The Seattle defense couldn’t have picked a better time to go on the offensive.
The Seahawks returned a fumble for a touchdown and intercepted a deflected pass to set up a field goal during a wild 3 1/2 minutes in the third quarter Sunday as they rolled past the Detroit Lions, 30-10.
The victory temporarily kept alive Seahawks’ hopes of a playoff spot, but those hopes were dashed a few hours later when Houston beat Pittsburgh, 34-14, eliminating Seattle and Pittsburgh from wild-card playoff contention.
“They scored 10 points on us. Ten points,” Seahawk safety Eugene Robinson said. “That says something about our defense and that says something about how much we wanted to win this game.”
Robinson scooped up the loose ball and scored the go-ahead touchdown after Lion quarterback Rodney Peete was hit from the blind side by Vann McElroy.
“I was just the recipient of a great play by Vann McElroy,” Robinson said.
The Seahawks had to wait until the Houston-Pittsburgh game was completed Sunday night to find out that their season was over.
But the Seahawks figured they proved something by winning nine of 12 games following an 0-3 start.
“We’re a good team,” running back Derrick Fenner said. “We had critics say we were going to go 3-13. That’s ridiculous. I think they were talking about Denver.
“We started out 0-3 but everyone just hung together and we came back and got the job done.”
Detroit (6-10) was tied with the Seahawks, 10-10, at halftime.
Seattle sacked Detroit quarterbacks five times, four in the second half.
“We got a good tail-kicking,” Detroit Coach Wayne Fontes said. “No excuses. Hopefully, we’ll learn from it. This could be the worst beating we’ve taken this year.”
Fenner rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns, including one on a nine-yard sweep with 4:43 left. Seahawk quarterback Dave Krieg completed 21 of 33 passes for 225 yards, but he also had two passes intercepted--once in the Detroit end zone and again on the Lions’ five-yard line. Krieg also lost a fumble.
Detroit’s Barry Sanders was held to 23 yards in nine carries, but he won the NFL rushing title with 1,304 yards. Sanders started the day 16 yards behind Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas, but Thomas didn’t gain a yard in five attempts on Sunday.
Sanders, whose 16-yard touchdown run was his only big play against the Seahawks, is the first Detroit player to win the league rushing title since Byron (Whizzer) White did it in 1940.
“I don’t feel successful, not at all,” Sanders said. “What does this (rushing title) mean? I haven’t really thought about it. It’s no big deal right now.”
Even though the Detroit offense sputtered, Sanders and the Lions both tied team records for most touchdowns in a season. Sanders’ scoring run gave him 16 touchdowns for the season, tying the mark set by Billy Sims in 1980. It also was the 46th touchdown for the Lions this year, equaling the mark set by the 1981 team.
“I think Barry Sanders is the finest running back in the National Football League,” Seattle Coach Chuck Knox said. “I’ve looked at him on film all week and he’s just dynamite, but our defense did an excellent job.”
Seattle scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on Detroit’s first series of the second half. Peete went back to pass and fumbled after being hit by McElroy.
Robinson kicked the ball as he tried to pick it up, but finally got control and ran 16 yards for the touchdown to put the Seahawks ahead, 17-10, with 12:36 left in the third quarter.
On the next Detroit play, Eric Hayes deflected a pass by Peete, one of three deflections by the Seahawks’ lineman in the second half, and David Wyman intercepted to set up a 25-yard field goal by Norm Johnson.
Johnson also had field goals of 43 and 37 yards.
The Seahawks dominated the first quarter. On their first possession, they drove 76 yards in 14 plays, with Fenner diving over the middle from inside the Detroit one on fourth down for the touchdown.
There were 13,847 no-shows at the Kingdome, probably because of a forecast of snow and freezing rain. The crowd of 50,681 was the smallest in Seattle this season.