SEATTLE — With one big punch, Kam Chancellor showed his importance to the Seattle Seahawks.
And once again, the Seahawks may have received another Monday night break from the officials in the same end zone where the infamous “Fail Mary” took place.
Chancellor knocked the ball free from Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson at the 1-yard line when it appeared the Lions were going to take the lead, and Seattle held on for a 13-10 win.
With Detroit on the verge of capping a 91-yard drive with the go-ahead touchdown with less than 2 minutes remaining, Chancellor came from the side and punched the ball from Johnson’s arm as he was being tackled by Earl Thomas. It bounded into the end zone where it was guided over the back line by K.J. Wright for a touchback and Seattle’s ball at the 20.
Wright should have been called for an illegal bat for hitting the ball out of the end zone, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino told NFL Network. The penalty would have given the ball back to Detroit at the Seattle 1.
But no flags were thrown and on the ensuing possession, Russell Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for 50 yards on third down. With Detroit out of timeouts, the Seahawks (2-2) ran off the final seconds of their second straight win.
“The back judge was on the play and in his judgment he didn’t feel it was an overt act so he didn’t throw the flag,” Blandino said. “In looking at the replays it looked like a bat so the enforcement would be basically we would go back to the spot of the fumble and Detroit would keep the football.”
Wright said he did not know the rule and Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged the Seahawks got a break.
“Now that you look at it, we were fortunate,” Carroll said.
Detroit (0-4) is off to its worst start since it also started 0-4 in 2010 on its way to a 6-10 season, and with a schedule that offers little relief going forward.
“It’s unfortunate, but you can’t put the game in the referee’s hands,” Johnson said.
It was an ugly performance by the home team, filled with offensive mistakes and two fourth-quarter fumbles by Wilson, the second returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Caraun Reid to pull Detroit to 13-10.
But in the end, Seattle’s defense came through.
Starting on their 9 with 6:23 remaining, the Lions converted a big third down on Golden Tate’s 22-yard catch-and-run and reached the Seattle 46 with 3 minutes left on Ameer Abdullah’s 9-yard run. Matthew Stafford then zipped a pass to No. 3 tight end Tim Wright down the seam for 26 yards to the Seattle 20 with 2:30 remaining, placing it in-between Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Chancellor.
The Lions reached the Seattle 11 and on third-and-1, Stafford passed to an open Johnson. As he stretched for the goal line, Chancellor came across and knocked the ball free.
Seattle has not allowed an offensive touchdown in the two games since Chancellor ended his holdout and has forced 18 punts during that stretch.
“It was big time,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Chancellor’s return. “He just made us a whole defense.”
Wilson was forced to be an escape artist as Seattle’s offensive line continued to struggle with protection. Wilson threw for 287 yards and rushed for another 40 yards. Wilson’s most memorable play was spinning free of two near sacks and finding Kearse for 34 yards in the second quarter, and then hitting Doug Baldwin on a 24-yard TD on the next play.
Seattle was without Marshawn Lynch for the first time since Week 7 of the 2011 season against Cleveland when Lynch had back problems flare up during pregame warmups. Thomas Rawls rushed for 104 yards last week in relief of Lynch, but could not get started against a better Lions defense. Rawls finished with 48 yards on 17 carries.
Stafford was 24 of 35 for 203 yards for Detroit, which lost starting tight end Eric Ebron and both starting defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker to injuries.
Ebron suffered a knee injury in the first half after having two early catches, while Ngata and Walker both went out in the second half. Ngata suffered a calf injury while Walker was taken off on a cart after suffering a left leg injury in the fourth quarter.