DETROIT -- The Seattle Seahawks are looking more and more like legitimate playoff contenders.
It started to seem that way when they went blow-for-blow with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5, nearly upsetting the NFL's only unbeaten team for what would have been a third-straight victory.
It continued two weeks ago in London, where the Seahawks turned in a dominant performance in a blowout of the Oakland Raiders.
The latest evidence: a stress-free 28-14 victory over the Lions in Detroit. It was the Seahawks’ fourth win in their past five games and it came against a team that had knocked off the Packers and Patriots for two of its three wins entering Sunday.
"Now we're just showing that this is really who we are," receiver Doug Baldwin said.
You'd have to look hard to find something that wasn't working for the Seahawks (4-3) Sunday at Ford Field.
Russell Wilson completed his first 10 attempts, tossed three first-half touchdown passes and finished the game with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the first time in his seven-year career. The running game, which has again become Seattle's offensive identity, produced 176 yards, including 105 yards and a touchdown from Chris Carson. The defense, with its remade and largely inexperienced secondary, held up with the help of a pair of fourth-quarter takeaways and kept Detroit to only 34 yards on the ground. Seattle’s special teams iced the victory just ahead of the two-minute warning with some improvisation from rookie punter Michael Dickson, who took off running -- from his own end zone -- for a first down on what was supposed to be an intentional safety.
Indeed, an all-three-phases victory for Seattle.
One of the only real miscues was Tedric Thompson -- Earl Thomas' replacement at free safety -- allowing Marvin Jones to get behind him on a scramble play for a touchdown on Detroit’s opening possession. But Thompson redeemed himself by forcing a fumble on a kickoff to set up Seattle's second touchdown.
Strong safety Bradley McDougald was asked what Seattle’s defense showed.
“That we got grit, you know what I’m saying? We got guts,” he said. “First drive of the game they shoved it down our throat, 91 yards. They went all the way down the field and after that we kind of buckled in. We kind of honed in. Everybody just went back to their responsibilities. We just started playing ball. You kind of felt the guys get settled into the game and once we did I felt like we imposed our will on them.”
Part of Carroll's claim about the Seahawks being the healthiest they've been all year following last week’s bye was due to the returns of linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson, who both made their 2018 debuts Sunday. Wright finished with five tackles while Dickson caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His 42-yard reception was the result of a nifty play design that got him wide open after a play-action fake -- a part of Brian Schottenheimer's offense that has produced one big gain after another.
The Lions were threatening to make it a one-score game before Justin Coleman's interception at the goal line slammed the door.
The type of efficient and mistake-free day that Wilson had -- 14-of-17 for 248 yards and no turnovers -- is becoming the norm. He hasn’t attempted more than 26 passes since Week 2 nor has he thrown for more than 300 yards all season. With the way the Seahawks are running the ball, he hasn’t needed to.
“We really were able to play right within the framework of how we want to do it,” Carroll said. “We want to get the football, we don’t want to give it up -- no turnovers today -- and take advantage of that and run the heck out of the football. We ran it 42 times today. Matter of fact, I couldn’t be more fired up about it. That’s just commitment and it’s attitude and it’s what we’re trying to do. So, I’m really fired up about really this whole month plus, and hopefully we’ll just keep on cranking it and it’ll keep unfolding.”
The Seahawks are very much in the thick of the wide-open NFC playoff race even with the Rams running away with the division. But it's about to get tougher. Of Seattle's first seven opponents, only the Rams had a winning record entering Sunday while the Seahawks' next four opponents -- the Chargers, Rams, Packers and Panthers -- are all above .500 with a combined record of 19-6-1. All four have quarterbacks that are above average -- or in Green Bay's case, elite.
That stretch will tell us more about how far the Seahawks might be able to go. But as of now, they look more like a playoff team than one merely in transition.
“I’m always going to regret the fact that we started lousy,” Carroll said. “And it’s a 14-game season for us to try to do something with it after screwing up the first two games. But this a nice team. I like our team. I like what’s going on. I like the way it’s going and I like how they feel about it. It’s really clear; there’s no mystery how we’re trying to get it done. We’re not going to fool anybody.”