FIRST DOWN: RAWLS RUNS AWAY WITH IT
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin made it very clear this week that if his defense didn't stop the Seahawks' run game in Saturday night's Wild Card matchup in Seattle, Detroit had "no shot" to win the game.
Austin's warning, unfortunately, came to fruition.
Seattle second-year running back Thomas Rawls set a Seahawks franchise playoff record with 161 yards on the ground with a touchdown in Seattle's 26-6 win over Detroit.
Rawls averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Seattle, as a team, averaged 4.7 yards on the way to totaling 177 yards on the ground.
"Sure, that's a huge difference in the game right there," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Detroit's inability to stop the run.
"Just not able to get them on the ground enough times, they had a couple big runs. There were a couple of them here that just popped out of the air because we didn't vet it well enough.
"You've got to give credit to them, the back can run the ball, 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 and the rest of it just kind of falls in line."
Detroit ended the season allowing 114 (New York Giants), 164 (Dallas), 153 (Green Bay) and 177 (Seattle) yards on the ground to their last four opponents. That simply won't cut it defensively.
Detroit rushed for just 49 yards (3.3 average) in the loss Saturday.
SECOND DOWN: TOUGH FINISH
Detroit was 9-4 and the second seed in the NFC playoffs heading into Week 14 of the regular season, but Detroit's finish against New York, Dallas and Green Bay — playoff contending teams — said a lot.
Detroit lost all three contests, forcing them into the No. 6 seed and a road game in Seattle to begin the playoffs, where they would end the season on their fourth-straight loss.
What does it mean? It means Detroit still has a ways to go in its roster development to play with the heavy hitters in the league.
"I think obviously we've got a lot of work to do," Caldwell said. "But I do think that this team, they overcame a lot. They battled through this season and got us to this point, we just couldn't play well enough here at the end to get us a victory."
Detroit showed grit in coming back to win when trailing in the fourth quarter eight times, and a lot of rookies got quality playing time, which is good news for next year and the years to come.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the game that he was proud of the way this team fought through adversity and injuries, especially late in the year, to get to this point.
"I have a ton of respect for everyone in that locker room," Stafford said. "It's a year that I'm proud of and proud to be part of that team."
But there is obvious work to be done for general manager Bob Quinn, his staff and this coaching staff this offseason if they want to make sure Detroit doesn't repeat its 0-for-6 showing against teams that qualified for the playoffs this year.
THIRD DOWN: DROPS & PENALTIES
Drops have been an issue for the Lions all season. They entered the playoffs with the third-most drops in the NFL (28) and the fourth-highest drop percentage (6.7).
Against the Seahawks Saturday night, drops on third down killed Detroit's opening two drives, and they finished with four in the game. Eric Ebron had two, and Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. each recorded one.
"Any time you're not staying on the field, it's big," Stafford said when asked after the game if the drops affected Detroit's ability to get in a rhythm offensively.
View game photos from the Detroit Lions' Wild Card matchup at Seattle.
"You play against a team like Seattle you've got to seize your opportunities, they're a really good defense. We had some opportunities and didn't come away with any yards, first downs, points, whatever it was. It's tough to win a game when you play that way."
The Lions were flagged seven times for 68 yards, but three of those were for unnecessary roughness and one for roughing the passer. That's simply undisciplined football. The worst part about it was that the unnecessary roughness penalties were on Anquan Boldin (2) and Haloti Ngata (1), who have 26 years of NFL experience between them.
"Yeah, some things are inexplicable," Caldwell said. "Our guys have usually been pretty sharp with catching the ball, we had some drops out there we customarily don't have.
"Lost our poise a couple times, it's the fact of the matter, it was a couple of older guys. There's a couple of them that are debatable, one call was probably debatable. But I do think that's uncharacteristic of us and we've got to get better in that area."
FOURTH DOWN: CONTROVERSIAL NO CALL
The Lions didn't lose because of officiating, and Caldwell wasn't going to make any excuses after the game, but there was certainly a sentiment in the locker room that the officials might have missed a few calls.
Two calls in particular stood out. The touchdown catch by Seattle receiver Paul Richardson in the first half that could have been called offensive pass interference, and a no-call on a deep throw to TJ Jones in the second half, where Jones was clearly interfered with, but the official deemed the ball that dropped two yards in front of Jones uncatchable.
"Yeah, I'm not going to go into all that," Caldwell said when asked about the interference no call in particular.
"That's not why we lost the game. Calls are calls, you've got to overcome them and we've got to play better. We just didn't play well.
"I just think that's excuse making. We didn't make plays, we didn't make enough plays to get it done. They had a couple plays we had interference on them, they caught it with one hand, so you know, that's the only thing I'm interested in is guys who make plays. We're not going to make any excuses."
Stafford simply chalked up the officiating to playing on the road. He said the home team typically gets the benefit of some calls in this kind of game.