Detroit — With the offense missing several top playmakers, the Detroit Lions needed its defense to step up Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks. Instead, the unit failed to even force a punt in a 48-45 defeat at Ford Field.
In addition to the 48 points, Seattle also racked up 555 yards. Prior to taking a knee to end the game, all eight of the opponent’s possessions ended in either a touchdown or field-goal attempt.
“We gave (our punter) the day off,” Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith said. “Mike (Dickenson) is a great punter, but obviously, we don’t want to use him a lot.”
The Seahawks entered the day as one of the league’s worst offenses — ranking bottom-five in both points and yards — but had little problem moving the ball against the Lions’ porous defense from the start of the contest, driving 75 yards on 11 plays for a game-opening touchdown.
The Lions twice had the Seahawks facing third down on the series, but surrendered conversions on both, allowing Smith to scramble from the pocket for 17 yards on the second. Smith finished the drive with his arm, threading a ball to tight end Will Dissly for a 15-yard touchdown, besting the coverage of rookie safety Kerby Joseph.
Detroit failed to immediately respond, going three-and-out with the team’s first possession. But linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez forced a fumble on the punt return, which was recovered by long snapper Scott Daly. Capitalizing on the turnover, quarterback Jared Goff found tight end TJ Hockenson open for a 32-yard touchdown on the next play. Kicker Dominik Eberle missed the extra point leaving the Lions down one.
Hockenson initially stumbled on the play after colliding with teammate Josh Reynolds, but kept his footing to make the play.
“That was one of those things where I knew my number was called, I knew it was coming to me and I wasn’t going to let something, a little bump, stop that,” Hockenson said.
The Seahawks counterpunched with another effortless drive, this time needing just seven plays to get back into the end zone. Passing each of the first three snaps, Smith connected with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the throws for 57 yards. The Lions’ issues were compounded by defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs getting flagged for roughing Smith on the third pass.
Two plays later, Smith scored on a designed draw up the gut, putting Seattle up, 14-6.
A successful fake punt helped the Lions net a field goal on their next drive, but Seattle was able to match with three of their own after Eberle provided a short field by sending the kickoff out of bounds.
And the Seahawks pushed their advantage to two scores after recovering a fumble near midfield and Metcalf beat the coverage of Jeff Okudah for a 54-yard gain down to the 2-yard line. From there, a communication breakdown in Detroit’s secondary involving Joseph resulted in tight end Noah Fant coming uncovered for an easy touchdown, making it 24-9 following the extra point.
Detroit trimmed the deficit as time expired in the first half. Needing four tries from the 1-yard line, running back Jamaal Williams was finally able to punch it across the goal line on fourth down as the final second ticked off the clock in the second quarter. Unfortunately for the Lions, they remained down two scores after Eberle missed a second extra point.
Looking to maintain that momentum coming out of the break, those thoughts were immediately derailed when Goff threw behind Hockenson on a deep crossing route and was picked off by Seattle cornerback Tariq Woolen, who returned the gift 40 yards for a pick-six, pushing the visitor’s lead to 31-15.
“Just a bad decision,” Goff said. “Late, late bad decision. Can’t do it. Dumb.”
Seattle had a chance to go up 19, but kicker Jason Myers badly missed a 39-yard field goal after a botched snap. Catching a break, the Lions needed just three plays to respond.
Goff opened Detroit’s series with a 17-yard pass to Kalif Raymond, and after a short run, Williams burst through a hole created by linemen Dan Skipper and Penei Sewell and picked up a second-level block from Hockenson. Left one-on-one with safety Josh Jones, Williams effectively used a stiff arm and was off to the races for a 51-yard score, the longest run of his career.
The Lions got two chances at a 2-point conversion after Seattle was penalized on the first. Keeping the ball on a zone-read, Goff was able to convert, slicing the lead to eight, 31-23.
While Detroit’s defense continued to struggle, allowing Seattle to quickly move across midfield, it appeared they had a stop that would have forced a long field goal after Smith’s rushed third-down pass fell incomplete. Instead, the officiating crew said the play had been killed prior to the snap because of a malfunctioning play clock. With new life, running back Rashaad Penny took a handoff and shot through the line, dodging a tackle by cornerback Amani Oruwariye for a 36-yard touchdown.
“We were trying to pressure him,” Campbell said about the Lions play call on the touchdown, which was anticipating another pass. “They hadn’t shown that (look on film).”
Again, Detroit’s offense responded. Hauling in a short pass near the left sideline, Hockenson broke two tackles and rumbled for an 81-yard gain down to the 4-yard line, setting up a short scoring strike from Goff to Reynolds two plays later. And it was Hockenson hauling in the two-point conversion, getting the Lions back within seven, 38-31, early in the fourth quarter.
Provided another opportunity to get their first true stop of the afternoon, the defense continued to stumble.
Despite a holding penalty putting the Seahawks in an early hole, they were able to climb out of it when Smith scrambled for another conversion. Shortly after, the quarterback stood down a blitz and took a big hit in the pocket to deliver a deep ball to Lockett for a 36-yard gain. The Lions managed to hold the opposition out of the end zone, but a 25-yard Myers’ field goal kept the Lions’ comeback just out of reach.
Led by Goff, and overcoming a pair of drops by Williams, the Lions kept pace with a 75-yard touchdown drive. The quarterback completed five passes during the possession, including a 17-yarder to Tom Kennedy to convert a fourth down. Goff capped the series with a second touchdown pass to Hockenson, this time from 5 yards out, and Eberle made the extra point, making it 41-38 with 5:28 remaining.
It was a career day for the Hockenson, who stepped up with the Lions missing receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark, as well as running back D’Andre Swift. The tight end finished with eight catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage set a franchise record for a tight end, surpassing Jim Gibbons’ 161-yard game in 1964.
But, the effort was all for naught.
Predictably, Detroit’s defense fell woefully short of holding up their end of the bargain. With the Seahawks facing third-and-5 at Detroit’s 41-yard line, Penny delivered the knockout blow, getting around the right edge unabated en route to a lengthy touchdown run, putting a bow on a second half where he churned out 143 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Clawing until the bitter end, Goff led another touchdown drive as time dwindled. A 24-yard pass to Hockenson led to a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back Justin Jackson with 1:06 remaining. But the team couldn’t recover the ensuing onside kick attempt, sealing the defeat.
“We weren’t real sharp,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t real clean, we had penalties, we had turnovers, one of those was for seven points, which was the difference in the game. And then, defensively, man, we weren’t good. Special teams made some plays , but then there were a couple we gave up too. It wasn’t clean and that’s on me.
With the 45-point outburst, the Lions have been the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. Conversely, the defense has given up the most points in the league. According to NFL research, the team’s 281 combined points and points allowed are the most by any team through the first four games of a season in NFL history.
The loss drops the Lions to 1-3 on the season. They’ll hit the road next week to face the New England Patriots.