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Seahawks get back to their tried-and-true formula in 26-6 playoff win

Thomas Rawls rushed for a franchise-record 161 yards in the Seahawks' 26-6 win over the Lions. (AP)

Now that was the Seahawks team we’ve been waiting to see.

You know, the one that runs the ball repeatedly. Relentlessly. The team that stands toe-to-toe with an opponent, trading body blows with an opponent while the defense shuts off the air supply.

That Seahawks team – the one we wondered if we’d ever see this season – showed up and beat the Detroit Lions 26-6 at CenturyLink Field.

“That was the game we’ve been looking for style-wise,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Offense and defense.”

An offense that ran the ball on nine consecutive plays during one stretch of the first half, and a defense that never let Detroit get the ball inside the Seattle 35 at any point of the game.

An offense which featured Thomas Rawls, looking like the dynamo he was last season, gaining 161 yards on the ground to set the team’s postseason rushing record while the defense set a franchise record for fewest points allowed in any postseason game.

That’s the way the Seahawks play.

Recap | Richardson’s catch | D shuts down Lions | NotebookPhotos

Not this season, mind you. At least not often enough. Oh, there have been moments, like Seattle’s 40-7 victory over Carolina, but never quite like this.

And now that we know it’s possible for the Seahawks to play like that, we’re going to see if they can do it against a better team when they play at Atlanta next Saturday in the divisional round of the playoffs.

With all due respect to Detroit, the Lions were the most decidedly mediocre team in these playoffs. They ranked No. 20 in scoring offense. They were 13th in scoring defense.

What the Lions did have was a very good quarterback and a penchant for comebacks. Fifteen times the Lions trailed at some point in the fourth quarter. In eight of those games Detroit came back and won, so when the fourth quarter began with Seattle leading 10-6 it sure seemed like Seattle was in a vulnerable spot.

Instead of folding in that final quarter, Seattle floored it.

The Seahawks outgained Detroit 146 yards to 56 in the fourth quarter, they outscored the Lions 16-0, and anyone complaining that Seattle let Detroit hang around too long doesn’t remember that this is exactly the template the Seahawks followed when they were at their peak.

It’s OK if you don’t remember. It has been a couple of years since we’ve seen them follow that formula, and the Seahawks certainly struggled to do it this season in a year where they ranked No. 25 in rushing yards.

But the Seahawks like to spend three quarters wearing an opponent down with the running game, softening them up for the playmaking quarterback in the fourth quarter. Keep in mind that Seattle has failed to score a touchdown in the first half of six of its last 11 playoff games and yet come back to win three of those games.

Seattle didn’t have to erase a deficit this time. They simply slammed the door shut with the most dominant fourth quarter the team has had all season.

That’s what makes this victory against Detroit so significant. While the Seahawks were expected to win this game, no one who has watched them closely this season expecting them to win in that way with a running game that has been so essential to Carroll’s approach.

It wasn’t just about the yards Seattle gained, either. It was about the toll it took on Detroit’s defense, and the time it kept Seattle’s defense on the field.

“Getting our defense some rest, you saw what they can do,” said tight end Luke Willson. “They’d be like that every game. And if we’re going to keep them off the field for a little bit – get them rested up – nobody is going to move the ball on them.”

It’s a formula that has carried Seattle through the most successive run in franchise history, and now that the Seahawks have shown they can do it, the question is whether they can follow it in Atlanta next week.