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Five Improvements Packers Need to Beat Seahawks

In this decade there are two superior teams, year in and year out, in the NFL. Not by coincidence, they are guided by the league’s two best coaches: Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots and Pete Carroll for the Seattle Seahawks.

Since I reside in western Washington, I have watched or seen endless highlights of most of the Seahawks’ games over the past 15-plus years. I believe the Packers must upgrade their performance if they are to defeat this perennial powerhouse. Below are five areas in which the Packers need to – and can – improve if they are to keep winning and striving to make the playoffs.

Unpredictable Play Calling

Carroll is the most creative coach in the league and the team’s play calling, done by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, is the most bold and unpredictable. You can almost bank on it that on some 3rd-and-short or 4th-and-short, Russell Wilson is going to go deep. These plays almost invariably work and the sure-handed Doug Baldwin is the perfect receiver for the job.

You can also rely upon the occasional end-around, reverse or quarterback play-action run option. On Sunday, speedy wide receiver Ty Lockett began the third quarter by going in motion, taking the handoff from the quarterback and heading around right end. The 75-yard backbreaker wasn’t due to a fantastic effort by Lockett or anything risky or tricky, but it’s a play the Green Bay Packers almost never run.

Almost never. To everyone’s amazement, Mike McCarthy called an end-around (some call it a jet sweep) against the Texans. It’s the first such play I can remember the Packers using in at least three years. Receiver Jeff Janis backtracked to take Aaron Rodgers’ handoff and he had clear sailing around the left side. The 19-yard romp led to a two-yard score by Aaron Ripkowski on the next play. Two or three of these unexpected plays would go a long way toward keeping the Seattle defense from ganging up on the Packers short-passing game.

Exploit the Middle of the Field

This was McCarthy’s mantra before and during the preseason. Though the Packers acquired Jared Cook, seemingly the perfect mid-field receiver, McCarthy has failed all season to send him or anyone else across the middle.

On Sunday, Cook was targeted four times: a flat pass to the left for -1 yard, a short pass to the right for 10 yards, a short pass to the left side for 10 yards, and an incomplete deep pass along the left sideline. The first two passes were in the first six minutes of the game; the next throw toward Cook was the last play of the third quarter.

Against the Texans, Cook went unused for 39 minutes and was never thrown to anywhere near the center of the field. Cook continues to be extremely under-utilized by Green Bay. Other than two 8-yard tosses to Richard Rodgers, McCarthy showed no inclination to attack the middle of the field in this game. Maybe someone should play the coach some old tape of Jermichael Finley.

End the Three-and-Out Repetitions

Against the Redskins two weeks ago, the Packers’ offense came out with three consecutive three-and-outs to open the game. They didn’t get a first down until two minutes were left in the first quarter against the Redskins. Against the Texans, Green Bay went from five minutes left in the second quarter until six minutes left in the third quarter with one first down, three punts and a failure to convert a 4th-and-2.

Continued lapses such as these kills momentum, gives the opponent great field position, tires the Packers’ defense and takes the fans out of the game. Green Bay will not win against Seattle if they have extended offensive lapses against a solid team like the Seahawks.

Commit to a Running Back

Against the Texans, the Packers had a decent balance of 33 designed passing plays vs. 23 designed rushes, but they messed up the start of the game and the start of the second half by playing James Starks. As we forecast, Starks has had a dreadful season – he forfeited his starting RB job some time ago in everyone’s mind but McCarthy’s.

After Starks gained one yard in four carries, McCarthy turned to Christine Michael, who looked good initially, but was then abandoned. Michael finished with six carries, plus the three runs to run out the clock at game’s end. Ty Montgomery also had six carries, in which he looked very good, averaging almost seven yards per carry.

Michael will presumably have an extra incentive against the Seahawks, as they released him just three weeks ago – after he led them in rushing, and aided them to four wins and a tie in the seven games he started.

If McCarthy is serious about winning on Sunday, Starks sits, Michael starts, Montgomery gets his fair share of the RB snaps, and Aaron Ripkowski also gets five or so carries.

