For the second time in five years, the Seattle Seahawks will head to Atlanta to face the Falcons in the NFC playoffs. But before we look forward, let's first look back at what the media are saying about the Seahawks' 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions.
For the past few years, the Seahawks have been a run-first team. ESPN's Sheil Kapadia says Seattle found that identity again.
"During the regular season, the Seahawks averaged 3.95 yards per carry as a team, which ranked 24th in the NFL," writes Kapadia. "But against the Lions, Rawls spun by defenders and ran through would-be tacklers all game long. He looked like the same player who led the NFL with a yards per carry average of 5.65 as a rookie last season."
Danny O'Neil of 710 ESPN Seattle says this is the team fans have been waiting for.
"An offense that ran the ball on nine consecutive plays during one stretch of the first half, and a defense that never let Detroit get the ball inside the Seattle 35 at any point of the game," writes O'Neil.
And Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated says the Seahawks have to keep looking that way.
"... if the Seahawks are going to make a playoff run—emphasis on if—the way they played on Saturday, how they beat the Lions, that’s the blueprint. That is how it will look. The Seahawks rushed for 177 yards and limited the Lions to 49 yards on the ground. Seattle held the ball for 36:39, compared to 23:21 for Detroit. 'That’s definitely the formula,' Shead said. 'That’s how we’re supposed to play," writes Bishop.
Dave Boling of The News Tribune gives props to the offensive line, which was preparing for the game with offensive line coach Tom Cable four hours before kickoff.
"They weren’t padded up, but they were drilling nonetheless. It wasn’t just going over plays, but techniques, footwork, timing," writes Boling. "More than anything, it was a matter of getting their attention, reminding them how important they would be in Saturday’s wild-card game against the Detroit Lions."
And let's not forget who was throwing the ball.
"On passes thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Wilson went 16-for-18, but for only 97 yards," writes Matt Claasen of Pro Football Focus. "That’s just 6.1 yards per completion. On throws 10-plus yards downfield, though, Wilson was 7-of-9 for 127 yards. 149 of his 224 passing yards came prior to the catch in an impressive aerial display."
Lindsay H. Jones of USA TODAY warns the NFL better beware of the Seahawks team that showed up Saturday.
"... none of the chunk passing plays would have been possible without Rawls’ running. On the second-quarter drive that ended with Richardson’s touchdown, the Seahawks rushed the ball on eight consecutive snaps, including a fourth-and-one conversion by Rawls. The decision to run, and run and run again was made by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell — and supported enthusiastically by the rest of the team," writes Jones."
The Seattle Times' Matt Calkins urges caution before saying the Seahawks are back to championship form -- especially against the Lions.
"It’s important to remember that Seattle had just 10 points through the first three quarters against what might be the NFL’s worst pass defense. It’s also important to remember that Richardson might have gotten away with a face-mask penalty on his TD catch — which came on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line," writes Calkins.
Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio 950 KJR had mostly positive grades, but was critical of newly-acquired kick returner Devin Hester.
"Seattle doesn't need Hester to be Tyler Lockett. He's not that type of player anymore. However, he can't give away 20 yards in field position either by not making a strong effort to catch a punt," writes Crabtree.
John Brenkus of ESPN shows us the science behind Paul Richardson's controversial touchdown reception.
Sorry, but we can't look past the officiating. The consensus is Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson grabbed Tavon Wilson's facemask on his crazy touchdown catch. And the Lions think that isn't the only call the refs missed.
"Current and former Lions players recognized the inequity in the officiating, noting that this isn’t the first time Detroit has gotten the short end of the stick in the playoffs," writes Yahoo Sports' Shalise Manza Young. "But while (Brad) Allen’s crew was far from flawless, the Lions didn’t do enough to help their cause, particularly on defense."
But ESPN's Michael Rothstein says to hold up a bit on the criticism.
"The Lions have had some questionable calls go against them, but they’ve been the beneficiary of favorable calls late in games as well. Penalties were fairly even during the game, with Detroit flagged seven times for 68 yards and Seattle six times for 40 yards," writes Rothstein.
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press says two of the Lions' veterans let the team down by drawing unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
"Both 14-year veteran Anquan Boldin and 11-year veteran Haloti Ngata lost their composure, lost their cool and both drew boneheaded penalties, as the Seattle Seahawks beat the Lions, 26-6," writes Seidel.
What about next week? The Seahawks have opened as a 3.5-point underdog against the Falcons in Atlanta. The conventional wisdom is home teams are spotted three points on the spread.
As of Sunday morning, FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Seahawks a 38% chance to beat the Falcons.
Vaughn McClure of ESPN says the Falcons played fantastic down the stretch of the regular season than they did in a Week 6 loss to Seattle.
"The Falcons are a much better version of themselves now, with Ryan throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during a four-game winning streak to finish the season. He has been spectacular all season and has thrown touchdown passes to 13 different targets, an NFL first," writes McClure.