Like a recurring nightmare, Alex Anzalone still sees the plays in his head.
"There were two," he said Thursday ahead of the Lions' home opener against the Seahawks.
The co-captain of Detroit's defense was thinking back to last year's game against the Seahawks when the Lions failed to force a punt on their own turf in a 48-45 loss, one that would have massive repercussions on their season.
"We got caught in a bad call two times," Anzalone said. "It was the one to seal the game and then the one that was like a 40-yard touchdown."
Both were runs by Rashaad Penny, who would say after the game that Seattle "takes advantage of the bad looks the defense shows us." The first was a 41-yard touchdown where he was barely touched, the second a nail in the coffin with a minute to play. And both came on third down, where Penny said the Seahawks "knew what kind of defense (the Lions) were going to run." In their last two games against Seattle, the Lions have barely run any defense at all.
They allowed 235 rushing yards in a 51-29 stinker late in the 2021 season. And they allowed 265 rushing yards in their capitulation last season, for a tidy total of 500. Over eight quarters of football, the Lions surrendered 57 first downs, 99 points and forced one total punt. And on the last day of last season, they watched the Seahawks bounce them from the playoffs.
How much of that will be on their minds Sunday?
"All of last year’s game, and all of the year before that," said defensive tackle Alim McNeill. "It is what it is. We know we gotta play good against this team. We owe them. Last year’s game and the year before that is definitely in the back of our heads."
It was in the front of Aaron Glenn's in Detroit's first defensive meeting this week. While Seattle is coming off an ugly season-opening loss to the Rams, Glenn was sure to remind his players, at least those who have been here, that they're coming off two even uglier games against Seattle. So if the Seahawks "have a bad taste in their mouth," Glenn said Thursday, "well hell, I’ve got one in my mouth, too."
"We gave up 50 points damn near twice," he said. "So our guys will be ready to play."
"AG set the tone with us," said Anzalone. "I know a lot of the media is saying they had a tough game last week, I know they had like 180 total yards, but sh*t, we gave up 40-something points the last two years. And if that’s not motivation, I don't know what is. Yeah, we definitely have a point to prove this week."
It will be proven, or not, against the run. The Lions know it and the Seahawks know it. Dan Campbell knows it and Pete Carroll knows it. Missing their top two tackles, the Seahawks won't be inclined to drop back and pass. And after failing to pound the ball last week, Carroll will want his offense to get back to its roots. As Campbell said Wednesday, "We expect them to freaking load it up and just run it downhill ... and see if we can handle it."
"I know this head coach well, and that’s his background," said Glenn. "That’s who he is. We’re going to have to really commit to stopping the run because they will run you out of the stadium if you don’t."
"That’s going to be the story of this game," said Aidan Hutchinson, "is whether or not we stop the run. We’re ready for it, man. We all know what happened last year, so we’re ready to turn the page."
It was Penny who got them in 2021 and 2022. It will be former Michigan State star Kenneth Walker and former Michigan back Zach Charbonnet on Sunday. The Seahawks will want to "hammer it at us," said Campbell, and the Lions will want to put a nail in the past.