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.

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.

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.

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.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL playoffs bracket and schedule 2017: Seahawks advance with win over Lions

The Lions couldn’t hold off the Seattle Seahawks at Century Link Field in the wild card round. Seattle dominated time of possession, and running back Thomas Rawls ran all over the Lions en route to a 26-6 victory.

With the win over Detroit, the Seahawks advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Seattle will travel to Atlanta and take on the Falcons next Saturday.

Earlier on Saturday, the Houston Texans beat the Oakland Raiders to move on to the divisional round. The Raiders were excellent this season up until quarterback Derek Carr went down with a broken fibula in Week 16, but with backup Matt McGloin also sidelined by injury, Oakland had to rely on third string rookie Connor Cook.

Cook, making his first NFL start ever in the wild card round, was stymied by Houston’s dominant defense. He was sacked three times and threw three interceptions. The Raiders, after appearing poised to make a Super Bowl run prior to Carr’s injury, have been eliminated from playoff contention, and the Texans will face either the New England Patriots or the Kansas City Chiefs, depending on how Sunday’s AFC wild card matchup goes.

On Sunday, the Steelers will face off against the Miami Dolphins in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins will be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is recovering from a knee injury. Backup Matt Moore will get the start again. The last time the Steelers faced the Dolphins, Miami got the best of them, winning 30-15.

The Green Bay Packers will welcome the New York Giants to Lambeau Field on Sunday to further shape the NFC postseason slate and determine who will face the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round.

The Patriots and Cowboys will face the lowest remaining seeds, which means that the winner of the Packers’ matchup with the Giants will head to Dallas. The Falcons will face the Seahawks, and the Chiefs will play the highest remaining AFC seed in the Divisional Round.

Wild Card Round
Saturday, Jan. 7

GAME 1: Houston Texans 27, Oakland Raiders 14

GAME 2: Seattle Seahawks 26, Detroit Lions 6

Sunday, Jan. 8

GAME 3: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins, 1:05 p.m., CBS

GAME 4: Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants, 4:40 p.m., FOX

Divisional Round
Saturday, Jan. 14

GAME 5: Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:35 p.m., FOX

GAME 6: New England Patriots vs. Houston/Miami, 8:15 p.m., CBS

Sunday, Jan. 15

GAME 7: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh/Houston, 1:05 p.m., NBC

GAME 8: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay/New York, 4:40 p.m., FOX

Championship Round
Sunday, Jan. 22

NFC Championship, 3:05 p.m., FOX

AFC Championship, 6:40 p.m., CBS

Super Bowl 51
Sunday, Feb. 5

AFC champion vs. NFC champion, 6:30 p.m., FOX

NFL playoffs: Thomas Rawls runs wild in Seahawks victory over the Lions, 26-6

Thomas Rawls was born in Flint, Mich. He went to college at Michigan, then Central Michigan.

Rawls spent Saturday night driving through Michigan.

The Seattle running back powered his way through the Detroit Lions defense, gaining 161 yards in 27 carries, as the Seahawks advanced to the second round of the NFL playoffs with a 26-6 victory at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s nice to have our run game back; it feels like Seattle again,” Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam said.

The Seahawks will play at second-seeded Atlanta in a divisional game Saturday.

Whereas Seattle has won 10 home playoff games in a row, Detroit hasn’t won a postseason game on the road since 1957 — or a postseason game, period, since 1992, meaning their playoff losing streak has reached nine games.

The score was close for three quarters of this clear-but-frigid contest, but it always felt as if the Seahawks were in full control. The home team owned the time-of-possession battle, 36 minutes and 39 seconds to 23:21.

“When we go out there and go three-and-out, or not have to do those 12-, 13-play drives, it keeps us fresh,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

“For a team that’s coming off a bye [Atlanta], you want to be as fresh as possible.”

Most important for the Seahawks was their ability to run the ball, a staple of Coach Pete Carroll’s best squads.

In the four seasons before this one, the Seahawks finished third, first, fourth and third in rushing. This year’s team was 25th, however, and Seattle had not run for 100 yards for three straight weeks.

That drought ended Saturday night with the relentless pounding of Rawls, who in the past 13 months has overcome a broken ankle and broken leg.

The last time the Seahawks played host to a wild-card game was during the 2012 season, when Marshawn Lynch helped upset New Orleans with his 67-yard “Beast Quake” run, one that triggered a fan celebration that actually registered on the Richter scale. So it was fitting that the ground game would once again define a wild-card victory.

“Same scheme, same plays,” Gilliam said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and having the [guts] to do it.”

Detroit finished as the only team that failed to win a game outside this season. The Lions team that came from behind to win eight times in the fourth quarter lost its final four games, counting Saturday night.

“Some things are inexplicable,” Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said. “Just our guys have usually been pretty sharp with catching the ball. We had some drops out there we customarily don’t have and lost our poise a couple of times, that’s the fact of the matter.”

Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes, to Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin.

Seattle’s second-round game at Atlanta is a rematch of a divisional game in early 2013 — Wilson’s rookie season — when the Falcons eked out a 30-28 win thanks to a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with eight seconds to play.

Before this season, Carroll frequently compared his team to the one that came out of that divisional loss (and went on to win the Super Bowl the following season). He saw a similar bounce-back quality in these Seahawks.

The Falcons played at Seattle in Week 6, with the Seahawks rallying down the stretch for a 26-24 victory.

That game was hugely controversial because Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman got away with obvious pass interference against Atlanta receiver Julio Jones in the waning moments.

The Falcons are coached by Dan Quinn, who was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls a few years ago.

Despite all the yards on the ground, Saturday’s game might best be remembered by a catch. Seattle scored first on a touchdown catch that, even though it only covered two yards, had to be among the NFL’s best this season.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2 midway through the second quarter, Wilson tossed a high pass in the direction of Richardson, who had Detroit safety Tavon Wilson in his face.

Somehow, in a move worthy of The Matrix, Richardson reached his left arm low around Wilson and caught the ball, curling it into his body with one arm as he hit the ground. Wilson was flagged for pass interference, but it didn’t matter.

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