DETROIT — Eighty yards.
That’s how much cushion Seattle’s defense had with less than six minutes left in Sunday’s game, the Seahawks holding a three-point lead while the Lions had the ball at their 20.
Eighty yards. That’s what Seattle’s defense gave up on a drive that started out as a gut check for Detroit and turned into the uppercut that floored the Seahawks in a 28-24 loss at Ford Field. Detroit ran 16 plays — all but one of them passes — during a drive that culminated with Lions receiver Titus Young diving for a 1-yard touchdown catch on third down with 20 seconds left.
“We took it down to the last inch,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We fought like crazy.”
And yet Seattle couldn’t stop Detroit.
Not when the Seahawks held a 10-point lead in the second quarter, as the Lions came back to score on Matthew Stafford’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Young.
Not in the fourth quarter when Stafford scored on a 1-yard naked bootleg to give Detroit a 21-17 lead with more than 11 minutes remaining.
And definitely not after Seattle reclaimed the lead on Zach Miller’s incredible touchdown catch with 5:27 left.
The Lions faced two third-down plays in the final minute, the Seahawks one play away from forcing Detroit to settle for a field-goal attempt to tie the score. But Seattle yielded the first downs and then Young’s game-winning touchdown.
“We didn’t have the stops in us on third down,” Carroll said.
This was the most puzzling of Seattle’s four losses this season. The Seahawks showed significant improvement in a passing game that has been the team’s chronic weakness, only to lose because of the defense that has been the team’s biggest strength.
“We’ve got to play better,” defensive end Chris Clemons said. “That goes for each and every individual on the defense.”
The defense had not allowed more than two touchdowns in any game this season. Not only did Detroit score four on Sunday, the Lions converted 12 of their 16 third downs, the highest percentage by any Seahawks opponent since December 2004.
This time, it wasn’t Seattle’s offense that kept the Seahawks from winning on the road, but the defense.
“We weren’t able to get it done,” safety Earl Thomas said. “It’s on us. We’ve just got to work on finishing.”