By Sam Smith
The Seattle Seahawks (2-2, Preseason, 0-2 Regular Season) fell to the Green Bay Packers (2-2, Preseason, 2-0 Regular Season) in a frustrating road loss at Lambeau Field.
In what many touted as a “2014 NFC Championship rematch”, the game itself was more than just a frustrating loss, but rather a deeply introspective look at the ‘Hawks stomach for tough road games. It may seem that going 0-2 to begin the 2015 season is a poor place to be in, but fret not, 12s, last year the team started out just as slow, going 3-3 before coming alive en route to a 9-1 regular season finish (and a pretty awesome post season run!). So, now that you’re fully out of panic mode, let’s get to the good stuff.
Green Bay is arguably the hardest opponent the ‘Hawks will face on the road, as the next time they face the Rams, it will be at Century Link field. The Pack is better than good at home, going 10-0. The ‘Hawks were very close to making that record 9-1. Unfortunately, the rest of the league has gotten wise to Tyler Lockett’s punt and kick return skills, keeping the audacious rookie to zero touchdowns on returns. Green Bay’s stud running back, Eddie Lacey, would exit the game soon after its start with an ankle injury. His replacement, James Starks, managed to eek almost 100 yards on the ground out of Seattle. Wide Receiver James Jones, two weeks departed from the purgatory of Free Agency, caught a 29 yd touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers, who did not carry his limp forward from last season. If we’re being honest, he resembled another mobile quarterback (Russell Wilson) quite well, seemingly allergic to tackles and scrambling whenever the pocket collapsed and the reads downfield didn’t pan out. He escaped more than two sack attempts on the evening, though Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and KJ Wright found ways to achieve offensive line penetration and let Mr. Discount Double Check know what time it was.
If you do recall the 2014 NFC Championship game, you will remember that a tremendous comeback from a 2 score deficit didn’t stop Rodgers and company from traipsing down the field and tying the game. This time, he hooked up with a number of his receivers, with Randall Cobb being the benefit of a long first down and aided by an off sides call on Seattle. Even rookie receiver Davante Adams, who would exit the game with an ankle injury (but return), made a few clutch 1st down catches. The key player for Green Bay was Tight End Richard Rodgers, who would connect with his QB for both a touchdown and two point conversion in the 4th quarter. Kicker Mason Crosby was proficient, notching a quartet of kicks for 54, 44, 21, and 18 yards. He wasn’t needed for much more than that, as Rodgers would end the 4th quarter with a 9/91/1 line, putting 11 unanswered points on the board.
The ‘Hawks, save for their insatiable appetite for neutral zone infraction penalties, actually held their own for three of the four quarters in this game. They were able to force Green Bay to settle for Field Goals on 4 separate drives. The Wilson to Willson connection was evident, and I have to admit, the one handed snatch and grab by Luke Willson was one of the highlights of the game. By most accounts, he shouldn’t have held onto that ball, but he did. Doug Baldwin jumped high and came down with the rock, and newcomer Fred Jackson caught a crucial third down touchdown pass. Jackson’s night would come back to earth though, fumbling within :30 to go in the 4th quarter. Not a bad couple of games for the 32 year old running back. Age is just a number. Jimmy Graham blocked A LOT in this game, often being blanketed in coverage or jammed up at the line of scrimmage. He would have rather quiet game, completing 1 of 2 targets for just 11 yards. We can expect more out of him in the weeks to come for sure.
Defensively, it appears that the NFL referees are not unfazed by the ‘kick step’ method that Seattle’s defensive backs, notably Richard Sherman, currently employ. While Earl Thomas III provided coverage that didn’t draw a pass interference call (much to the dismay of GB fans) on one play, while he and Sherman were not so lucky, notching a PI call on Green Bay Wide Receiver Ty Montgomery, and Sherman was the recipient of a holding call a few plays later. Earl Thomas played hard, working overtime to stop goal line receptions. I have a bone to pick with whomever is filming these games, as Thomas literally screams like a drag racing car from one side of the screen to the other in seconds. The key takeaway from this game in a defensive sense, was that Seattle was able to force Green Bay to settle for Field Goals on 4 separate drives. Bobby Wagner, DeShawn Shead, and Marcus Burley all played huge roles in this game, really placing a lot of leg work in making sure Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones didn’t make this a multiple TD game. K.J. Wright had a huge game, but it was overshadowed by his ejection in the 4th quarter, after a scuffle with a Green Bay defender. He would later admit post game that the emotions of such a match got to him, but it was unacceptable.
The real issue (from most Seattle fans’ point of view) was a trio of (seemingly) weird calls by the referees: an extra man on the field (snarkingly referred to as ‘the 12th man showing up’ by the Monday Night Football commentators, which Pete Carroll disputed), a hands to the face call against Green Bay (Pete Carroll was cool with this one), and one fumble recovery, where Green Bay’s players were credited with a fumble recovery, when Justin Britt clearly had the ball from the bottom of the pile, he handed it to the referees. Pete Carroll wasn’t happy about that either.
In conclusion, Green Bay, in spite of mounting injuries, proved they are still a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Seattle mounted a comeback in the fourth that was distantly reminiscent of the two score deficit run of 2014, but a late interception sealed the ‘Hawks fate. Costly neutral zone infractions gave Aaron Rodgers free plays and tons of free yards. Even without blitzing a single time, Seattle still managed to put a lot of pressure on their foes. No one knows for sure if Rodgers and company put the pedal to the metal for all 60 minutes of the game, or made the best out of the situation they were forced with because of injuries. Either way, Seattle had this one almost squarely in their grasps. Future ‘tough’ road games may lead to pleasant surprises, even in light of some missteps here.
While it appears that’s the ‘Hawks may be far back for home field advantage in the 2015 NFC playoffs, we may be getting a bit too far ahead of ourselves, as it’s only week two. Next we face the Chicago Bears, who have given up seven touchdowns through the air over the last two weeks. Look for the ‘Hawks to rebound in style at Century Link Field next Sunday. GO HAWKS!!