The Green Bay Packers got to start their season in the NFL’s opener on Thursday night against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. It would not be the start that the Packers or their fans hoped for.
11:50, 1st Quarter – The Packers’ first offensive series of the 2o14 season nets two first downs followed by a woeful punt.
After DuJuan Harris starts the Packers’ season off with a mental mistake by deciding to return a kick from 6 yards deep, the Packers started from their 13-yard line. The Packers began with three receivers on the field, and Eddie Lacy behind Richard Rodgers in an offset I. The Seattle Seahawks answered with their nickel, which they would play most of the game. As seems normal for early downs, safety Kam Chancellor lined up within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, essentially giving the Seahawks a one-deep safety look.
On the first play of the game, Lacy gets 6 through the right side. This was actually a very well-blocked play, and Lacy gets more if T.J. Lang doesn’t lose ex-Vikings puke Kevin Williams at the last second. Williams wrapped Lacy up by the ankle and dragged him down from behind. The Packers got a first down on the next play when end Michael Bennett jumped offsides.
From the shotgun at the Packers’ 24, Lacy would go up the middle for 15 yards. Corey Linsley absolutely mauled nose tackle Brandon Mebane on the play, a pleasant trend in this game, and Lacy juked All-Pro Earl Thomas after bouncing off the middle of the line.
Unfortunately, Lacy left the field after that play. James Starks entered and gained 3 on a pitch to the left that he foolishly cut back to the right and directly into the unblocked Chancellor, who was giving the Seahawks 10 guys in the box. On 2nd and 7, Aaron Rodgers would throw his first pass of the season and throw it poorly. It was a simple bubble screen to Jordy Nelson. It was decently blocked and had a chance to at least pick up some yards, except Rodgers threw the ball behind Nelson, who had to spin to the ground to catch it. The play lost 3, and now the Packers faced 3rd and 10.
The Seahawks played a straight up 2-deep zone this time. The Packers had their same set on the field, as they had been in the hurry up, and there were few substitutions on either side. This time Richard Rodgers was in the near slot, inside of Randall Cobb on the right side. The tricky Seahawks rushed three and left defensive tackle O’Brien Schofield to spy Rodgers. Rodgers had a good count of five seconds to throw the football. He never did. Looking downfield, everyone was covered. Rodgers could have tried the cross to Richard Rodgers. Linebacker Kenny Wright had decent position, but his back was turned.
After Rodgers started to scramble to his right, Chancellor had dropped all the way towards the sideline to undercut the route by Jarrett Boykin. This left Earl Thomas alone in the middle of the field. With Cobb running a seam route from the slot and Nelson running a go on the left side, Thomas was in an inevitable position, but Rodgers never tested it. He took the safest route and tried to scramble for it. Schofield wrapped him up after what looks like a short gain. The game tracker marked it as no gain, gifting Schofield a generous sack. If you say so. Punt.
To continue the stellar special teams performance so far, Tim Masthay inexplicably nailed a 29-yard punt, denying the Packers the field position advantage they had seemingly earned by gaining a couple first downs.
6:00, 1st Q – The Packers’ defense started the season with the base unit on the field. On first down from their 35, the Seahawks went with a quick screen to Percy Harvin. Micah Hyde starts his safety career off well by fighting through the block of tight end Zach Miller to slow Harvin down, allowing Mike Daniels and A.J. Hawk to limit it to a 4-yard gain.
On 2nd and 6, Marshawn Lynch got his first carry of the season and the run would give Packers fans a taste of what they would see throughout the game. It was a simple lead left. Somehow, the Seahawks disdained/forgot to block Letroy Guion. He followed Lynch to the left and hit him about a yard in the backfield. Apparently, missing the entire preseason didn’t prevent Guion from learning the Packers method of tackling. Instead of running through the ball carrier, Guion left his feet and reached for Lynch. Lynch ran right through him. Mike Daniels also overran the play. Lynch cut off his ass and would have had a big gain on his first carry if not for Julius Peppers coming clear across the field to tackle him after a 5-yard gain.
