The Morning After: Seahawks Expose Packers, Run To A 36-16 Victory

Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

There were touchdowns and interceptions, but not on the same play. Two years after a game that included only one play the nation remembered, the Seahawks reminded everyone about the rest of the events that evening. Aaron Rodgers, who most consider the best player in the game, ended that night with an 81.5 passer rating, one of the lowest of his career. He ended the game last night with…an 81.5 passer rating. He finished the first game with 5.7 yards per pass attempt. He ended last nights game with 5.7 YPA. Green Bay had 84 yards rushing two years ago. They had 80 last night. And while their 16 points yesterday was pretty close to the 12 points they scored back then, the Seahawks offense showed why they will not be relying on controversial calls to thwack their opponents this year.

Domination in first gear

There was almost a monotonous tone to the Seahawks Swiss Army offense last night. They had 100 yards rushing in the first half and 107 yards rushing in the second. There were not many chunk plays through the air. The team simply matriculated the ball down the field, scoring on each of their first half possessions (not counting the series cut short by halftime), and six of their eight possessions overall. Three of their touchdown drives covered 70 yards or more. The Seahawks averaged a jaw-dropping 8 yards per rush in the first half, and through much of the third quarter. 
Baseball folks talk about the toll pressure pitches can have on a pitcher. Seattle’s offense never seemed to be pushed last night. They were mostly breezing through a game against a team many have considered a Super Bowl favorite. Most still do not understand how good this offense can be. They put up 36 points (34 minus the safety) without breaking a sweat. 
Russell Wilson averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt against a great Packers secondary. He only had four games last season when he finished with a lower YPA. This was not him at most productive self, and yet he still finished with a 110.9 passer rating and just shy of the magic 70% completion rate Pete Carroll wants him to reach. 

Offensive line goodness

So good. There is nothing quite like the security a good offensive line gives a team. They allow you to sustain drives. They help you wear down defenses. They make the game simple for the quarterback. And, boy, did they make it simple for the runners Thursday night.
Marshawn Lynch has had to make his own way running the football for most of his Seahawks career. Last night was a taste of what he looks like when he has a line opening holes for him. You want to rejuvenate old(er) legs? Try running over defensive backs instead of defensive lineman. People were questioning whether he could get back to his 1,200 yard output from a season ago. The better question will be if he can get back to 1,500 yards in 2012, which happened to be the last time he had a stable and performant offensive line. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry that year, but was down to 4.2 last year. He finished at 5.5 last night. For what it’s worth, he could drop 50 carries off his total from last year and still eclipse 1,200 yards rushing if he returns to that 5.0 YPC clip. This offense was never at peak efficiency last year, but this line is pointing the team in that direction this season.
Justin Britt against either Clay Mathews or Julius Peppers had to be a serious concern for Tom Cable and Carroll. But like they have done so many times before against great pass rushers, they devised a plan to provide help where it was needed. The Packers ended with just one sack on 29 Seattle pass dropbacks, and it came from one of their safeties. Mathews was almost a non-factor with 4 solo tackles including a tackle for loss. Peppers was even less of a factor with just 3 solo tackles. 
The line play should only improve as this group grows together.

Defense shines

Raise your hand if you were concerned the Seahawks defense would look more vulnerable than last season? My hand is raised. Now raise your hand if you still have those concerns. I am guessing there are fewer hands left up after an impressive display against a powerful Packers offense. The only way the Packers were going to make this a game was if they were able to run the ball.
The Seahawks made sure that did not happen. Eddie Lacy managed just 2.8 yards on 12 carries, and the Packers were held to 3.8 YPC overall. Kevin Williams got the start over Tony McDaniel at 3-technique tackle, something the team had played with during training camp but not done yet in a preseason game. Williams was stout at the point, and combined with Brandon Mebane to beat up the Packers offensive line. Their work kept the linebackers clean, and allowed Bobby Wagner to pile up a career high 14 tackles and a TFL. Kam Chancellor, operating largely in a linebacker capacity last night, had 11 tackles, and K.J. Wright finished with 7 and a TFL. Any time you can finish a game where your top tacklers are linebackers, it usually means the defensive line was doing its job.
The pass rush was much better than people gave it credit for. Rodgers was quick to get rid of the ball in the first half, and still had the pocket collapsing. He eventually had to take more risks to try and extend plays, and the Seahawks finished with 3 sacks as a result. Obviously, losing tackle Bryan Bulaga was a factor, but the team was getting a good push.
Green Bay clearly set out to test the new nickel corner, and had some decent results. Jeremy Lane eventually left with a groin injury, and was replaced by newly-acquired Marcus Burley who seemed to do a nice job on first blush. This is now the one clear question mark remaining on the defense. It will be tested again next week in San Diego.

Closing notes

  • I was a little disappointed in the Super Bowl banner “ceremony.” It happened so quickly and without warning that it was anti-climatic. Maybe Carroll instructed them to focus on the future instead of reveling in the past, as he has with the team, but it felt like we were robbed a bit of a meaningful moment.
  • This was possibly the loudest I have ever heard CenturyLink. I have never considered bringing ear plugs, but that game has me reconsidering. It was deafening at the outset, before calming to normal crazy levels.
  • Byron Maxwell now has 5 interceptions and 9 passes defensed in his last 5 regular season games.
  • This was the second-most points scored by the Seahawks in an opening game, and the most ever in a home opener
  • Steve Hauschka was 2/2, and is now 43 for his last 45 field goal attempts
  • Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett both had sacks. Avril has had at least a half-sack in 12 of his 19 games as a Seahawk. Bennett has had at least a half-sack in 11 of his 20 Seahawks games.

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