The national media hyped the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in the run up to this game. Conversations were focused on the point of emphasis of Illegal Contact and how it would affect the Seahawks, and fans came too with their fear of Aaron Rodgers' ability to make plays on the run -- and I'll get to on why this may change in my closing overview at the bottom of this article.
Almost no one was talking Eddie Lacy, though, and after a tough game for the first-team defense vs Oakland in Seattle's final preseason game, I carried a bigger fear of the rush potential than pass potential for this team. So, with this all laid out, lets dive into the beginning of a Championship march.
[1st Quarter 14:56 1st and 10, Run by Eddie Lacy up the middle for 6 yards tackled by Kevin Williams]
Right off the bat, the Packers amplify my pre-game concerns with a good run by Lacy. What you'll notice on this play when you re-watch it is that Seattle is more spread out on the D-Line (Consisting of Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane, Kevin Williams, and Cliff Avril). This allows them to push Mebane down on a nice crisp double-team, as I think Brandon is trying to get the jump on what to him must look like blocking a swing run to the strongside.
Kevin Williams works around behind the wash of the line of Green Bay to make nice ankle tackle. The last thing Seattle needed was Lacy with a huge head of steam coming down at them.
Side Note: I will be noting a few D-line changes. This will go beyond just the first and second down "big line," followed by the NASCAR package on 3rd downs we saw last year (four pass rushers or defensive ends on the line). There were at least four different line combos I saw and I hope to hit them all in some detail.
[1st Quarter 12:40 3rd and 10 Aaron Rodgers scrambles for no gain tackled by O'Brien Schofield]
This defensive alignment should look familiar to you. Seattle employed this with Colin Kaepernick in the NFC Championship game last season:
Examples, for fun:
The line below vs. the Packers is as follows: Michael Bennett (LEO), O'Brien Schofield (Spy), Jordan Hill (3-tech) and Cliff Avril (5 Tech). It's interesting that we see both Hill and Schofield here when Bennett was 3-tech last year and Irvin played spy. The play works, and despite Rodgers tucking it to run, Schofield is aware enough to elude unaware blockers and snake in for the stop.
A lost note in the great fundamental play of Schofield is that Hill and Avril team up for a considerable rush. Though Brian Bulaga is able to swing Avril wide, Hill and Avril do cause Aaron to lose faith in his protection a bit and he tries to scramble. He runs right into a tackle, wasting a reasonably strong pocket.
[1st Quarter 4:51 2nd and 14 Pass incomplete intended for Randall Cobb]
After a failed backfield flair pass to Eddie Lacy, Green Bay tries its patented rub route concept. Jordy Nelson runs Maxwell in and Randall Cobb works underneath of them with Jeremy Lane following a stride behind. Because Lane is able to slow him up with some contact at the shoulder, (turned loose after five yards) he's able to stay near enough that Rodgers floats the ball out of reach for Cobb.
Green Bay uses this combo to death,and it might be effective against the NFC North, but the NFC West sees these in their sleep. The next play, Aaron Rodgers short hops a pass to the turf who valiantly makes the catch but it's ruled incomplete because it's turf guys, it can't catch passes.
[1st Quarter 4:32 1st and 10 Run right Eddie Lacy No gain tackle by Earl Thomas]
This play occurs right after the muffed punt by Earl Thomas. Nothing huge worth noting about it except -- check out this lineup! Jordan Hill is LEO; Kevin Williams is the NT; Tony McDaniel is 3-Tech; Cassius Marsh is 5-tech.
Yep, you read that right. Marsh nearly makes the tackle himself on the play, but Lacy is able to pull free just barely before Earl Thomas shoots in for the finish.
[2nd Quarter 8:27 3rd and 5 Pass incomplete intended for Randall Cobb Pass Interference called on Bobby Wagner]
Pretty much the only notable offensive play for the Packers in the entire second quarter. The Seahawks come out in their nickel package. The D-line is Bruce Irvin at LEO, Brandon Mebane at the Nose, Mike Bennett at 3-tech and O'Brien Schofield at the 5-tech. It looks at the snap like Seattle is manned up across the board, with cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman locked up outside. Safety Kam Chancellor is lined up over Randall Cobb and Jeremy Lane is the nickel against Brandon Boykin.
What causes the issue is the late scramble and throw-back by Rodgers after a nice cross stunt with Bennett and Schofield that knocks Schofield free and right into Aaron's face. This is my favorite play of the night because it's Schofield's potential speed and agility as the showcase as a pass-rush power tool. As you've seen with the earlier plays, Seattle was changing out their line and combining all kinds of looks throughout the first half. I think Dan Quinn is still hunting for the set package and on this play he may have found it.
I'm not going to rip Bobby Wagner here. He panics and causes a clear Pass Interference, but all that is forgivable because the team forces a field goal instead of allowing the typical Aaron Rodgers big pass play that GB so desperately depends on right now.
[3rd Quarter 12:06 1st and 10 Pass intended for Jordy Nelson Intercepted by Byron Maxwell]
Byron Maxwell is going to have a good year. He's actually guessing a deep route here. He spins his hips to run upfield and Jordy Nelson attempts to run a square in route. Maxwell starts to adjust from his trail position to at least get over the top, and Aaron Rodgers--obviously overexcited by managing to trick Maxwell--attempts to gun the ball to Nelson before Maxwell can react.
