The bar is set. If the 2014 Green Bay Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl, they know what level of football they’ll have to play. They saw it firsthand Thursday night in the form of the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle was bigger, stronger, and faster than the Packers were. The Seahawks controlled the tempo of the game by displaying impeccable balance on the offensive side of the ball. Their defense, meanwhile, started where they left off, disrupting yet another elite quarterback.
The Packers clearly came into the game wanting to run the ball and to utilize the short-passing game. Neither worked, as Seattle’s front seven controlled the line of scrimmage, and their edge rushers overwhelmed Green Bay’s tackles. Green Bay’s 20-point margin of defeat (36-16) was their third highest with Aaron Rodgers starting at quarterback. Only a 2008 defeat at New Orleans and a 2012 defeat at the N.Y. Giants were larger.
The NFL is a marathon, not a sprint. The Packers will get better. They must. However, Seattle may improve as well. And that’s a scary thought for the NFC.
Here’s a breakdown of what I saw Thursday night:
Down 20-10 in the third quarter and starting from inside their own 10, Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett embarrassed Green Bay right tackle Derek Sherrod, using his hands to win the battle. The Seattle pass rusher proceeded to strip Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the ball, which resulted in a safety. Additionally, the refs flagged left tackle David Bakhtiari for unsportsmanlike conduct, forcing Green Bay to kick the ball to Seattle from their 10-yard line. This setup Seattle with excellent field position, which they took advantage of by cashing in with a touchdown a little over four minutes later. In other words, in about a five-minute span, Green Bay went from being down by 10 to being down by 19.
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman didn’t have one of his best statistical outings. In fact, he posted a zero in all columns. However, that’s because Green Bay didn’t bother to throw his way. It is possible Green Bay thought Sherman would shadow receiver Jordy Nelson all night long, but Sherman plays exclusively on the left side of Seattle’s defense. It’s hard to execute an elite passing attack when you only use two-thirds of the field.
Dud of the Game
When the Packers win, I’ll name the stud of the game. When they lose, I’ll name a dud of the game. This week’s dud was clearly linebacker Brad Jones. Not only did he drop what should’ve been an interception, but he was flagged for two holding calls, one of which came after Green Bay stopped the Seahawks on a crucial fourth-quarter third down. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch put on a show, rushing for 119 yards and two touchdowns. What made Lynch’s performance so impressive was that Green Bay defenders were in position to stop him most of the time. Simply put, despite filling the right gaps, the Packers couldn't bring him to the ground. Jones was guilty of this all game long. If he doesn’t progress soon, he’ll be a real liability on the defensive side of the ball.
Sometimes you need to take a step backward before moving two steps forward. The defense took a step backward Thursday night, but they did flash potential. Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix missed a few tackles, but he also made several nice plays, including taking an excellent angle in bringing down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on a first quarter scramble. I suspect that as the year moves forward, we’ll see more Clinton-Dix on the field with Micah Hyde and less Morgan Burnett.
We did see glimpses of a versatile front seven. The combination of Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews did so some positive things, though Seattle’s short-passing game neutralize much of their rush. Still, it was encouraging to see Peppers moving well at outside linebacker. He didn’t look uncomfortable (ala Aaron Kampman). In fact, he looked natural. On one play, Matthews lined up on the same side as Peppers, and exploded into the backfield to make the stop. Another play had Green Bay running a middle stunt with Matthews. Peppers’ presence gives defensive coordinator Dom Capers the freedom to use Matthews creatively.
Offensively, Green Bay dodged a bullet on the injury front. Bryan Bulaga suffered a sprained MCL and will probably miss 2-4 weeks. The Packers should be able to manage without him in the short-term so long as they give Sherrod help. Perhaps the biggest red flag on offense was the lack of production from a No. 3 wide receiver. Rodgers leaned on Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and the running backs Thursday night. Jarrett Boykin was nowhere in sight. In his defense, Green Bay chose to line him up outside against Sherman a lot, so that Nelson and Cobb had favorable matchups.
The Packers play the Jets next week in their home opener. The Jets have a suspect secondary, so I suspect Green Bay will move the ball well on them. Their offensive line also isn’t very good, so we may see the impact from Matthews and Peppers show up in the stat column. A blowout defeat stings, but losing to the Seahawks in Seattle wasn’t surprising.
Losing to the Jets at home would be. Hey guys, please visit Row12.com for weekly articles done by myself on college and fantasy football. We also have a great staff of writers that cover just about every major sport