On 3rd and 1, the Packers linebackers and defensive backs were lined up so far off the line of scrimmage that, unless a defensive lineman can shed a block and make a tackle in the backfield, there is no way they can prevent the first down. The tricky Pete Carroll/Darrell Bevell went with the quick pass to Percy Harvin in the slot. The only player with any chance of hitting Harvin before the first down, A.J. Hawk, put on the brakes to prevent a big play rather than attacking. Micah Hyde made a nice play again in defeating the block of Jermaine Kearse and then making the tackle. However, since he lined up 8 yards off Harvin at the start of the play, he couldn’t stop the play from getting 4 yards.
On 3rd and 2 from the Packers’ 44, Russell Wilson tried a quick stop to Miller and narrowly missed throwing an INT to two different Packers. Sam Shields jumped the play and only a last moment bump by Miller stopped Shields from having a pick six to give us all a MUCH different start to the season. For once, the Packers seemingly got lucky as the ball bounced high in the air. Brad Jones was in the area and went up to high point the ball like a receiver. Receivers are also taught to snatch the ball back to their bodies once they have it. Jones instead left the ball above his head as he came back to the ground and Miller made a nice play to knock it out of his hands.
The Seahawks would be forced to punt, but no fear, Mike Daniels to the rescue. Aware that the aggressive Pete Carroll might go for 4th and 2 from the Packers’ 44, the Packers left their defense in for the punt, with Cobb back deep. The otherwise smart move backfired when Daniels ran into Jon Ryan, just barely, but enough to illicit the flag. First down Seattle.
Maybe this is what Daniels meant when he talked about punching first.
Anyway, on the very next play, Percy Harvin would take his first sprint sweep and rather easily gain the corner for a 13-yard gain. Amazingly, the Packers defense appears completely stunned and unprepared for this play, even though the Seahawks ran it twice to great affect in the Super Bowl and Percy Harvin has been running it since college. Julius Peppers is unblocked, but he is caught flatfooted and stands like a pedestrian watching traffic as Harvin sprints right past him. The only defender on that side of the field is Tramon Williams, who was in off coverage, of course. He does well to angle Harvin out of bounds.
The Seahawks face a 3rd and 5 after that. The Packers show their much ballyhooed psycho package and blitz five with Peppers and Neal on both ends and Matthews up the middle. It works perfectly and Clay Matthews goes clean to Wilson. Wilson throws the quick stop to Doug Baldwin, but Tramon is immediately on it and tackles him short of the first down. The Seahawks settle for an easy field goal to make it 3-0.
1:30, 1st Q – The Packers took advantage of the first big mistake in the game by scoring a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead.
The Packers went four and out on their second possession. After a pass up the sideline to Jordy Nelson got an easy 11 yards, the Packers were set back with a 5-yard loss on a dump to Lacy. Two incompletions and a punt would follow.
Once again, it is a poor punt of just 38 yards, but Earl Thomas — yes, Pete Carroll has his All-Pro safety returning punts — doesn’t fair catch it. He tries to field it in traffic, runs into the butt of Davon House and fumbles. In a rare sweet break for the Packers, the ball bounces up and right into the hands of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Sadly, one could argue that the best play in the game for the Packers was turned in by House’s butt.
The Packers took over at the Seattle 34. They used two quick passes to Nelson, still working against corner Byron Maxwell, to move the ball to the 2-yard line. John Kuhn took it in from there and the Packers would have their only lead in the game at 7-3.
13:05, 2nd Q – The Packers defense was terrible in series after scores last season and they continued the trend here.
The Seahawks went 80 yards in just six plays to go back ahead at 10-7. The majority of the drive were the final two plays, which covered 66 yards. On 2nd and 12 from the Seattle 34, the Packers had their outside corners playing zone, for some reason, leaving safety Morgan Burnett on the only receiver the Seahawks have shown any interest in, Percy Harvin. Harvin ran a simple deep cross from the slot. Burnett got rubbed off the route by A.J. Hawk and was nowhere close. Harvin took the cross for 33 yards.
On the next play, the Seahawks got a little tricky when Wilson faked the read option and threw it over Shields to a wide open Ricardo Lockette, who broke the diving tackle attempt by Clinton-Dix and waltzed up the sideline for a 33-yard TD.
