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Originally published October 28, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Page modified October 29, 2012 at 6:05 AM

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This time, Seahawks' defense is to blame

For the first time this season, it was Seattle's defense that wasted an impressive performance by the offense.

Times staff columnist

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DETROIT — This time the offense did its job, stitching together the kind of fourth-quarter drive that, in a perfect world, we would be talking about for the next couple of months en route to the playoffs.

The Seahawks held a 24-21 lead after a 12-play, 87-yard drive capped by Zach Miller's one-handed touchdown catch with 5:27 to play

The game was in the wheelhouse of the Seahawks' defense. This defense would buckle down and come after Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford in the final minutes, making him hurry his throws, shutting him down and securing the win.

This is what the defense does, what it was built to do and what it has been doing for much of the first half of the season. But on this Sunday, the defense faltered.

It allowed 80 yards in five minutes, punishing third-and-long conversions and a 1-yard touchdown on third down that won the game for the Lions.

This shouldn't have happened. It was alarming to watch the Lions move the ball coast-to-coast so easily.

"Definitely, we always want the game on our shoulders," cornerback Richard Sherman said after the 28-24 loss Sunday that dropped the Seahawks' record to 4-4. "But this was one of those times that we didn't pull it out. This was an opportunity we let get away."

That final Lions drive didn't define the Seahawks' defense, but it did define how much work is ahead. On the last drive, as it was for much of the frustrating afternoon, the Seahawks couldn't get off the field. The Lions exposed the middle of the field where the defense was vulnerable.

In the second half, the Lions converted four third downs when they needed at least 8 yards for a first down. And in the first half, Stafford took advantage of a miscommunication between Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Young on third-and-11.

"He (Stafford) was checking the ball down and checking down the whole game," Sherman said. "He threw the ball accurately. It didn't look like he was looking for nothing big. Except for that one pass to Titus, it looked like he was just trying to manage the game and keep moving the first-down markers, and that was working effectively for him."

This was by far the worst defensive performance of the season. The Hawks allowed 415 net total yards. Stafford, who hasn't played as efficiently as he did in 2011, completed 34 of 49 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.

"We just had to go out and try to frustrate him," defensive end Chris Clemons said. "And we obviously didn't get that done."

Even as the offense has struggled for periods of the first half of the season, the defense has been able to buy it time. After the win a month ago in Carolina, a lot of the defensive players said they relished their leadership roles.

But on Sunday the defense didn't lead. For the first time this season, it broke.

"The offense did enough to win the football game," Sherman said.

Marshawn Lynch exploded for a 77-yard touchdown run. Wilson threw two touchdown passes. The offense was smart and crisp. The Seahawks had a fourth-quarter lead. This was their game. It should have been an energizing road win.

"The offense carried us today," defensive end Bruce Irvin said. "We should have stepped up more, but it is what it is. We all know we're better than a four-and-four team. It's surprising, but it'll start rolling for us."

The Hawks are halfway through the season and not in the position they expected.

With five home games remaining, the schedule is about to get kinder. But Seattle is 1-4 on the road, and teams with playoff aspirations expect better.

"We still got time, but the clock is ticking," defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. "And we need to move fast."

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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