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Originally published October 28, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Page modified October 28, 2012 at 10:13 PM

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Seahawks suffer most puzzling loss of season, 28-24 at Detroit

"We took it down to the last inch," coach Pete Carroll said, "we fought like crazy."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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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.

There were plenty of mistakes by Seattle, from the way it frittered away a field-goal opportunity at the end of the first half to wasting a timeout on a replay challenge in the third quarter, but this game was lost because Seattle's defense couldn't close out Detroit like it did the Panthers and the Patriots.

Seattle followed the same formula it has for much of the season — scoring first for the eighth game in a row but settling for a field goal the first time it had the ball inside Detroit's 20-yard line.

Seattle's third possession produced Seattle's longest run in seven years. Marshawn Lynch ran 77 yards untouched to the end zone. After Sidney Rice caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson in the fourth minute of the second quarter, Seattle had more points than it had in any of its previous four road games and a 17-7 lead.

Then came the mid-game malaise that has been the offense's trademark. Seattle's next five possessions produced three punts, a turnover and a failed 61-yard field-goal attempt.

When Stafford scored on a 1-yard run with 11:35 to play, it seemed that yet another Seattle road game would be decided by whether Wilson could lead a comeback. The 87 yards Seattle gained on its ensuing possession served as evidence of growth in Seattle's offense. The Seahawks didn't wait until the last minute. Wilson completed six of his eight passes, and when Miller made a diving reception in the corner of the end zone, it seemed Seattle was going to punctuate the first half of its schedule with an exclamation point.

Instead, it was a question mark.

The Lions responded with a drive that not only reached the end zone, but consumed all but 20 seconds off the clock.

After Leon Washington bobbled the ensuing kickoff, Seattle had time to run two plays and never passed midfield. The Seahawks suffered a second straight defeat for the first time this season.

And this time, it wasn't Seattle's offense that kept the Seahwawks 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."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

Long runs
Marshawn Lynch had a career-high 77-yard run early in the second quarter, but that's far from the longest run from scrimmage in Seahawks history.
Yards Player Game
88 (for TD) Shaun Alexander vs. Oakland, Nov. 11, 2001
88 (for TD) Shaun Alexander vs. Arizona, Nov. 6, 2005
86 (for TD) Joey Galloway at Jacksonville, Nov. 12, 1995

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