On the play, the outside corners are again in zone coverage. Shields overplayed the read option fake, leaving Lockette wide open up the sideline. Clinton-Dix had Lockette at the 10-yard line, with a sideline to one side and inside pursuit on the other. Instead of using either, Clinton-Dix caught the Packers mania this night and dove for Lockette’s legs. Lockette stepped out of his tackle and scored easily.
6:55, 2nd Q – The Packers responded to the Seahawks’ score with their best drive of the game. They would go from their own 16 to the Seattle 5 before settling for a field goal.
On the fourth play of the drive, Cliff Avril used a hand to the face of Bulaga to knock Bulaga’s head into Richard Rodgers’ head as Rodgers was trying to squeeze through behind Bulaga to make a block. Both Rodgers and Bulaga hit the deck, and both would be out for the remainder.
Derek Sherrod was immediately inserted, and to his credit, the drive continued on as if nothing had happened. James Starks spelled Lacy and then made a nice run to pick up a 3rd and 4.
On the following 3rd and 5, Rodgers ran out of the pocket to his right and saw Randall Cobb streaking behind linebacker Bobby Wagner. If Rodgers gathers himself and throws an accurate pass, it is a touchdown. Instead, Rodgers threw it on the run and underthrew it. It worked anyway when Wagner ran Cobb over as he tried to come back for the ball. The resulting penalty gave the Packers the ball at the Seattle 7.
Two more plays would advance the ball to the 5 for 3rd and goal. The Seahawks played the same defense that bedeviled Rodgers and the Packers last season in the red zone. They rushed four and dropped seven. Those seven included six guys at the goal line with Earl Thomas playing the middle of the end zone. Rodgers scrambled to his left with some time and fired behind Nelson at the back of the end zone.
Rodgers will be seeing this defense again. He needs to be more patient and wait for the zone to break down. After Rodgers rolled to his left, both Nelson and Cobb were behind the zone. Thomas could not cover them both if Rodgers gave them a moment to get open. The failed opportunity brought Mason Crosby in to tie the game at 10.
3:45, 2nd Q – Responding to a Packers’ score once again, the Seahawks would go 70 yards in just six plays to go out in front 17-10.
On the first play of the drive, a lob to a well-covered Zach Miller got 24 yards when he made a diving one-handed catch. Two plays later, Lynch cut back to his left after starting right and broke loose for a 21-yard run. Left guard James Carpenter would kill Mike Daniels all game. With Clay Matthews getting too far upfield, a huge hole opened between Matthews and Daniels. The linebackers were lined up too far back to fill the gap, and the Packer safeties were too slow to react until Lynch is well upfield.
On 1st and goal from the 9, the Seahawks run the same play and Lynch can practically moonwalk into the end zone. For one, the Packers only have 10 guys on the field. On the prior play, the Packers played their base. On the next play, they switched to the nickel for some unknown reason. However, someone tell Casey Hayward. Nose tackle Josh Boyd left the field, but no one ever came on to replace him. Amazingly, NO ONE on defense noticed. The Seahawks took their time, giving the Packers the full 40 seconds to realize something was wrong, but it didn’t help. Neither defensive captains, A.J. Hawk or Morgan Burnett, nor Dom Capers sitting up in his box ever realized that Hayward was not on the field.
One would think Burnett, of all people, would take a moment to survey the coverage and then HAVE to notice that one side of the field was missing a defender. Or, I guess not.
Anyway, it isn’t like Hayward would have been likely to make much difference. Mike Daniels was on skates again and another huge gap opened up between him and Matthews. Unlike the Seattle defensive backs, the entire Packers secondary was again slow to react, perhaps hoping Lynch would trip over his own feet and save them from having to make a half-hearted attempt to tackle him. They barely do that and it is an easy touchdown.
That would make the score 17-10, which would end up the halftime tally despite the Packers having an excellent chance to get closer.
On the following drive, perhaps because it was the last three minutes before the half, the Seahawks were in a looser coverage and dropping their linebackers too quickly. Rodgers took advantage of that with dumps to Andrew Quarless and Starks for 18, 11 and then 6 yards, moving the ball to the Seattle 45. With 3rd and 4 from there, Rodgers repeats the third down play near the end zone and rolls to his left when he doesn’t need to. Rodgers can run for the first or better yet, lob it to Jordy Nelson, who is standing by himself along the near sideline at the 30. Instead, Rodgers throws the ball away, well over Nelson’s head.
