After lackluster finish, Seahawks host Lions in NFC playoffs
SEATTLE (AP) Only a few weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions were fighting for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a coveted bye that makes getting to the Super Bowl so much easier.
Stumbles by both teams over the final few weeks have led to the Seahawks hosting the Lions in the NFC wild-card game on Saturday night and a test of whether momentum even matters going into the playoffs.
''There's obviously been a bunch of different teams that have done different stuff going in and then turn on a real good show and get going in the playoffs,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''We'll see what happens.''
Both teams will look back on the final few weeks with a certain level of regret.
Detroit (9-7) faced a gauntlet schedule, closing with three playoff teams - Giants, Cowboys, Packers - and lost all three to give away the NFC North title and its shot of hosting a playoff game.
Seattle may view its stumble as more costly. The Seahawks (10-5-1) lost control of the No. 2 seed when they lost at home to Arizona in Week 16 and with it the chance to be resting.
''History kind of shows you that it's a true restart,'' Detroit QB Matthew Stafford said. ''We're looking at data and who's won it and how, and all that kind of stuff. I'm sure there's been teams that have gotten hot and gone and won it, but there are teams that have not had the finish that they wanted and still gone on to be really successful.''
There is a lot in favor for the Seahawks playing at home against a Detroit franchise that last won a playoff road game in 1957.
Seattle is 5-0 in the playoffs at home since 2010 and has won at least one game in each postseason appearance under Carroll. Since 2012, the Seahawks are 7-3 overall in the playoffs.
All that experience and success doesn't take into account the statistical differences. The Seahawks finished the regular season better than Detroit in every major statistical category offensively and defensively.
But the Lions have shown resiliency all season, recovering from a 1-3 start and winning an NFL-record eight times when trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime.
''Their belief - like the way they believe - you can just see the energy change when they make a big play,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''Whether it's on defense, special teams, offense. Something typically happens where they feed off that energy.''
Here's what else to watch in the first playoff meeting between the teams:
RUN SOMEWHERE: Both the Lions and Seahawks have a run game neither is proud of going into the postseason.
Seattle finished the regular season 25th in the NFL at 99.4 yards per game. Detroit was worse at 81.9 yards per game, good for 30th in the league. The Lions are relying on Zach Zenner as their primary ball carrier with both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick on injured reserve.
Seattle has shown flashes of being the run-first team of previous seasons, but failed to top 100 yards as a team in the final three games of the regular season.
UNIKND QUARTER: Detroit's best quarter has been the second, outscoring teams by 18 points, helping it lead Dallas and Green Bay at halftime before losing both games. Detroit is down two points overall in the first and fourth quarters. In the third, the Lions have been outscored 85-53.
''The third quarters have not been kind to us,'' Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. ''We haven't had the ball a lot, we haven't made much out of that, we haven't created first downs to keep the ball, something we're working at.''
FAMILIAR FACES: Outside of Stafford, there aren't too many recognizable faces with the Lions for Seattle's Cliff Avril to catch up with. Conversely, there are plenty of players still on the Seahawks roster from when Golden Tate was Seattle's top wide receiver.
Avril is hoping to exchange pleasantries with Stafford in the form of sacks and quarterback hits. Avril is coming off the best season of his career with 11+ sacks and the key to Seattle's pass rush that tied for third in the league with 42 sacks.
Meanwhile, Tate caught 90 or more passes for the third straight season since leaving Seattle and joining the Lions. A big game from Tate - especially on short passes - could be significant in making up for Detroit's lagging run game.
DETROIT VS EVERYBODY: The Motor City often feels slighted, or overlooked, and the Lions have added to the story line because some officiating calls have not gone their way in recent seasons, including last year in Seattle .
Detroit was once powerful, winning three NFL championships in four title game appearances between 1952 and 1957, but the Lions have won only one playoff game in six decades. Wives and girlfriends of Lions players wore black sweatshirts with ''Detroit vs. Everybody,'' printed on them for the regular season finale against Green Bay.
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