And to think, this wasn’t even our best game.
I’m serious! The defense was a little iffy. The offense disappeared a little bit there (and they certainly weren’t as sharp as we’d seen in the pre-season). Aaron Rodgers had seemingly all day to throw. And yet, when you look at the game as a whole, it was a thorough dismantling of a Top 5 team in the NFC.
Think about THAT. Most people have the Packers as favorites to win their division (not me, but I’m a durn fool) and many have the Packers among the teams contending for a Super Bowl title. And the Seahawks – the team so many people say won’t repeat as champions because a repeat hasn’t happened in ten years – made the Packers their BITCH.
Their first touchdown came off of a muffed punt. From what I’ve seen out of Earl Thomas in the pre-season and in last night’s game, he seems to have two modes when dealing with a punted football coming towards him: either he runs 15 yards upfield, to – I suppose – try to deke the kicking team into not realizing the ball is actually 15 yards behind him; or he goes to catch the football with 50 people standing around him ready to take his head off. Earl Thomas is a proud man. He’s as tough as they get, as competitive as they get. I GET that, and it’s what makes him so endearing. But, the dude has to learn how to give a Fair Catch signal and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Anyway, the Packers managed to score 9 other points on the night. A field goal and a touchdown (with a failed 2-point conversion). The field goal drive took over six minutes to complete, on 12 plays and 79 yards. The touchdown drive took nearly five and a half minutes, on 10 plays and 82 yards. THAT’S the Seahawks defense in a nutshell.
You’re not going to shut out the likes of Aaron Rodgers. Just like you’re not going to shut out Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees. These guys are the best in the game for a reason: they’re capable of moving the football against anyone and everyone. So, what you do in this situation – if you’re a defense going up against one of these all-world quarterbacks – is grind their game to a halt. Force them to throw underneath. Force them to be perfect as they have to convert multiple third downs. You’ll achieve one of two outcomes: either you’ll hold them to under 20 points – which is a win when you’re playing these guys, because they so often have terrible defenses behind them – or you’ll frustrate them into challenging you deep, whereupon you can take advantage with a well-timed turnover or at the very least a pass defensed.
Indeed, the only long play the Packers succeeded with was a pass interference penalty as Bobby Wagner had no business trying to cover Randall Cobb.
That’s it, though. Force them into long drives, keep their score low, and have your offense continue to play add-on. The Packers were up 7-3 late in the first quarter. By halftime, the Seahawks were up 17-10. From there, the Seahawks added a field goal, a safety, and a touchdown to make it 29-10. And at THAT point, you’ve got them by the balls. They have to throw their way back into the game, and that’s when you can unleash the Kraken.
For what it’s worth, the pass rush in the first half was pretty poor. Part of that was due to the fact that the Packers REALLY tried to even up that run/pass ratio by featuring Eddie Lacy and Co. early and often. The other part of that was obviously the short routes they were being given by the Seahawks’ defense. I’ll be interested to see how the Seahawks try to manage some pressure on the quarterback in upcoming games. It’ll be tough with the quick-fire tactics of Rivers and Manning the next two weeks.
The run defense really impressed me last night. Yes, there were some tackling blunders and some over-pursuit, but for the most part the Seahawks looked every bit as good as they did last year in this aspect. The linebackers were really flying to the football last night, as Bobby Wagner really looks like he’s trying to make a name for himself.
The pass defense was … interesting. Richard Sherman literally had no balls thrown in his direction all night. We’ve always talked about that – why even BOTHER trying to challenge the best – but now maybe the rest of the league is FINALLY taking that to heart. With his third of the field shut down, that left a lot of picking on Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, and Marcus Burley (when Lane went down with a groin pull). What this meant was that Rodgers was able to complete nearly 70% of his passes, but for only 189 yards and an 81.5 passer rating. He threw an interception, but part of that was Jordy Nelson’s fault as he couldn’t haul in a pass that he tipped straight up in the air (the other part of that was the fact that Rodgers was rushed and didn’t throw the greatest ball there).
It’s hard to quibble too much with the defense that basically shut down a potent Packers offense. If we can replicate this effort in the next two weeks (against SD & Den), we’ll be 3-0 and it won’t even be that difficult.
Offensively, the Seahawks were VERY solid, but they can (and certainly will) be better. Every drive in the first half – except for the final minute, where the Seahawks couldn’t figure out if they wanted to try to score or just run out the clock – led to a score. Indeed, if you take out the two end-of-half drives, the Seahawks scored on 6 of 8 in the game: four touchdowns and two field goals. And only one drive started in Green Bay territory (thanks to that aforementioned interception). The rest of the Seahawks’ scoring drives started, on average, on our own 30 yard line.
This offense is a completely different beast with Harvin in the lineup. If we’re as good this year as I think we can be – averaging over 30 points per game – I’ll go to my grave wondering just how good the 2013 Seahawks could have been had Harvin been fully healthy, with Golden Tate still on the outside making lives miserable for opposing defenses. Harvin ended up with 100 yards of total offense on 4 carries and 7 receptions (which leaves out his 60 return yards on 3 kickoffs). That fly sweep was open all day, until very late when the Packers started to put all their focus on that, leaving gaping holes for Marshawn Lynch.
110 yards on 20 carries, with 2 TDs. Lynch had a DAY! Credit really goes to the offensive line, though, who helped pave the way for 207 yards on the ground, on 37 carries. James Carpenter was crushing everyone and everything in his path. The unit as a whole was just terrific.
Going forward, I’ll be looking to see if the Seahawks can recapture their magic on deep throws. There were a couple of mid-range throws that were pretty nice, to Miller (on a beautiful diving grab) and Harvin. But, the really deep ball wasn’t there. I’m guessing that’s because the Packers did everything in their power to not fall for the play action. Still, Kearse and Baldwin were very nearly shut out of the proceedings. Once we’re able to figure out how to incorporate them, while still getting the most out of Harvin and Lynch, this offense will go on cruise control.
Some other stray thoughts:
If Maxwell is going to be targeted as much as he was last night, and if he holds up reasonably well like he did, he’s going to be looking at quite the nice little contract next offseason.
Anyone else get the feeling that the Packers just HATE the Seahawks, with an irrational passion that’s usually reserved for divisional foes? You can tell they’ve had their fill of hearing about: The Fail Mary, The Super Bowl Champs, The 12th Man, The Legion Of Boom, and everything else that comes with this little one-sided mini-rivalry. You can also tell that they were fired up to be here and they REALLY wanted to win. And, not only did we not let that happen, we rubbed their faces in the mud and farted in their hair. It’s going to take more than having the real referees back for the Packers to come in here and think they’ve got a shot.
Russell Wilson was one completion shy of getting to 70% completions on the game. His yards per attempt were under 7, which isn’t great, but it’s only the first game. For the most part, Wilson looked crisp and sharp, getting the ball out timely. A couple times, however, he pump-faked which caused his ball to arrive late (with one nearly resulting in an interception on a ball that Zach Miller heroically knocked out of the defender’s hands).
If I’m going to give a player of the game, I’m going to go with Marshawn Lynch. He took full advantage of a soft interior defense (with B.J. Raji out injured) and exploded, making everyone forget his off-season holdout. It’s unclear what the running game situation will look like going forward, but in Game 1, Lynch got the lion’s share of the carries.