Just another blown opportunity. Rodgers had ample time this half, even with Sherrod replacing Bulaga, and he was not near as sharp as the Packers needed him to be to win this game.
The Seahawks’ first drive of the second half ends in a punt after two incompletions are followed by a nice tackle by Sam Shields. The Seahawks did advance near midfield though, which enabled Ryan to punt the Packers back to their 14.
The first play for the Packers does all the work for the Seahawks defense. It is actually a great play for the defense the Seahawks are playing. Rodgers play fakes to Lacy, which keeps the linebackers near the line of scrimmage, creating a big gap for Rodgers to hit Nelson. It is there and if Thomas doesn’t make a quick tackle, then Nelson could go the distance.
Rodgers wants to lead Nelson so that he can catch it in full stride and have a shot at the big play. He led him about a foot too much. If Nelson never touches it, it falls incomplete and it’s 2nd and 10. Of course, the Packers wouldn’t be that lucky. The ball would deflect off the outstretched left hand of Nelson and bound directly into the hands of Byron Maxwell. Maxwell would return the interception to the Packers’ 8, where Corey Linsley would make his first NFL tackle.
On first down, the Seahawks attempted the fake read option toss on Tramon Williams. Williams didn’t bite and Wilson threw the ball through the end zone. On second down, a Lynch run goes for 5. On 3rd and goal from the 3, the Seahawks unwisely decide to throw it instead of just ramming it in. Giving Peppers a rest this series, Nick Perry is on the right edge and bats the ball into the air. Even though there are mostly Packers defenders in the area, including Hayward and Hyde, the ball goes directly to Percy Harvin for a 1-yard gain.
The Seahawks kick a field goal to make it 2o-10.
7:05, 3rd Q – The Packers go on a 10-play drive and look capable of getting back into the game until a bungled fourth down play sets up future disaster.
After picking up one third down with another quick pass to Nelson, things looked bleak with 3rd and 12 from the Green Bay 31. Seattle surprises no one by rushing four and playing a standard two deep. In that formation, they are nearly as vulnerable as any other defense in the league. Rodgers gets a full four seconds to throw, slides to his left and finds Randall Cobb for 23 yards in the middle of the zone. After a quick pass to Nelson got the Packers to the Seattle 41, they would get no further.
On a huge 3rd and 5 from there, Rodgers would do well by escaping the rush to his right this time. There are no defenders chasing Rodgers, though someone is closing in from upfield, taking the scramble away. Rodgers suddenly pulls a Favre and throws clear across the field to the only receiver who is being double covered. Nelson does well to stop Maxwell from picking it off. Among others, Cobb had turned up the sideline right in front of Rodgers and was breaking wide open.
With the ball at the Seattle 41, the Packers should punt it deep and play defense. This isn’t the Chicago Bears defense they are facing. If they are going to go for it, they had better know what they are doing and execute. Wrong. Rodgers and the offensive line took too long getting set and the play clock nearly ran out. Cliff Avril, who has been silent all night so far, had the snap timed and exploded past Sherrod when the Packers finally snapped the ball. According to Rodgers afterward, Starks was supposed to provide outside help to Sherrod. Starks didn’t get the memo. Avril got his only sack of the game, making it Seattle ball.
4:50, 3rd Q – The game begins getting away from the Packers with another disastrous turnover that ultimately leads to nine Seattle points.
The Packers defense stopped the Seahawks after the turnover on downs. In this entire half, the Packers defense played the way they should have been all game, concentrating harder on the run. They played too much nickel, necessitated by only having four active defensive linemen, but at least they began bringing Morgan Burnett up in the box. The Packers had greater success against Lynch for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, trick runs by Harvin and Wilson would continue to gash the Packers on the ground, fueling the Seahawks’ rushing attack for the remainder.
On 3rd and 9 from the Packers’ 38, the Seahawks attempted a trick end around to Lynch against the Packers amoeba defense. Blocking that defense is a nightmare and the Packers looked like they had 13 guys on the field as they swarmed Lynch after a 1-yard gain.
