Packers fans really dislike the Seahawks. When I went to Green Bay to watch the Seahawks play a couple of years back, all anyone could talk about was how the refs had given the Seahawks the victory when Golden Tate caught the touchdown as time ran out in 2012 or how lucky the team was to win in the NFC Championship game. The bitterness was so consistent that it came as little surprise when my friend and I sat behind an elderly woman—likely in her 80s—who was drinking a Miller Lite Tall Boy and turning around to hurl insults at us every time the refs made a call in favor of the Seahawks. She, and the thousands of Packers fans who made their way into CenturyLink Field could not have been happy with the result on Thursday night. Green Bay lost for the fourth straight time in Seattle, including the playoffs. It was as delectable as it was important.
The game started with a collective thud. Chris Carson fumbled on the first play of the game. The Seahawks defense was hemorrhaging yardage on the ground and through the air while giving up two touchdowns, and what should have been a field goal in the first quarter. Russell Wilson was awful, missing what might have been his easiest throw of the day to a wide open Doug Baldwin in the end zone with no defenders near Wilson nor between him and Baldwin.
Trailing 14-3, the game, and the season, appeared to be getting away from the Seahawks. They were so bad, and Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones looked so good, that what happened the rest of the game is befuddling. Seattle would go on to outscore the Packers 24-10 from that point, and held Green Bay to only 3 points in the second half.
A few sneaky cool things happened to key the Seahawks comeback. First, the defense finally found its footing against the run. Jones came into the game leading the NFL in yards per carry, and had not had a single game when he was under 5.0 yards per tote. He started off decently with 16 yards on 4 carries in the first quarter. Seattle shut down the running game after that, especially in the second half when they allowed only 13 yards on 4 carries (3.3 ypc).
The Seahawks rush defense has been dreadful the past few weeks. Analytics folks will tell you rush defense is one of the least important elements to football, but there is no arguing that it is better to stop the run than to give up 8-yard chunks nearly every play.
Another thing that changed was the pass rush. Rodgers enjoyed a lot of time in the first half while piling up gaudy numbers of 12/16 passing for 214 yards (13.4 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a nearly perfect 156.3 passer rating. He was sacked just once. That changed in the second half when Seattle sacked him four times and collapsed the pocket on a number of other snaps. That helped make Rodgers a mere mortal with a 90.8 passer rating and no touchdowns.
Frank Clark did his thing with two sacks, despite constant double teams. Youngins Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green both recorded their first NFL sack. What’s better is these often came in big moments. Three of the four sacks in the second half came on 3rd down. Two of those were in Seattle territory. One was in the red zone. Those are game-changing plays every bit as much as a deep throw to Tyler Lockett.
Pre-snap penalties—which had been a major issue in the first half—almost completely stopped in the second half. Seattle had five offensive penalties including four false starts in the first half and just one offensive penalty in the second half. Three of those first half false starts came on first down. Seattle had another two plays go for negative yards in the first half, and also had a fumble. This version of the Seahawks offense cannot lose yards on first down and hope to move the ball with any consistency. They had just one negative play on first down in the second half.
Wilson started to find his rhythm. He had just four incompletions in the second half, and connected with receivers on a number of big plays. He was still not his best, throwing high or off-target a couple of times, but he made a couple great throws to Lockett and made the right read to Ed Dickson for what became the game-winning touchdown.
I have seen at least two media members describe Wilson as “outdueling” or “outplaying” Rodgers in the fourth quarter. I did not see it that way. Rodgers made some really bad throws, including his last on 3rd and short when he threw it into the ground. He threw no touchdowns in the second half and the Packers scored just three points. Wilson threw one touchdown in the second half. He played a solid half. I don’t think anyone will hold up this second half or fourth quarter game tape as an example of great quarterback play or two players one-upping the other.
The Seahawks running backs, on the other hand, had a really nice game after the first carry mishap. Carson had a number of impressive runs while piling up 83 yards and a touchdown. Rashaad Penny had a highlight reel run for 30 yards. It was great to see big play ability from the rookie for the second straight week. Then there was Mike Davis who was barely used until the last series of the game when the Seahawks needed two first downs to end it. Davis carried for 4 yards, 5 yards, and 7 yards on that drive to help seal the victory. In all, the Seahawks piled up 173 yards on the ground.
Seahawks receivers also had a nice game. If Wilson had played more to his standards, the offense might have put up close to 40 points. Lockett not only had 5 catches for 71 yards, but he drew a big pass interference penalty after burning the Packers defender on a double move. Doug Baldwin Jr. torched a few players of his own. His sweetest play of the night might have been the triple move he put on a Packers corner that left him chasing shadows. David Moore made a beautiful catch on 3rd down that was initially ruled incomplete but was overturned.
This was not a game the Seahawks will look back on and recount all the things they did right. There were plenty of mistakes and ugliness. They will take pride in their ability to adjust on the fly, regain their footing, and finally come through in the end to win. That feeling will stick. Now they get a few extra days of rest before traveling to Carolina for another big test. The Packers go home empty-handed and angry-hearted once again. Go Pack, go.