Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Site: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
It has been six years since the Seahawks last played a meaningful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Amazing to think about what has happened since.
The Seahawks head back to the frozen tundra for Sunday Night Football this week as they take on the defending NFC North champion Packers. The Seahawks are 0-1 following their 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. Green Bay started their 2015 campaign on the right foot, defeating the Chicago Bears 31-23 last Sunday. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-8. By now you know what happened the last time these two teams played but here’s a quick reminder. The Seahawks trailed 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. After a Russell Wilson touchdown run, a successful onside kick recovery, a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and a successful Luke Willson two-point conversion, the Seahawks suddenly took a 22-19 lead. The Packers drove down to tie the game at the end of regulation and in overtime Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the game winning 35-yard touchdown. Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX. Green Bay’s season ended. This is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Seahawks to win. Here is what I will be looking for.
After giving up 34 points last week it is crucial that we see improvement out of the Seahawks defense. There has been ongoing talk during the week about cornerback Richard Sherman lining up at nickel this week in order to cover Green Bay’s best wide receiver Randall Cobb. I think we may see Sherman on Cobb a little bit but Sherman will predominantly play on the outside like normal. The number one thing I am focused on this week will be how we go about eliminating explosive plays. Last week the Seahawks gave up 13 plays of 10 yards or more. The correlation? Although we sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles twice, for the most part he had plenty of time in the pocket to go throw his progressions and make his throws. In order to eliminate the big plays this week, something that the Packers are well equipped to do, we must put excessive amounts of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line did not allow a sack last week so it will be difficult to rattle Rodgers. My hope is to see Bruce Irvin used as a pass rushing specialist. Frank Clark could be a pivotal player this week. The more pass rushers we can get on the field at the same time, the better off the Seahawks will be.
For the Seahawks offense my main focus will be on the play of the offensive line, and how their play will have a domino effect on the rest of the offense. The offensive line’s performance last week was second-rate. The Packers sport big time players in Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and B.J. Raji who do an exceptional job getting to the quarterback. This week I believe Russell Wilson must take it upon himself to avoid the kind of pressure that he faced in St. Louis. Screens and slants may be the most effective strategy in the passing game. I would also like to see Wilson be more assertive in the running game. The read-option was nonexistent last week which I believe was necessary for our offense to keep drives moving. There were multiple plays last week where Wilson could have easily run for a first down. Instead he elected to stay behind the line of scrimmage to try to make a throw. If it is necessary this week or if plays are broken, I want to see Wilson run for yards.
It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one the most explosive offenses in football. Aaron Rodgers is a master at playing to the weaknesses of the opposing defense. I believe Rodgers will take a Tom Brady-esque approach in regards to how to face the Seattle defense. This could mean a lot of three step drops and short passes. Instead of going deep he will rely on his receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones to pick up yards after the catch. As tough as the Packers passing game is to defend, running back Eddie Lacy may be poised to make a significant impact on the ground. In 18 career games at Lambeau Field, Lacy has averaged 81 yards per game and a solid 4.6 yards per carry. If these numbers can hold up in this game it will greatly contribute to an outstanding performance by the Green Bay offense.
On defense for the Packers one position in particular has my full attention. Last week starting middle linebacker Sam Barrington injured his foot and was placed on season-ending injured reserve shortly thereafter. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Green Bay this week is Barrington’s counterpart in the middle of the defense, Nate Palmer. Palmer enters his third season with the Packers but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over him. Before last week, Palmer had not played since 2013 after injuring his foot. He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve. In 2013 Palmer played in 9 games, accruing only 17 tackles. To make things even murkier, Palmer made the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker during this past offseason. His inexperience could give the Seahawks offense an advantage in the middle of the field. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Palmer will wear the “green dot” helmet, meaning the coaches will communicate the defensive play calls through the radio in his helmet. Given that these are new responsibilities for Palmer, there is a possibility that the Green Bay defense will have communication issues.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks tweeted out their uniform combination Friday night. We will be wearing white jerseys and white pants… The Packers will wear their traditional home look of green jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee… The Seahawks have only beaten the Packers once at Lambeau Field. I remember the game well. It was Monday Night Football during the 1999 season. Mike Holmgren made his first trip back to Green Bay after leaving for Seattle following the previous season. It was Brett Favre’s worst career game, as he went 14/35 for 180 yards, one touchdown, and 4 interceptions. Shawn Springs was the player of the game as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and intercepted Favre twice. The Seahawks won the game in dominating fashion, 27-7. Let’s hope for the same kind of result this week… Random travel story of the week: I am not looking forward to flying Southwest Airlines to Milwaukee. My only ever experience flying Southwest was in 1999 coming home from Omaha, Nebraska. On Southwest your boarding priority is determined by the time you check in. The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board. My family was filling up our rental car with gas near the Omaha airport when the street was shut down so Vice President Al Gore and him motorcade could come through. We were late getting to the airport and were placed in the “C” boarding group (the last group to board). I was separated from my family on the plane (something somewhat traumatic for a 9-year old) and I wound up sitting in between an older couple. I had a book of word searches with me and I just did word searches for the entire flight. Surprisingly, the older woman next to me had no idea what a word search was so she looked over my shoulder and watched me do word searches for the majority of the flight. Talk about awkward… I will be tailgating on someone’s property right off of Lombardi Avenue, directly across the street from Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay tailgating scene is somewhat restrictive to non-Packers season ticket holders so it will be fascinating to see how Packers fans do tailgating… I am beyond excited to step inside Lambeau Field. I consider it to be the cathedral of professional football. So much history has occurred inside that bowl that I’m sure to get chills just walking around. Just like going to Notre Dame Stadium in 2009, this is sure to be a trip I will never forget. The only thing that will make it better will be a Seahawks win!
Prediction: After the Fail Mary and the NFC Championship miracle comeback, the Packers finally get back at us. Aaron Rodgers will come out firing and will throw touchdowns to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the first half. The Seahawks will only be able to counter with one Steven Hauschka field goal as the Packers will go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Seahawks will make the proper adjustments and will score two second half touchdowns; one by Marshawn Lynch and another to Jimmy Graham. The Packers will lead 23-20 and will deliver the dagger with just under 5 minutes left to play. Rodgers will find Cobb for his second touchdown of the game and the Seahawks will head home for their home opener with a disappointing 0-2 record.
Packers 30, Seahawks 20
Programming Note: My game review will be published on Monday when I get back from Green Bay, NOT late Sunday immediately following the game.