DETROIT — Tyler Lockett was midway through a victorious stroll through the visiting locker room toward the interview room when his forward progress was impeded by a teammate. Running back DeeJay Dallas rose from his chair, grabbed Lockett by his pads and jubilantly shook his teammate, roaring in celebration while rap music blared inside the Seattle Seahawks’ postgame party.
Nearly 30 minutes had passed since Lockett hushed the frenzied Ford Field crowd on Sunday afternoon, and the Seahawks were still on cloud nine. Not just because they stole a 37-31 road win in overtime against a team that implored its fans to wear blue ski masks to the game, but because of how they got it done, and what it says about their character and their resolve.
The start of Seattle’s season has been a test of resiliency. The team failed its first test when it was punched in the mouth by the visiting Rams in Week 1. The Seahawks’ next seven days were about proving they could respond after being knocked down. Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner, a team captain, implored the team ahead of Wednesday’s practice to flush that loss. He told them that carrying the emotions of it into a fight with the Lions was counterproductive. Wagner knew they could respond — they just needed to show it.
“I knew it, I just feel like we hadn’t been tested,” Wagner said after the game Sunday. “Last week was a test, and today was definitely a test.”
The Lions (1-1), fresh off defeating the defending champs, were as advertised and gave the Seahawks (1-1) everything they could handle for over an hour in a Sunday afternoon slugfest. It became evident during the game that Seattle would need to withstand some haymakers.
Detroit delivered what felt like the most devastating blow when linebacker Alex Anzalone sacked Geno Smith for a loss of 17 yards late in the fourth quarter, forcing Seattle to punt from its own 3, clinging to a 31-28 lead with 1:58 remaining. After that play, the Seahawks were 3 of 8 on third down, after converting 2 of 9 attempts in Week 1. They needed only a couple of first downs to put the game away in regulation. Instead, Smith danced in the pocket and took a back-breaking sack, the Lions’ first of the game. Jared Goff and the Lions took over at midfield with 1:44 left, in great position to win the game.
That’s when Seattle’s defense passed its test. The team had allowed nearly 400 yards of offense to that point and a 60 percent conversion rate on third down. Yes, cornerback Tre Brown had a pick six in the fourth quarter. And Uchenna Nwosu had a forced fumble early in the third. Those were game-changing plays made by an opportunistic unit. Still, they needed a crucial stop on this third-and-7 from Seattle’s 23-yard line with 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
Goff dumped the ball to running back Jahmyr Gibbs for a gain of 3. A field goal tied the game. Time for overtime.
And for Smith and the offense’s next test.
The Seahawks believe Smith is built for these moments. He showed why Sunday. On the sideline, he demonstrated poise in the face of pressure with more than 66,000 fans roaring for the home team.
“Soon as some adversity hits he’s not gonna blink, he’s not gonna think about it,” receiver DK Metcalf said. “He’s already on to the next play. We got back in the huddle during overtime like, ‘Let’s go down here, execute, score and end this game.’ That’s exactly what we did.”
Players on defense were so confident in Smith and the offense that some of them didn’t even bother putting their helmets on when backup quarterback Drew Lock won the overtime coin toss and elected to receive.
“I stayed on the bench the whole time,” safety Quandre Diggs. “I knew what it was.”
Smith’s first pass was a play-action shot to tight end Noah Fant for 17 yards. Three plays later, he stood tall on third-and-6 and fired a strike to Metcalf for 16 yards to the Detroit 38. His next throw was another play-action pass of 21 yards to tight end Colby Parkinson. Later, Smith faced third-and-2 from the Detroit 6-yard line, and as soon as the play call came in, everyone knew the quarterback would deliver.
“Every time a play comes in the huddle on third down, I don’t care when it is, if it’s ‘tag’ something — Z-something or X-something — I’m like, ‘DK or Lockett’ is gonna tear them up real quick,” Dallas said.
Smith rolled right and found Lockett for a 6-yard touchdown, their second scoring hookup of the day. Test passed. With flying colors.
“That (resilience) is what you’ve got to have as a quarterback, and there’s none better than Geno,” Parkinson said. “He’s great at flushing the last play and moving on and making sure he’s ready for that next series.”
Smith completed 32 of 41 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns, including 6 of 7 for 69 yards and the TD in overtime. He used good footwork and decision-making to complement a strong game from backup offensive tackles Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan. Detroit’s only QB hit was its lone sack.
“We went into the game looking to help (Curhan and Forsythe) out, and as the game got going, they were good on their own,” Fant said. “They were up there holding them up, giving Geno good protection. I don’t think we win that game without those guys doing their job at that high of a level.”
Both sides of the ball — and kicker Jason Myers — will have areas to improve when they watch the film, but the Seahawks still had every right to be in a collective state of euphoria after the game. Lions safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson wanted fans to embrace the team’s “villain” mindset and wear ski masks to the game. They obliged. After the game, rookie safety Jerrick Reed II recorded himself wearing one of those masks as Seattle joyously jumped around the locker room. Smith and his linemen shared a sweaty bear hug as he told them “thank you” after the game.
When Lockett’s game-winning touchdown pass was confirmed, Diggs — a former Lion — proudly galloped down the middle of the field, soaking in every moment of yet another victory over the team that gave up on him in 2019.
“It’s like a homecoming when I come back here,” said Diggs, a sixth-round pick of the Lions in 2015. “I’m 3-0 against the Lions since I been traded. It’s a blessing.”
Seattle had several points of emphasis entering this matchup because of how things transpired last week. One of those priorities was the red zone; Seattle scored touchdowns on four of its five trips. Another emphasis was the third-down offense; Seattle finished 5 of 11, including those two conversions in overtime.
“All it comes down to at the end of day is winning your one-on-one matchups,” said Metcalf, who had a team-high 75 yards receiving on six catches. “Geno is gonna find you.”
The defense also wanted to be better situationally, but a 6-of-11 day on third down isn’t anything to feel great about. What Seattle will enjoy, at least for now, is twice stopping Detroit on fourth down. One of those stops came courtesy of rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who recorded a pass breakup against tight end Sam LaPorta on fourth-and-4 from Seattle’s 31-yard line in the second quarter. Goff targeted Witherspoon on fourth-and-2 in the third quarter, but the pass sailed over the head of the receiver.
“We need to continue to be resilient,” Diggs said. “We were down and we just picked each other up.”
Seattle felt like being blown out by the Rams was a wake-up call to start the season. This win over Detroit felt like a dream come true. Brown came off the bench and scored a touchdown, one play after he had a sack. Lockett (eight catches, 59 yards) had yet another spectacular toe-tapping touchdown. Two backup offensive tackles — one a sixth-round pick and another undrafted — came in and didn’t allow any sacks. Then Smith led another game-winning touchdown drive to avoid an 0-2 hole. The Seahawks did everything they could to bounce back in a big way.
“We needed this badly,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We know what happened last week, we stunk it up in the second half. We were ready to show we can play anybody, anywhere, anytime. I’m so thrilled we got a win here.”
(Photo of Tyler Lockett: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)