However, since the Packers gifted the Seahawks with such great field position, Ryan was able to punt the Packers back to the 10-yard line. If it feels like the Packers are constantly starting inside their 15, that’s because they are.
On first down, Rodgers is in the shotgun. The Seahawks switched their best pass rusher, Michael Bennett, to Sherrod’s side, which is smart since David Bakhtiari did not give up a sack all night. Bennett fakes a bullrush, slaps Sherrod’s hands away, and then takes a speed rush right by him. The sack is Sherrod’s fault. The fumble is Rodgers’ fault. Rodgers saw Bennett coming and attempted to spin away. He did not protect the ball well enough and Bennett slapped it out of his hands. It rolled into the end zone where Sherrod at least managed to cover it. Bakhtiari compounds the disaster by shoving a Seahawk to the ground after the play. Justifiably, he was flagged for 15 yards.
Forced to punt from the 10, Masthay at least kicked a good one and Harvin could only advance it to the Seattle 47. Still, the Seahawks only need to go 53 yards to take a commanding lead in the game and that is what they do.
14:50, 4th Q – The Seahawks scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a nearly insurmountable lead at 29-10.
The nine-play, 53-yard drive was the methodical type that the Packers had prevented to this point. The Seahawks longest play of the drive was a Wilson scramble for 13 yards, down to the Packers’ 3. Lynch would score easily on the next play.
The Packers had one great chance to stop the drive with 3rd and 10 from their 26. The Packers were in the amoeba, but it really doesn’t matter when Morgan Burnett is lined up 8 yards off of Percy Harvin. Burnett shouldn’t be covering Harvin at all, of course, but lining up that far off isn’t going to work for Patrick Peterson, let alone Burnett. Harvin merely runs a quick slant and he has 10 yards by the time Burnett even makes contact with him. First down.
On the touchdown run, the Packers were smart enough to do what the Seahawks do all the time — line up with more defenders than blockers. Unfortunately, the Packers were so overwhelmed at the point of attack that it didn’t matter. Josh Boyd was hooked by Carpenter and when he decided to take any inside move around Carpenter a huge hole was opened up between he and Nick Perry, who held the outside, but didn’t do much else.
Since the Seattle left tackle didn’t need to block Boyd, he moved upfield and smothered Brad Jones, which essentially walled off the rest of the Packers defense. The result was another easy score.
9:35, 4th Q – Aaron Rodgers responded with his sharpest drive of the game. The Packers moved 82 yards in 10 plays to give themselves a chance at 29-16.
The Packers were aided by a Seattle defense that sat mostly in its two deep look rather than the dominating 4-4 that they like to play. However, the Packers also were in what was probably their best formation of the night and the offense that gives them the best chance of success against this defense. They continually spread the Seahawks out with Eddie Lacy or James Starks next to Rodgers in the shotgun.
After the exact play that was intercepted completes for 15 yards to Nelson, Eddie Lacy takes a draw and bounces off Chancellor to rumble for 12 more. That would be the end of the night for Lacy, however. Starks comes in and runs even more effectively, gaining 23 yards on three carries, including a 12-yarder where he broke tackle attempts by Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman.
Between the runs by Starks, Rodgers threw sharply to Nelson and Cobb, moving the Packers down to the 3. From there, Rodgers rolled out and found Cobb for the touchdown. The Packers attempted the two-point conversion to try to make it an 11-point game. Rodgers was chased to his left by Avril bulling through Sherrod and had the chance to get it to an open Quarless at the goal line. Rodgers overthrew it.
2:30, 4th Q – The Seahawks run most of the clock out and score a garbage time TD to finish the scoring at 36-16.
One of the chief complaints by the coaching staff about last season was the defense’s inability to get off the field at the end of ball games. That was suggested as part of the reason why the Packers went out and got Julius Peppers, so they would have one more playmaker for that crucial last defensive stand. Ironically, Peppers was not on the field for this drive. In fact, Nick Perry played more snaps than Peppers in the second half.
The Packers appears to have the three and out that they desperately needed when Shields knocks away a third down pass meant for Doug Baldwin. Unfortunately, the deep referee flagged Brad Jones for defensive holding, giving the Seahawks a first down. Yeah, that’s a weak call and at the worst possible time, of course. However, the referees stayed out of the game despite the NFL’s warnings all preseason. I am not surprised.
