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The Honolulu Blueprint: 5 keys to a Lions victory over the Seahawks

Identifying the key things the Detroit Lions can do to secure a victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.

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Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions (1-0) are taking on the Seattle Seahawks (0-1) at Ford Field in Week 2, and based on the opening week of the season, they look like two teams headed in different directions.

While the Lions knocked off the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the Seahawks looked bad in their Week 1 loss to the Rams. Seattle gave up 23 second-half points, while only being able to generate 12 total yards of offense in a dismal display. But don’t think the Lions will be taking them lightly, as they are very aware that the Seahawks have been a difficult matchup in previous years.

“This team always presents problems (for us),” Lions coach Dan Campbell said of the Seahawks. “It’s been a thorn in our side for two years and so, we know what’s going to be coming in here. We’re going to assume the best out of them and they got after us pretty good last year, real good, so that’s something we won’t forget.”

These two teams have met in the last two seasons, and each time, the Seahawks won the shootout. This week, the Lions will be hoping the third time is the charm, and they can walk away with a win. But just getting a win, may not be enough, as some Lions—including defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn—have revenge on their minds.

“I hear you guys talk about how they have a bad taste in their mouth, well hell, I’ve got one in my mouth too,” Glenn said. “We gave up 50 points damn near twice. So, our guys will be ready to play. They’ll be ready to play.”

If the Lions are going to get a win at home against a potentially difficult opponent, they’ll need to execute a lot of the keys in this week’s Honolulu Blueprint.

The Lions opened the week as 5.5-point favorites and since then, the betting line has dropped a bit, to 5 points. You can check out the updated odds for this game courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Seahawks’ base schemes

Seahawks offense:

The Seahawks' offensive coordinator Shane Waldon—who spent three seasons as the Rams' passing game coordinator with Lions Jared Goff at quarterback—is entering his third season in Seattle. Seahawks’ quarterbacks find success in a lot of similar ways as Goff, and therefore you can see shades of the Lions and Rams influences in the Seahawks offense.

“They have a lot of different (running) schemes,” Campbell said of the Seahawks offense, “the gaps, and inside the gaps, there’s five different ways to run it with pullers. They have the fast-motion blocks, they have the read run and the RPO with (Quarterback) Geno (Smith), certainly so, and then they’ve got weapons.”

While the Seahawks have explosive weapons in the passing game, they remain a team that wants to establish the run and will lean on their running back duo, as well as getting other skill players creatively involved.

Seahawks’ Hybrid 34 base defense:

Last season, Clint Hurtt was promoted from defensive line coach to the defensive coordinator role and implemented a switch to a 3-4 scheme, that will look eerily similar to the one Matt Patricia ran during his time in Detroit.

“We have always been a 4-3 scheme that plays with 3-4 personnel,” coach Pete Carroll said this past offseason, per Seattle Sports. “That’s to maintain another position that instead of being a 4-3 down lineman, we would like to have that fourth guy be an athlete that can really run and move and all that.”

Essentially, the Seahawks run a 3-3-5 or 2-4-5, with their nose tackle at the 1-technique, the defensive tackle at the 3-technique, and their pass rushers lining up outside the tackle box, and the “fourth guy” on the line of scrimmage is a JACK linebacker, who mainly pass rushes. They round it out by deploying two off-the-ball linebackers who often drop into soft zones and a nickel-based secondary that alternates between single-high and two deep looks.

Let’s take a look at how they line up:

Key 1: Jared Goff should follow Matthew Stafford’s lead

Spread them out and attack the middle of the field. That’s how the Rams found success last week against the Seahawks defense, and the Lions should follow suit, as it plays to the strength of their offense.

“I think they were trying to space us out more,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the breakdowns over the middle. “They were running more routes outside of the hash that made us have to honor that, which kind of opened up the middle. But we’ll adjust.”

The Seahawks run their safeties deep (as you can see in the defensive scheme picture) often lining them up at least 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. When the linebackers got stretched by the Rams, it created a massive gap for Los Angeles’ skill players to run into.

The Lions can accomplish this same approach in two ways. First, they can simply follow the Rams' method and spread things out. The only downside is you have to take shots downfield and outside the hashes in order to keep the defense honest. The second way the Lions can attack the middle is by establishing the run, setting up play action, and getting the Seahawks linebackers to pinch up, thus creating space behind them and in front of the safeties—something they found success with last week against the Chiefs.

Key 2: Get creative with offensive skill players

The skill players who would make the most noise in the “attacking the middle of the defense” approach would be wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond, as well as rookie tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

Expect another high-volume game from St. Brown out of the slot, and an increase in snaps for Raymond, as Marvin Jones Jr. could get scaled back a tick. LaPorta caught five receptions for 39 yards in Week 1 and should see another solid game, potentially eclipsing those marks. Gibbs could be the sleeper candidate for a big day, as the Lions plan on continuing to slowly increase his opportunities.

“We will get Gibbs going as he gets more comfortable,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “We always have plays tagged for him going into the game, but we feel really strongly about David (Montgomery) as well. So, that whole combination, that one-two punch is really good for us.”

