detroit Lions will play host to the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field, a matchup of 3-3 teams that have both won three of four games after starting the season 0-2.
It’s also a clash of two teams that have enjoyed suddenly resurgent rushing games, with the Seahawks relying on a young platoon and the Lions getting an impressive rookie season from second-round draft choice Kerryon Johnson. Kickoff is at 10 a.m. on the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX.
Coach Pete Carroll said last week that the Seahawks had an eye on Johnson leading up to April’s NFL draft.
“We thought he was a really good player,” Carroll said. “We really liked him. We were busy with our running back, but we had evaluated him extensively. He’s elusive and aggressive, creative. He’s been playing really well. He’s averaging over six yards a carry right now. I don’t know if anybody else is doing that in the league.”
One player is – that’s San Francisco running back Matt Breida, at 6.5 yards per carry – but that doesn’t take anything away from Johnson’s debut. In six games so far, Johnson has 69 carries for 444 yards and a touchdown, and has caught 15 passes for another 89 yards. His biggest game came last week against the Miami Dolphins, when he carried 19 times for 158 yards in a 32-31 victory.
“It balances out their attack and just makes them that much more difficult,” Carroll said.
It does give the Lions a nice counterweight to 10th-year quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford topped 4,000 yards last season for the seventh consecutive year, completing 371 of 565 passes for 4,445 yards and 29 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
“Matthew Stafford has always been a great football player,” Carroll said. “We’ve had great respect for his ability to throw the ball. He’s been a guy that has over the years relied on big passing days, big passing games, big emphasis that way. Coming off the game last week where they just tore it up on the ground, it really makes it very difficult to figure out what to do against them. He’s playing really efficiently, he’s really sharp. His numbers are great, you can’t sack him. His completion numbers are up. I mean, he’s doing everything well.”
A common theme in the Seahawks’ three losses has been that Russell Wilson spent too much time running for his life. In losses to the Broncos, Bears and Rams, Wilson was sacked six times, six times and twice, respectively.
The Lions are tied for fourth in the league in total sacks, but Carroll pointed out there’s one notable difference between them and the teams Seattle struggled against: Those three teams rely on one or two monster pass rushers, while the Lions are more of a pass-rush-by-committee.
“They’re very active,” Carroll said. “It’s really mixing their looks, and it’s a combination of things, it’s not just the dominant guy coming off the edge. They’ve done it various ways. … It’s a team thing. It’s a lot of coverage-oriented sacks as well.”
The Seahawks, of course, think they’re up to the challenge. Linebacker Bobby Wagner, for one, said last week that he thinks he has the answer for Johnson.
“He’s done a really good job in hitting the holes and finishing off the runs really well,” Wagner said. “That’s what excites you to play somebody like that, knowing that you’re going to have to bring your game. He can do it outside, inside, and they look at him as far as passing too. It’s cool when you have a back that they kind of rely on like that to do his thing, and he’s done a good job.
“But I feel like if you hit him, you’re gonna be fine.”