This results in Nelson having to dive and wind up tipping the pass right to Byron Maxwell, who was making up ground from his bad guess. We've seen his ball skills before but teams are going to have an awful hard time finding places to lay easy passes, especially on the outside.
[3rd Quarter 7:15 3rd and 5 Pass intended for Jordy Nelson defended by Byron Maxwell]
Throwing for a call is all I can think here by Aaron Rodgers. There's no way even, with his arm, that he's going to go from one end of the field 40 yards to the corner of the endzone. It was insane that he attempted it, but it was more insane that Byron Maxwell had the awareness to almost intercept that ball. Lots of dink, dunk until this big shot.
Of note is the pressure though, which is why I decided to highlight it with one of the four special GIF extras. The line is as follows.
Irvin (LEO) - Hill (NT) - Williams(3-tech) - Bennett (5-tech)
At the snap, Irvin gets a great jump on an inside rush but eventually gets stopped. The rush, however, forced Aaron to slide in the pocket, and meanwhile Williams and Hill pull a wicked stunt and Williams gets free. Rodgers is now in full drift mode, and he easily eludes Williams. However, he almost gets nicked by a screaming sand crawler, I mean Jordan Hill, who makes an appearance from out of the wash of his stunt with Williams.
[3rd Quarter 7:06 4th and 5th Aaron Rodgers sacked by Cliff Avril turnover on downs]
This sack is funny. Not much special. Reminds me of 4th and 2 in the Super Bowl, so I wanted to make sure everyone makes sure to go back and watch this to enjoy how funny this was. Plus, it's a demonstration of the Packers' frustration and fear in this game.
[3rd Quarter 4:53 1st and 10 Sack fumble by Michael Bennett recovered by Sherrod]
The next play, after getting beat by Cliff Avril on fourth down, Derek Sherrod gets beat by Seattle's big money pass rush engine, the Bennett sack train. If you watch the play, Sherrod is pretty much only working his feet. He waits to try and use his hands until he has to make some kind of contact with Bennett. Michael simply Dikembe' Mutombo'd that notion as he slapped the guys hands as he goes to engage clears and hugs Aaron for a nice strip sack.
Sherrod goes and at least apologizes by trying to get Aaron his ball back.
Overview of the game:
This game really was one of the most uninteresting I have had to break down. The Packers played not to lose. Their biggest play came via penalty on Bobby Wagner and the next biggest was a 12-yard catch. There weren't any really bad plays for the Seahawks, save for one mistake by Jeremy Lane that resulted in a third down conversion, but it was an anomaly compared to how the game went.
Seattle had this well played and by the end Aaron Rodgers refusal to go after Richard Sherman became a huge advantage to Seattle's coverage efforts.
Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll had this team figured from snap one to gun. The Packers' two scoring drives before the Seahawks went into their clock-bleed defense came on a muffed punt and a PI call against Wagner. Let me say that again: Green Bay's only scoring drives outside of the one the Seahawks used to bleed the clock, were on two plays that were mistakes by the Seahawks, not plays by a punchless Packer offense.
*Begin rant* I'm sorry, I don't mean to be so pissed off about this, but the Packers walk around with this benefit of the doubt that they are good because Aaron Rodgers is "the best quarterback in the league," according to most analysts, but in this one, they weren't good, their receivers weren't athletic enough to compete, and they relied too much on Aaron Rodgers to create big plays by stretching the defenses with his scrambling. Further, their run game was only four separate calls. *End Rant*
In closing though, it was interesting to see Seattle run so many different fronts out there against the Packers. I think I counted six different combinations in total throughout the game. Kevin Williams looks beastly in a more reduced and targeted role. Cassius Marsh, I love you. Michael Bennett, I need you to sign my "Notes from a 12th man" book with "Black Santa" because well, that's awesome.
Game Ball: Bobby Wagner
Man, this guy faced off against Eddie Lacy and didn't flinch once. Kam was good and I think if he notches some interceptions this year, he could contend for DPOY honors, but Wagner gets my nod this week for being so solid against the draw and winning one on ones vs Lacy. The Seahawks needed him to, and that was key to making sure Green Bay never got off the ground.
Anything I say here would be so nitpicky, I would send hate-mail to myself.
Since Danny has increased his load at the mothership of SBN doing fantastic work, we had a short search for someone who could do GIFs for this series. From this point forward, as long as she is willing and able, Jennifer Chen AKA "jenerationx" here on Field Gulls will be providing GIFs. (Danny Kelly note: The GIFs are dynamite, so thank you very much Jennifer, and I am super appreciative of the help. CrossCech has also generously volunteered to help make GIFs on demand, so I just want to re-iterate how awesome this community is in support of the writers here).
There will be between four or five GIFs per article. This game only has nine plays highlighted because there just wasn't enough to pick ten. Jennifer and I will work to improve GIFs with each game as I also have to learn how to describe exactly what I want her to capture from the video. I hope that you will have understanding while we work to get this totally right. We're doing our best and I hope for another fantastic year on the horizon.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.