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The Cheat Sheet: Lions must slow down Seahawks zone read offense

Everything you need to know for Seahawks vs. Lions Week 8

NFL: International Series-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks have certainly found their identity on offense.

And, surprisingly, it’s not through the arm of their franchise quarterback. The Seahawks want to pound opposing teams on the ground with their run game.

They lead the NFL in yards from zone read and option runs this season.

According to the folks at NFL Matchup and ESPN, Seattle has rushed for 300 yards on those plays, averaging over five yards per carry.

In total, the Seahawks are only averaging 4.3 yards per carry—good for 16th in the NFL. They’re finding the most success running with zone read run plays.

“I think they’re right where they want to be,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Schottenheimer and Coach Carroll just kind of got the downhill run game going. Brian and I went against each other for a long time when he was at the Jets and I know he likes that downhill kind of pound-it run game.”

The key for the Lions this week is to force Russell Wilson to hand the ball off on those plays. Teams have been fairly successful so far this year at limiting Wilson’s effectiveness on run plays this season.

In 2017, Wilson averaged nearly 37 yards per game on the ground. So far this year he’s averaging just over 10 yards per game.

On the flip side, the Lions are giving up an average of 5.3 yards per carry, which is last in the NFL.

Now that the Lions added Damon Harrison via trade earlier this week, the Lions should roll the dice with the Seahawks on inside runs and force their running backs to beat them rather than Russell Wilson.

It’s clear the Seahawks’ game plan is to control the ball on the ground. They want to keep the Lions’ offense off the field and limit the the pass rush.

Opponent snapshot

These Seahawks aren’t the Seahawks of old. There’s no Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, or Kam Chancellor. But their defense is still one of the best in the league.

Russell Wilson remains as steady as they come at quarterback. He continues to play well even though the team around him seems to be completely rebuilding.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks’ biggest threat

Tyler Lockett

Despite only having 23 catches on the season, Lockett has scored in five out six games in 2018.

While Lockett isn’t a threat down in and down out, he is capable of taking the top off the defense. The Lions can’t afford to give the Seahawks any easy touchdowns on Sunday. So far this season Lockett has scored touchdowns of 51, 52, and 39 yards

The Lions, however, are towards the top of the NFL at limiting explosive plays. They’ve limited teams to just 27 big plays this season according to NFL Matchup.

The Lions have done a good job of keeping plays in front of them this season, and that will need to continue on Sunday.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks’ weak link

Pass protection

The Seahawks upgraded their offensive line this offseason, but they didn’t necessarily bring in premium pass protectors. Guys like D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy are more known for their run blocking than protection.

This will be a unique battle between the two teams as the Lions aren’t generating a consistent pass rush. They’re getting pressure on just 25.8 percent of passes, 25th in the league. But they have seemed to find a knack for creating sacks, tied for fourth in the NFL with 21 over their first six games.

The Seahawks have gotten better over their last three games. A lot of that has to do with a much improved run game.

Seahawks Revitalized Run Game

Weeks Rushes/Game Rush Yards/Game Interceptions Sacks
Weeks Rushes/Game Rush Yards/Game Interceptions Sacks
1-3 26 84 3 14
4-6 34 172 1 5
Stats via

Bottom line

Both teams are enigmas, and both teams are playing better recently than they were to start the season. The Seahawks are coming off of their bye week after a trip to London in Week 6.

If the Lions can get off to a quick start—they’re the third ranked offensive in the first quarter according to Football Outsiders DVOA—they should be able to force the Seahawks to throw the ball more and take advantage of suspect pass protection late in the game.


Lions 28 Seahawks 20