I have a really bad feeling about this game. I wish I didn’t, but I do. The days following the Seahawks loss to the Rams have left me questioning whether one week is enough time to correct the colossal defensive errors that allowed Nick Foles to look like Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has not even looked like himself when facing Seattle the past few years. Green Bay goes as he goes, and if Seattle does not play more disciplined pass coverage, this may even be the first Seahawks loss by more than 10 points since 2011. But I know you all. Nobody wants to read about that. Seattle can beat Green Bay this weekend. Here is how they do it.
A healthy Tharold Simon
Pete Carroll alluded to the surprise move of swinging Richard Sherman inside at his press conference last week when someone asked him about Tharold Simon. “You’ll see how we use him,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a plan there.” I assumed that meant a rotation of Simon with Cary Williams at the time. It looks like the idea was to get the best corners on the field, and since Seattle has better edge corners than nickel corners, moving someone like Sherman inside opens the door for guys like Simon or Deshawn Shead instead of playing Marcus Burley or Tye Smith.
Time will tell if Seattle is reducing the effectiveness of the game’s best corner by asking him to play inside, but anything that gets Simon on the field is worth a try. He is a physical corner who seems well suited to the Seahawks style. His preseason performance was very promising.
The Packers threw to exactly three receivers last week. Randall Cobb had 5 catches in 5 targets and 1 TD. Davante Adams had 4 catches in 8 targets. James Jones had 4 catches in 4 targets and 2 TDs. The only other receptions were by tight end Richard Rodgers (3) and running back Eddie Lacy (2).
It is worth noting that the Packers have acknowledged they are being cautious with Cobb’s shoulder and not asking him to run some routes that might put him in harm’s way. His longest reception on Sunday was 10 yards. That will put a lot of pressure on Adams and Jones to win outside.
Sherman will probably draw Cobb duty, leaving Adams or hopefully Jones for Simon to cover
Sherman will probably draw Cobb duty inside when the team is in nickel. Simon is a great matchup with a guy like Jones who is not a terrific route runner and relies on size and physical mismatches to make contested catches. Simon is well equipped to make life hard on Jones, who is a favorite red zone target of Rodgers.
The Packers will do whatever they can to create situations where one of their receivers matches up with Dion Bailey. They will also try to create situations where communication and experience come into play, like bunch formations that require Seattle players to be disciplined about covering the right player.
Seattle is in a stronger position to combat the Packers more limited receiving crew if Simon is able to play.
Run like crazy
Everybody ran on the Packers last Sunday. Yes, Matt Forte piled up 141 yards and a 5.9 average per carry, but how about Jay Cutler totalling 31 yards? Cutler has only had that many rushing yards once in the last couple of years. Even Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 4.0 YPC on his four carries. The Bears were 27th in the NFL in rushing last season. Their offensive line is not a strength.
The great rushing performance led to great results on 3rd down, where the Bears were 11-17. They were even 2-3 on fourth downs.
Seattle put up 124 yards rushing against a far more talented Rams defensive front. They need to be up in the 150+ yards range to win this game. That will help them limit Packer possessions and take pressure off Russell Wilson and the passing game against a strong Green Bay secondary. Wilson should have the chance to devastate the Packers, who lost their starting inside linebacker to injury and have a suspect pass rush, with his legs.
St. Louis scored 34 points on Sunday, but 14 of those game from a Wilson interception and a punt return touchdown. This feels like a game the Seahawks need to eliminate any turnovers, something they did seven times last season.
Special teams will be huge as well. Green Bay really likes their rookie returner Ty Montgomery, and he rewarded them with a 46 yards kickoff return against Chicago. The Seattle defense will have their hands full all evening, so special teams cannot give Green Bay short fields to work with.
Seattle had four trips to the red zone Sunday. The converted only one to a touchdown. St. Louis had the same four trips and converted two. Just one more Seattle conversion or one fewer St. Louis conversion would have won the game for the Seahawks.
Redhead Jimmy Graham is a massive mismatch down there, but Wilson had a lot of trouble putting the ball somewhere Graham could make a play on it. The one time he threw it anywhere near Graham, he caught it for the only offensive touchdown on the day. Wilson also missed a wide open Tyler Lockett on one pass and a wide open Doug Baldwin on another. He must be sharper down there this week.
A positive note is that Graham has scored a touchdown in two of his three games against the Packers, and has had at least 56 yards receiving in each, with a high of 76 yards in Green Bay.
On the flip side, the Packers were 4-5 in the red zone and held Chicago to one touchdown in three red zone possessions. Seattle can win this game if they hold Green Bay under 50% on red zone conversions.
Rodgers is a terrific passer and a great runner. Those attributes make him almost arrogant in the pocket. He is one of the few elite passers who will hold onto the ball for long stretches, which makes him susceptible to sacks.
That continued against the Bears as he was the 5th-slowest to throw (2.89s) in week one, per ProFootballFocus.com. Chicago is a terrible pass pressure team, though, and finished with zero sacks and zero hits on the quarterback. That is no way to defend Rodgers.
He had to feel at ease completing 18 of his 23 passes, although he did run the ball 8 times for 35 yards. Seattle will throw a far better pass rush at Rodgers, and can make him pay for holding onto the ball too long.
There is not just one place the pressure will come from, which makes it harder to scramble. Hitting Rodgers seven or more times would be a great indicator that the pass rush was affecting his ability to throw with confidence.
Seattle has the talent and coaching to win this game. The question is whether they can coalesce as a defense in time to combat one of the game’s best quarterbacks in what will be a very tough environment.
This is a game Green Bay should win. They are catching the Seahawks at the perfect time, in the perfect venue, with the ideal motivation. Should Seattle find a way to come out of there with a victory, the Packers no longer deserve to be considered a serious NFC threat. They are fighting Superman when he is surrounded by kryptonite.
More important than the outcome of this game for Seattle is the way that they play and the progress that they demonstrate. A win would be the ultimate prize. The tougher the challenge, the more satisfying the victory.