Every team gets blown out now and again. Hell, most teams have it happen at least once a season. It’s a club that everyone in the NFL has belonged to over the last five-plus seasons with one notable exception: the Seattle Seahawks. That exclusion ended today, when the Green Bay Packers rolled up with lead pipes and savagely jumped the ‘Hawks into the gang.
It was the worst performance of the modern Seahawks era; the worst game by Russell Wilson, the worst by his receivers, and maybe the worst by the entire defense. A game that was supposed to feature one of the better rivalries in the league instead became an unwatchable laugher.
Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers came into this showdown as the two highest rated passers in NFL history and as the only two QBs with career TD:INT ratios of 3:1 or better. It should have been a showcase of two of the most exciting signal callers in the league. Should have.
One of the two quarterbacks held up his end of the deal. Aaron Rodgers casually limped around the field with nary a care in the world and the only pressure he faced all day came from his cramping hamstring. Rodgers completed 12 of his first 13 throws for 123 yards and two scores, with the lone blemish on his card the result of a polite throwaway. He spent three quarters playing a casual game of catch with his receivers before watching the remainder of the drubbing from the sidelines, warmed by the glow emanating from his scorching 150.8 passer rating.
Wilson on the other hand, was a cold sack of wet meat, only with less accuracy. He underthrew everything he didn’t overthrow, blatantly missing open receivers on three crucial occasions. He forced passes into nonexistent windows and seemed to be aiming the ball rather than just winging it with the God-breathed conviction we’re used to seeing. He completed 56% of his passes to his receivers and 13% of them to defenders. His five picks were a career high, surpassing the four he managed against the Packers in the NFC ‘Ship two years ago. Two of the picks were just rotten throws/decisions, two more were at least understandable, and one was just slapstick. It was the lousiest showing I’ve ever seen from Wilson’s and the latest pimple on an increasingly blemished season. Is Wilson still one of the best QBs in the NFL? Definitely. Has he played like one this year? Decidedly not.
Wilson wasn’t good but he wasn’t given much help either. His receivers didn’t get open often and were missed when they did. They dropped a bunch of the passes that were accurate, including an interception off the face of Doug Baldwin. Kearse dropped a semi-contested deep ball, Pope failed to corral Wilson’s skyball in the backfield, and Tyler Lockett saw an open slant go right through his child-like hands. The only guy who played like a first-teamer was eighth-stringer Tanner McEvoy, who grabbed all three of his targets for 41 yards and Seattle’s lone TD.
Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams doused Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead in gasoline and spent all afternoon flicking lit matches at them. It started early, when Adams got loose on Lane down the right sideline for a long score on the third play of the game and continued throughout the day. Rodgers hardly bothered with Richard Sherman, wisely eschewing the All Pro and taking his sweet-ass time waiting for Lane or Shead to expose their bellies* to the sharp teeth of the Packers passing game.
*It’s not even that Lane and Shead were bad (though they weren’t good), it’s that anybody’s gonna have trouble covering Adams and Nelson and Randall Cobb for five seconds while the most accurate passer in history sits unpestered in a clean pocket.
Adams turned four catches into 104 yards and a score while Nelson turned his seven targets into six catches and two touchdowns. They effectively saved Rodgers from ever having to test the deep middle- the only part of the field where he’s historically not elite- by consistently winning along the sidelines and finding the soft spot between the linebackers in zone.
The only part of the game that the Seahawks outplayed the Packers in was on the ground, as Seattle maintained their white hot streak of run production with 137 rushing yards. Green Bay ran well enough early on to help set up their deadly aerial attack but petered off to the tune of just 69 yards. Thomas Rawls looked fine, turning 12 carries into 67 yards but it was mostly meaningless since the majority of the game was played with Seattle trailing by multiple scores. If there’s one thing to feel good about after today, it’s that the ‘Hawks continued their recent dominance in both rushing and rush defense.