Gibbs can often be a matchup problem for defenses and the power he displayed against the Chiefs brings another key element to his resume. He was a terrific back in college, and we’re just starting to see him scratch the surface of what he can accomplish in the NFL.

“I wish they hadn’t (drafted him),” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Because they got a really good player with their pick. Gibbs is a great player. Wish (they) would’ve changed (their) mind about that.”

Can I get at least one Texas route to Gibbs, please?

Key 3: Unleash Aidan Hutchinson

Last week, Aidan Hutchinson registered an impressive seven pressures against an offensive tackle that lined up so deep, that the NFL is asking referees to start cracking down on illegal formations.

“Well, I thought our guys did a really good job,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Man, I thought (Hutchinson) Hutch really played his ass off as far as being disciplined, as far as the rush plan is concerned. And, he had a couple of shots at the quarterback [...] Now, I like sacks. I do, everybody does, but the discipline is what I like more because that carries over into the next couple of weeks on how you have to rush the quarterback and those sacks are going to come.”

Hutchinson has worked hard this offseason to get bigger and more explosive—and it’s paid off. Everything got a little bit better in the offseason for the second-year edge rusher, and he looks ready to explode.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, both their starting offensive tackles are injured, including right tackle Abe Lucas being placed on injured reserve. The plan appears to be to replace Lucas with reserve offensive tackle Jake Curhan, while possibly promoting a newly signed veteran from their practice squad if Cross is also ruled out.

“One has to assume (OT Jason) Peters will be one of the two practice squad elevations for the game this weekend,” John Gilbert from told Ryan Mathews in this week’s 5 questions, “and it will be very interesting to see how Geno (Smith) is able to handle whatever pressure he faces behind tackles who are likely to be either inexperienced or very rusty, depending on who is playing tackle. One of the weak spots in Geno’s game has been getting the ball where it needs to be in passing situations. If Detroit jumps out to a lead early and the Lions pass rushers can pin their ears back, it could make for another very long Sunday for Seattle fans.”

This could be the week where Hutchinson gets Glenn some of those sacks he likes so much.

Key 4: Focus on Kenneth Walker III... until you don’t have to

The Seahawks are loaded with offensive weapons, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll bases most of his mindset on a run-first philosophy.

“I know this head coach well and the one thing that they’re going to try to do—they’re going to try to run the ball,” Glenn said. “I mean that’s his background. That’s who he is. So, the same thing that I talked about last week we’re going to have to do this week, is we’re going to have to really commit to stopping the run because they will run you out of the stadium if you don’t.”

In Week 1, Walker ran for 53 yards in the first half and looked strong in his efforts. A dynamic runner at Michigan State, Walker came into his own late last season and looks the part of a three-down running back in the NFL.

“He’s a really good back,” Glenn said of Walker. “He’s explosive. I’ll tell you these jump cuts that he’s able to make within that running game, I mean it’s pretty special. So, our guys know it’s a challenge. It is. And again, with this head coach knowing what he wants to do, we have to be ready for it.”

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, because they found themselves trailing early in the second half, they moved away from their ground game, leaving Walker only three carries—which he turned into just 11 yards.

If the Lions can get the lead on Seattle, the Seahawks could once again follow last week’s strategy to attempt to keep pace, which could effectively take one of their best players out of the game plan.

Key 5: Let the secondary stay in the zone

One of the reasons the Lions kept the Chiefs game close and eventually came away with a win was because of the play of their improved secondary. The Lions' defensive backs are an incredibly confident group and they’ll need to be at their best in order to slow down the wide receiver trio of Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

“We also have to be able to stop these explosive passes because they have receivers that can take you down,” Glenn continued. “So, we have to do a good job with that. And this quarterback man (Geno Smith), I thought he’s been playing really, really good. And I was with him in New York (Jets) when we drafted him, so I know him fairly well. So, I’m proud of how he’s operating right now, but I want to beat him, bad.”

Trying to play matchup-man coverage against the Seahawks trio is probably not the best approach—it didn’t work in either of the last two meetings between these teams—and the newly found passion for integrating zone coverage concepts could be the best option. As long as the Lions have cleaned up some of their communication issues on the backend, they illustrated the ability to play tighter in coverage against the Chiefs and should try to execute in the same manner this week.

Fun bonus key: Won’t be part of the game plan, but will probably happen

Outside of being physically ready and mentally prepared, the Lions should also make a point to let C.J. Gardner-Johnson talk his talk. It’s no secret that Gardner-Johnson likes to chirp at his opposition, and he has a history of forcing them to take bad penalties because of it. Just last week, Gardner-Johnson was talking trash to Chiefs’ running back Isiah Pacheco, and the incessant needling resulted in the back punching/shoving Gardner-Johnson in the chest after a play—though no penalty was called.

On the opposite side of the field, this week, Metcalf has a history of getting overly emotional on the field, taking the bait, and costing his team bad penalties—he has nine penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct/taunting/unnecessary roughness for his career, per Field Gulls. Just last week, Metcalf took an unnecessary shot at Rams corner Ahkello Witherspoon, which resulted in another penalty and will probably end up in a fine from the league.

Gardner-Johnson is a peacock, you’ve got to let him fly.

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