Seattle Seahawks

Kam Chancellor, defense save Seahawks in 13-10 win over winless Lions

As Lions receiver Calvin Johnson stretches for the end zone, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor prepares to punch the ball loose in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Photo taken in Seattle on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015.
As Lions receiver Calvin Johnson stretches for the end zone, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor prepares to punch the ball loose in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Photo taken in Seattle on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. Staff photographer

As Michael Bennett joyously ran off CenturyLink Field following yet another wacky finish to a Seahawks game, he yelled through an interview of hero Kam Chancellor.

“Pay him!” Bennett bellowed at the safety who ended a 54-day holdout 11 days earlier.

A half-yard from defeat, Chancellor saved the Seahawks from losing to the league’s only winless team Monday night. Seattle also got a huge assist from an official’s missed call on a touchback Chancellor forced in the northern “Fail Mary” end zone to beat Detroit, 13-10, on a night the porous offensive line and two fumbles lost by Russell Wilson nearly doomed it.

“It was crazy,” teammate DeShawn Shead. “Just crazy.”

First Chancellor — the Seahawks’ beloved team leader playing his second game after two months away in a contract stalemate — Megatron’d Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson off his feet with a shoulder slam following a catch over the middle. His teammates and the building erupted.

Later in the fourth quarter, Chancellor delivered the literal knockout punch.

Former Seahawk Golden Tate kept the Lions alive with a big catch on third down late. But then Chancellor slugged the ball out of Calvin Johnson’s loose grip just before Johnson carried a catch across the goal line with 1:51 left. That turned what would have been Detroit’s winning touchdown into the saving, controversial touchback — a fumble out the back of the same end zone in which Tate simultaneously caught a desperation pass in 2012 to end a Monday night win over the Packers.

The defense not allowing an offensive touchdown for the second straight week — plus a clinching 50-yard completion from harassed Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse — is how the Seahawks won their second straight game.

“That’s our defense,” said Shead, forced into service as a Plan C nickelback after Marcus Burley broke his thumb in the first half. “You give us an inch of grass and we can win the game.”

Johnson lost his first fumble among 61 career catches inside the red zone.

“I attacked it. Punished it — and made a big play at the end,” Chancellor said. “I saw a lot of brown on the ball.”

His teammates saw a lot of the Chancellor they missed while he skipped the first two games. Seattle lost both.

“I just saw Kam doing what Kam does,” Bennett said. “When you think about what he gives to the team and what he does for the team, you can argue that he should be paid as one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. Some of these guys that are giving guys $100 million, these guys aren’t worth $100 million. And I think Kam is worth $50-60 million guaranteed in his contract.”

But…

At the end of the fumble, Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball from the back of the end zone across the end line and out of play. An official gave the touchback signal with his left arm while his penalty flag was inside his clenched left fist.

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network the play should have been a foul on Wright, and Detroit should have retained possession just outside the goal line.

“Now that you look at it, we’re fortunate in that one,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

“It was unfortunate that the officials didn’t know how to do it, for their sake. It’s the way it goes sometimes.”

That was minutes after Bennett was praising Wright in the locker room for a “smart-ass play” — at the same moment Carroll was coaching Wright on how he needs to attempt to recover the ball in the end zone and fall down for the touchback rather than bat it.

“I thought it was a smart play. But come to find out, next time I just have to pick it up, and just go down,” Wright said.

“You can’t intentionally, I guess, knock it out. But at the time I wasn’t thinking that. I was just trying not to mess up and mess up the game. I know now.”

He added with a grin, “I’m glad we won.”

The bigger question from this escape: Can these Seahawks (2-2) keep winning this way?

It worked, barely, against Detroit (0-4), this reliance on a back-to-form defense. Seattle defenders pounded the Lions players all night.

On offense, Wilson ran around making playground plays behind an awful offensive line while avoiding six more sacks than the six he got in front of a team-record 69,005 somewhat unsatisfied home fans.

The Seahawks played for just the second time in six seasons without Marshawn Lynch. He was out with an injured hamstring, though he looked good running on the field two hours before kickoff. That was a positive sign he may be ready to return on Sunday, when Seattle plays at unbeaten Cincinnati. Carroll said that’s the hope.

Without the NFL’s rushing leader since 2011, the offense managed just one touchdown for the second straight game. Undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls led Seattle with 48 yards on 17 carries in replacing Lynch. Wilson gained 40 yards on 10 runs, most scrambles away from Detroit’s constant pressure.

Wilson got sacked six times by a team that was 24th in the 32-team league in sacks per game coming in. Wilson lost two fumbles, and that’s how the Lions almost won. Detroit’s Caraun Reid scooped up the second fumble and ran 27 yards for the touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, Seattle’s lead was down to 13-10.

After yet another Seahawks’ three-and-out on offense, Detroit drove from its own 9 to the red zone. Then Chancellor saved the night.

“We saw one of the great plays in ball when a team’s on the precipice of winning,” Carroll said. “The play Kam makes is extraordinary.”

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