The Seahawks got the best scenario they could have hoped for to begin their postseason after blowing the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
Third-seeded Seattle (10-5-1) hosts sixth-seeded Detroit (9-7) on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.
It’s the NFC West champions hosting the second wild card, which has lost three consecutive games. The Lions’ 31-24 home loss to Green Bay Sunday night in the NFC West title game left Detroit winless this season against playoff teams. The Lions are the fifth team to go 0-5 against playoff teams and still reach the postseason since the league went to its current, 12-team playoff format in 1990.
The Lions have one playoff victory since 1957. The Seahawks have not lost a home playoff game since 2004.
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It’s assuredly a better matchup for Seattle than Green Bay would have been. The Seahawks would have hosted the Packers had Green Bay not rallied from 14-10 down in the second half to win 31-24 at Detroit Sunday night to earn the NFC North division title. The Packers smoked the Seahawks 38-10 in Green Bay last month.
Green Bay, the four seed, will host the fifth-seeded New York Giants on Sunday.
"So, here we go," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team’s fifth consecutive postseason, following Seattle’s 25-23 win Sunday at San Francisco to finish the regular season. "It’s time. And these guys are really pumped. They know it’s finally time to get ready for playoffs.
"We don’t care (who we are playing). We’re just going to get a little trip, get home and a little happy new year, and away we go next week."
"We’re going. We’re playing at home, and whoever comes in we’re fired up and ready to go. Pretty healthy across the board and these guys are really excited about whatever comes up.
"We’re looking forward to getting this thing started."
The Lions are a pass-first team. Often, they are a pass-only team. Quarterback Matthew Stafford throws it all over the yard despite dislocating the tip of the middle finger on his passing hand last month. Stafford threw it 41 times for 347 yards and two touchdowns Sunday night in the loss to the Packers.
“Their quarterback has been phenomenal,” Carroll said on Seattle’s 710-AM radio on Monday.
“He can threw for 400 on any day.”
Then Carroll said something that applied to the Seahawks in all phases of their game right now: “We’ve got to get our act together and get going.”
Stafford was sixth in the league in the regular season with 4,327 yards passing, with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s turned the ball over six times in Detroit’s last 15 quarters. That includes the interception he threw Sunday night against Green Bay.
The Lions’ leading rusher, Theo Reddick, gained just 357 yards before an injury knocked him out of the Lions‘ backfield. That’s the fewest yards by a team’s rushing leader in the NFL. Zach Zenner, an undrafted free agent in 2015 out of South Dakota State, led Detroit with 69 yards against Green Bay on 20 carries.
So neither the Seahawks or Lions are running it worth much right now. Seattle’s difference is it wants to.
Detroit was eying the No. 2 seed in the NFC when it was 9-4 last month. They’ve lost to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers -- all playoff teams since then.
“They’ve had an unusual season,” Carroll told 710 AM Monday.
Defensively, the Lions attack and get after quarterbacks. That’s always a concern for the Seahawks, with their iffy offensive line. It allowed Arizona to sack Russell Wilson six times and hit him 14 more times in Seattle’s home loss two weeks ago. That defeat is why the Seahawks are playing this weekend instead of on a first-round bye.
“They are very well-equipped,” Carroll said on 710 AM about the Lions. “Very aggressive defense.”
Carroll attempted to preserve his starters for Saturday’s playoff game by doing something in the regular-season finale he almost never does. He pulled starters instead of going for the win.
After saying last week he wouldn’t pay attention to how Atlanta’s game was going with New Orleans at the same time the Seahawks were playing the 49ers on Sunday, Carroll listened to voices of reason along Seattle’s sideline during the game. They told him the Falcons had a huge second-half lead, and thus the Seahawks’ last chance to steal the NFC’s second seed and that bye were gone.
So, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, they all exited the game. With 9 1/2 minutes left, Seattle leading San Francisco 25-16 and in the middle of a drive, Carroll sent backup quarterback Trevone Boykin into the huddle. Wilson was so surprised he joked he thought Boykin was entering at wide receiver. It was the first time in Wilson’s five seasons as the Seahawks’ QB Carroll has pulled him in the middle of a drive.
The moves underlined how these Seahawks aren’t as deep as the ones that made the playoffs the last four seasons. Carroll knew Seattle couldn’t afford losing any more starters to injury for the playoffs. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas and Pro Bowl kick returner and wide receiver Tyler Lockett are already out for the season.
After Sunday’s game the coach said he was “in outer space” by making the moves and preserving starters.
"It’s just do everything we could possibly do to win the game. I never am in that frame of mind, and I’ll always challenge that thought,” he said. “I hate backing off at any time. Ever. I can’t remember doing it very many times, ever. I just thought it was, we needed to do something to do what we could to protect ourselves for next week."
Carroll said he didn’t consider before the game taking out Wilson and fellow starters.
"I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about it, and did not have a plan for it,” he said. “I did not want to be planning for that. And, it just kind of happened that it seemed like we need to do something to help and it worked out fine.
“So, I ain’t worried about it one bit. It’s over."
And now -- after a players’ off day Monday -- preparations for the playoffs begin.
LONG SNAPPER SITUATION
Carroll told 710 AM Monday morning he had yet to hear from the team’s medical staff for an update on the sprained ankle rookie long snapper Nolan Frese got early in Sunday’s game. Carroll said Frese’s sprain was significant and it was a gutty performance to finish the game.
In the third quarter Frese sent a snap far over the head of punter Jon Ryan and out of the back of the end zone for a safety. That trimmed the Seahawks’ lead to 22-16.
Carroll wouldn’t divulge what Plan B would be as the kick and punt snapper if Frese can’t play against the Lions. Backup linebacker and special-teams player Kevin Pierre-Louis has done some long snapping in practices, with the emphasis on some.