One of the places I thought Seattle would have an edge was in their pass rush but they were neutralized by Rodgers’ legendary hard counts, erasing the ability to jump the snap that Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark rely on. Seattle’s fearsome defensive ends had almost no impact on the game and their ineffectiveness resulted in of the greatest passers ever having as much time as he needed to wait for someone to get open. After leading the NFL in sacks through ten games, the ‘Hawks came into this one on a two-game cold-streak and were only saved from a franchise record three straight sackless games by a late Ahtyba Rubin takedown.
On the other side, the Packers pass rush knocked Wilson off his spots all day and recorded three sacks. They imposed their priorities upon Seattle’s schedule and forced the ‘Hawks offense into scramble mode. They pressured Wilson into a rushed overthrow to a wide-the-hell-open Jimmy Graham and hassled him into the interception on an ill-advised off-balance underthrow intended for Baldwin. They rattled his cage to the point that Wilson seemed to coddle a number of his passes and reduced him to a meek caricature of his best self.
There are a bunch of grisly stats reflective of even grislier plays that we can wallow in if we want but what’s the point, really? The Seahawks were finally the marble after spending half a decade being the hungry hungry hippo. It’s disconcerting that this game happened in December, when Seattle is normally playing their best football, and have laid their second egg in as many road games. It’s scary that they had their biggest letdown this close to the playoffs, and that it was their fifth underwhelming offensive performance of the season. Russell Wilson has thrown two TDs against eight interceptions over the last three games and there’s not gonna be any more Earl Thomas this year. If you’re the type to freak out, there’s plenty of ammo.
Today’s game sucked harder than black hole but I’m hesitant to say that it’s somehow definitive of this team. In my mind, it’s merely the deepest valley in this season’s particularly hilly landscape. Three weeks ago, the Seahawks were the toast of the NFL. Two weeks ago they were bums. Last week they destroyed the reigning NFC champs on national TV in one of the league’s most lopsided wins of the year. This week they’re bubkis again. That’s an exhausting way to evaluate a team and, I don’t think, the most accurate one.
If you can pull yourself back from close examination of today’s rubble and view the Seahawks from 10,000 feet, you’ll see a team that has won twice as often as they’ve lost. They’ve virtually clinched their division and are only a half-game back from a first-round bye. Whenever I try to come to a definitive conclusion about where the ‘Hawks are at, I ask myself “would I take their position if you had offered it to me in August?” At 8-4-1, with a three-game lead in the NFC West and a very real possibility of needing to win just one road game in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl, yes I think I would.
Any team coming off a 28-point thumping has questions to answer. How does the team come out so flat? How does Wilson go from maestro to meatloaf in the span of a week? Where the hell is the pass rush? We can’t answer them right now but we do have the luxury of trusting in a coaching staff that has been as good or better than anybody at diagnosing and correcting poor performance.
Even with this loss, the Seahawks have still won 80% of their November/December games over the last five years, the best in the NFL, and are a staggering 17-4 after a loss in the same period. It is far more likely that this game is an outlier than a harbinger of some sudden new negative trend, and while the ‘Hawks are certainly not above criticism for a game like this, their track record suggests that they’ll bounce back from it.
This was the game that every other team has once in a while. For half a decade, the Seahawks have been in every single contest down to the last couple of drives, winning the vast majority of their matchups and going nearly 100 straight games without losing by more than 10 points. It’s been an unbelievable stretch of unfailing competitiveness, a streak almost hypnotic in length.
We have become so accustomed to Seattle’s consistent competitiveness that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch our favorite team get the shit kicked out of them for four straight quarters.
The Seahawks are a good team that played a bad game. They won’t have much time to dwell on today’s giant moist fart of a game though, as they have the Rams at home this Thursday- the first of three straight division games against opponents with a combined record of 10-28. Opportunity for tremendous pre-postseason momentum is still very much attainable, especially for a team this talented and well-coached. Obviously they’re not going to do it if they keep playing the way they did today but considering it’s the only time they’ve done it since 2011, it’s fair to assume that they won’t keep it up.
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