Lions falter in another playoff game, 26-6 in Seattle
Dropped passes, silly penalties and self-destruction led to yet another playoff loss by the Lions
SEATTLE — They dropped passes, picked up silly penalties and self-destructed in the most predictable of ways, and when it all ended with another playoff loss — their ninth straight dating to the 1993 season — even their coach struggled to explain why it happened on this grand stage.
“Some things are inexplicable,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
Flint native Thomas Rawls ran for a season-high 161 yards and scored the game-clinching touchdown with 8:49 to play as the Seattle Seahawks drubbed the Lions, 26-6, in an NFC wild-card game Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
The Lions are 0-2 in the postseason under Caldwell, who was reassured that his job is safe for 2017 days before Saturday’s debacle, and winless in the playoffs in the last 25 years.
Their last postseason victory came on Jan. 5, 1992, when they beat the Dallas Cowboys, 38-6.
“We didn’t get it done,” safety Glover Quin said. “We got to the playoffs and when you play against a good team on the road you have to play stellar football and we didn’t do that.”
On Saturday, the Lions didn’t play anything close to stellar football.
They dropped four passes (two by Eric Ebron and one each by Golden Tate and Marvin Jones), were called for four costly personal fouls (two on Anquan Boldin, one on Haloti Ngata and one on Tavon Wilson) and had no answer for Rawls, a Central Michigan product who admitted “it was kind of sweet” to have his best game of the season against his homestate team.
After dealing with leg injuries much of the season, Rawls, who averaged just 38.8 yards rushing in the nine regular-season games he played, exploded for 107 yards in the first half and scored the game-clinching touchdown with 8:49 to play.
“We just did a poor job of tackling,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “He ran exactly the way we knew he was going to run downhill, which is churn out them tough yards. We just didn’t do a good enough job of getting bodies on him and bringing him down.”
The Seahawks finished with 177 yards rushing Saturday and became the fifth straight team to top 150 yards on the ground against the Lions.
Rawls broke Marshawn Lynch’s single-game record for rushing yards in a playoff game.
“That’s a huge difference in the game right there, just not able to get them on the ground enough times,” Caldwell said. “They had a couple big runs. There were a couple of them here that just popped out of there because of we didn’t fit it well enough, and you’ve got to give credit to him. The back can run the ball and he’s got a nice feel for things. But if you don’t get the run stopped against them you’re going to have problems with play-action passes and the rest of it just kind of falls in line.”
Rawls had five carries of 10 or more yards, while the Seahawks held the Lions to just 49 yards rushing as a team.
Tate and Ebron dropped would be third-down conversions on the Lions’ first two drives, and the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-1 on their third offensive possession when Matthew Stafford threw a pass that blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan caught 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Mulligan was stopped for a 2-yard loss on the play, and the Seahawks took over at their own 40-yard line, where they ran nine straight running plays on their way to the end zone.
Paul Richardson made a one-handed catch over Tavon Wilson for the game’s first touchdown. Wilson was flagged for pass interference on the play, though some Lions argued that Richardson should have been flagged for facemasking Wilson in the end zone.
“Whether I think it was a facemask or not, it don’t matter,” Wilson said. “They gave him a touchdown.”
Seattle took a 10-0 lead on its next possession, after Boldin’s first personal foul gave them more good field position, and the Lions went into halftime down 10-3 after a Matt Prater field goal.
Prater made his second 50-plus-yard field goal in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10-6, but the Seahawks moved the ball at will on the Lions on their next three possessions.
Steven Hauschka made a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Rawls followed with a 4-yard touchdown run, and Doug Baldwin caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wilson with 3:36 left.
Baldwin’s final touchdown came after Caldwell punted on fourth-and-10 from his own 44-yard line with about 8 minutes to play.
“It’s a two-score game in that situation,” Caldwell explained. “You punt it, you get them stopped. We had our time-outs to utilize in that situation. You’ve still got a chance to get a score if you can stop them and whatever it takes, however much time you have left, onside kick or whatever it might be. But a two-score game I think in that situation, fourth-and-10 is a long way to go, so we just thought our best chance was see if we can get them stopped another way and it just didn’t work out that way.”
The Lions finished the season on a four-game losing streak and did not beat a team that made the playoffs all year. They lost their final four games by a combined 59 points, and scored just one touchdown — on a Hail Mary — in their final six quarters of the season.
Matthew Stafford finished 18 of 32 passing Saturday for 205 yards for the Lions and is now 0-3 in the postseason in his career.
Wilson completed 23 of 30 passes for 224 yards for the Seahawks, who’ve won 10 straight home playoff games dating back to the 2005 season and visit the Atlanta Falcons in divisional-round action next Saturday.
“I think obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I do think that this team, they overcame a lot, they battled through the season and got us to this point, we just couldn’t play well enough here at the end to get us a victory,” Caldwell said. “There’s only going to be one happy team at the end of the year and that’s the team that wins it all. That’s your goal and effort. That’s the key. And we fell short of that, so obviously we’re going to be disappointed.
“But nevertheless, I do think we can use this season. There’s a lot of things we can build upon, a lot of things we can work to get better and it’s a good nucleus of guys that understand really how to battle and fight. I think we learned some lessons this season, so hopefully that’ll help us out in the future.”