Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win. Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides. But, last year, I really struggled with it. How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl? Well, on any given Sunday and all that …
Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time. A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL. A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender. Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating. A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown. I could go on and on. There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.
But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year. Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.
How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos? Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks. With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year. Neither defense was all that impressive. And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year. The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.
On the surface, not much. We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement. Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back. So, there’s that.
We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately. Our offensive line is about the same. Running game is the same. And quarterback is the same.
Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior. Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts. On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters. You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.
So, you tell me. How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us? I repeat: “in here”, as in “in Seattle”. The Super Bowl was on a neutral field! So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!
I just don’t see it. I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game. I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.
One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year. How did other teams beat the Seahawks? Seems impossible, right? But, it happened. Four times, in fact! Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014! So, what can we learn?
Week 2, at San Diego
I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings. What happened here? Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death. They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes. One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays. In the second half. We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game! The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be. He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards. Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in. Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.
Week 6, vs. Dallas
Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling. But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter. A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory. In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up. Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late. The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power. Sort of a perfect storm if you will. It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).
Week 7, at St. Louis
The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before. The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it. I’m calling bullshit on this one. I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).
Week 11, at Kansas City
The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up. Brandon Mebane had just gone down. We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner. And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game. Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.
What to take away? Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game. If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games: i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep. Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected. Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team. Without him, they might lose by 40.
Somehow, I just don’t see it. Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently. Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.
One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy. I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field. Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb. Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.
On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense. Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense. Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things. If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football. At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.
I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last. The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much. I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum. And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what: Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over. The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team. Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker? Great! Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!
I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game. The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers. Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities. It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter. Mark it down. I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.
Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.
And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots. I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me. Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league). Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to. Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team). Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.
So, yes, go Patriots. Go Seahawks. Let’s ring up another championship, boys!