From there, the Packers stacked the box and played stubbornly against the run. However, deception plays continued to beat them. After Lynch was stuffed for just a 2-yard gain, Wilson faked a screen to Harvin and screened it to Lynch instead on the opposite side. The only player with a chance to hold it to a short gain was Brad Jones. Comically, Lynch ran through him like a turnstile, going for 14 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Wilson badly fooled Perry on a fake and ran by him for another first down. A couple plays later, the Seahawks got their biggest play of the drive when Wilson scrambled for 7 more and then got 15 yards tacked on thanks to a facemask penalty called on Hayward.
After three runs by Lynch, the Seahawks had 4th and 1 from the Packers’ 15. With 2:40 left in the game, the Seahawks can easily run Lynch up the middle and then run the rest of the clock out. However, that isn’t how Pete Carroll rolls. Wilson fakes the dive and throws it in the flat to the fullback, Derrick Coleman, who rumbles for a touchdown to finish the scoring. It appears that either Brad Jones or Morgan Burnett had straight up coverage on Coleman, which should surprise no one.
That would end the game for all intents and purposes. The Packers would get one last drive, only to see probably Rodgers’ best play of the game — a 31-yard completion to Quarless — wiped out on a holding call.
As usual, the game film lessens the blow of a big loss and the euphoria of a big win, equally.
The Packers did not play especially well in any phase of the game. Seattle’s defense is very hard to run against for a simple reason — they typically present more guys near the line of scrimmage than there are blockers. Essentially, on most first and second downs, Seattle drops Kam Chancellor down with the linebackers, giving them a 4-4 front. This leaves Chancellor unblocked on most running plays. If you do block him, you leave one of the linebackers unblocked. Either way, it is not a formula for success.
When the Seahawks have to drop into their two deep, they are about as vulnerable as anyone else if their pass rush doesn’t get home. The Packers’ offensive line held their own, only giving up two sacks to the vaunted Seahawks’ pass rush and one of those was on the fourth down play, which was basically a busted play by the Packers. Rodgers had enough time in this game to move the offense. However, not only was he not sharp, but in his defense he had to carry the offense because the running game wasn’t putting him in favorable down and distances.
I can’t say that anyone on the defense had an excellent game. The corners flashed at times, but Shields blew that fake read option pass and Tramon was once again hesitant to support the run. The Packers could use more from everyone in their secondary. Frankly, Clinton-Dix showed the only desire to attack the offense and fill aggressively, but he also missed tackles, including one on third down that would have stopped Lynch short and one that went for a touchdown. Hyde was probably the most consistent safety for the Packers and Burnett should be out of a job shortly. He does nothing special in the passing game to make up for his run defense deficiencies. It is incomprehensible how the captain of the secondary, playing centerfield, doesn’t notice that one of the nickel backs isn’t on the field in the red zone. Pathetic.
With the Packers going lighter on defense, we all wondered if the run defense could hold up. For one game at least, it wasn’t even close. The Packers were burned around the ends and blown out of the middle. None of the ends did well holding the edge, and vocal leader Mike Daniels had an awful first half, though he did play better in the second half.
The pass rush was fine, even without registering a single sack. Wilson had at least four throwaways because of the rush and one sack was taken away by a penalty. Unfortunately, the Seahawks really didn’t need to throw the ball. The Packers never did figure out how to stop the Harvin speed sweep to the outside, nor could they contain Wilson when he kept it on the read option.
I did, however, like the “amoeba” that the Packers played and their formation with Matthews in the middle. These new formations on defense should improve with time as the defense gets used to playing them.
No doubt the Seahawks were the better team on this day. However, this was a 17-10 ball game until a stretch in the third quarter when the Packers offense went interception, turnover on downs and safety, all but handing the Seahawks 12 points, accounting for their 29-10 lead.
Regardless, the Packers’ next opponent, the New York Jets, are a lesser version of the Seahawks. They have an excellent tandem at running back, a hard-hitting defense and a young mobile quarterback. The Packers have 10 days to come up with a better plan and a better performance, or they can expect the same results.