NFL playoffs: Thomas Rawls runs wild in Seahawks victory over the Lions, 26-6

Thomas Rawls was born in Flint, Mich. He went to college at Michigan, then Central Michigan.

Rawls spent Saturday night driving through Michigan.

The Seattle running back powered his way through the Detroit Lions defense, gaining 161 yards in 27 carries, as the Seahawks advanced to the second round of the NFL playoffs with a 26-6 victory at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s nice to have our run game back; it feels like Seattle again,” Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam said.

The Seahawks will play at second-seeded Atlanta in a divisional game Saturday.

Whereas Seattle has won 10 home playoff games in a row, Detroit hasn’t won a postseason game on the road since 1957 — or a postseason game, period, since 1992, meaning their playoff losing streak has reached nine games. 

The score was close for three quarters of this clear-but-frigid contest, but it always felt as if the Seahawks were in full control. The home team owned the time-of-possession battle, 36 minutes and 39 seconds to 23:21.

“When we go out there and go three-and-out, or not have to do those 12-, 13-play drives, it keeps us fresh,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

“For a team that’s coming off a bye [Atlanta], you want to be as fresh as possible.”

Most important for the Seahawks was their ability to run the ball, a staple of Coach Pete Carroll’s best squads.

In the four seasons before this one, the Seahawks finished third, first, fourth and third in rushing. This year’s team was 25th, however, and Seattle had not run for 100 yards for three straight weeks.

That drought ended Saturday night with the relentless pounding of Rawls, who in the past 13 months has overcome a broken ankle and broken leg. 

The last time the Seahawks played host to a wild-card game was during the 2012 season, when Marshawn Lynch helped upset New Orleans with his 67-yard “Beast Quake” run, one that triggered a fan celebration that actually registered on the Richter scale. So it was fitting that the ground game would once again define a wild-card victory.

“Same scheme, same plays,” Gilliam said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and having the [guts] to do it.”

Detroit finished as the only team that failed to win a game outside this season. The Lions team that came from behind to win eight times in the fourth quarter lost its final four games, counting Saturday night.

“Some things are inexplicable,” Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said. “Just our guys have usually been pretty sharp with catching the ball. We had some drops out there we customarily don’t have and lost our poise a couple of times, that’s the fact of the matter.”

Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes, to Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin.

Seattle’s second-round game at Atlanta is a rematch of a divisional game in early 2013 — Wilson’s rookie season — when the Falcons eked out a 30-28 win thanks to a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with eight seconds to play.

Before this season, Carroll frequently compared his team to the one that came out of that divisional loss (and went on to win the Super Bowl the following season). He saw a similar bounce-back quality in these Seahawks.

The Falcons played at Seattle in Week 6, with the Seahawks rallying down the stretch for a 26-24 victory. 

That game was hugely controversial because Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman got away with obvious pass interference against Atlanta receiver Julio Jones in the waning moments.

The Falcons are coached by Dan Quinn, who was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls a few years ago.

Despite all the yards on the ground, Saturday’s game might best be remembered by a catch. Seattle scored first on a touchdown catch that, even though it only covered two yards, had to be among the NFL’s best this season. 

On fourth-and-goal from the 2 midway through the second quarter, Wilson tossed a high pass in the direction of Richardson, who had Detroit safety Tavon Wilson in his face.

Somehow, in a move worthy of The Matrix, Richardson reached his left arm low around Wilson and caught the ball, curling it into his body with one arm as he hit the ground. Wilson was flagged for pass interference, but it didn’t matter.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer

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