Don’t Be Intimidated

The Seahawks are solid, but they are not as dominant as most people think and they too have had a rough season in terms of injuries.

The Seahawks’ vaunted pass defense and defensive backs aren’t what they used to be. They’ve given up 256 passing yards per game, ranking 19th. The Packers have given up only five yards more per game – and this was before Seattle’s All-Pro safety Earl Thomas broke his leg on Sunday.

The Seahawks’ passing attack? Seattle is tied for 23rd at 231 yards per game; the Packers are 16th at 254 yards per game. However, over the last seven games prior to Sunday the Packers, led by a resurgent Aaron Rodgers, led the league in passing yardage. Rodgers has a better passer rating, has been sacked four fewer times, and has passed for 17 more touchdowns than Russell Wilson. S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N.

As for receivers, Seattle’s Mr. Reliable is Doug Baldwin, ranked 15th in yardage. The other two best Seattle wide receivers are Jermaine Kearse (ranked 88th) and Tyler Lockett (100th). For the Packers, Jordy Nelson is now ranked 9th, Davante Adams is 23rd and Randall Cobb is 50th.

It’s true that Seattle’s top rusher on the year is ranked 25th in the league, but Christine Michael now wears the Green and Gold. Thomas Rawls was formidable on Sunday against hapless Carolina, with 15 rushes for 106 yards, but against Tampa Bay a week earlier, Rawls had only 38 yards on 12 carries. Rawls is averaging only 3.8 yards per rush on the season.

Here’s another comparison: the Packers’ offensive line are among the league’s top five offensive units. The starters by year’s end will average five years of experience, all with the Packers, and none are yet 30. I’m counting T.J. Lang, who has been injured.

The Seahawks’ offensive line starters are: RT Bradley Sowell (fifth year, but only 19 games as a starter); LT George Fant (rookie); LG Mark Glowinski (second year); RG Germain Ifedi (rookie); and Center Justin Britt (third year, first as a center). By year’s end, the group will average only 2.5 years in the league.

Finally, Seattle is 2-3-1 on the road. Okay, they beat the Patriots on the road. But they lost to the Rams and the Buccaneers, and tied the Cardinals, each time without scoring a touchdown.

Forecast

Motivation is, or should be, on the Packers’ side on Sunday. They have their backs against the wall. Seattle is not quite home free, but with its 8-3-1 record, it is three full games ahead of Arizona in the NFC West and Seattle leads all wild card contenders too.

Though it would be impossible to prove, my belief is that between Green Bay and Seattle, Green Bay has the better roster. If McCarthy starts taking better advantage of the talent he possesses – a long shot indeed, especially at this point in the season – the Packers can prevail on Sunday.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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26 Comments

  1. Anti-McCarthy Fan December 6, 2016

    https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view

    People, forget about the division title and let’s focus on getting signatures. We need McHippo gone ASAP. How that page has 24 supporters is beyond me. THAT PAGE SHOULD HAVE MORE THAN 24 SUPPORTERS, NOT 24 ACTUAL SUPPORTERS. Come fucking on all of you. Sign the petition, comment loud and proud and show the Packers how fed up you all are with McHippo.

    People petitioned for semi trucks to be banned from Tail of the Dragon and guess what, Tennessee did it 2 years ago and North Carolina did it in 2012, a year after the Ike Woodard Debacle. SO PEOPLE COME FUCKING ON, FORGET ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS AND THE DIVISION TITLE AND START SIGNING THE PETITION. THIS PETITION SHOULD HAVE MORE THAN 24 SIGNATUERS, NOT FUCKING 24.

    And if this team makes the fucking playoffs, I will be so fucking pissed because it’s time to worry about firing McCarthy, not make the playoffs. So all of you fans here, pull your head out of your asses and comment on the petition of why McCarthy should be fired. ALL OF YOU NOW! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR? TO WASTE THE REST OF RODGERS PRIME, COME FUCKING ON SIGN THE GODDAMN PETITION. NOW!

    1. Savage57 December 7, 2016

      Sorry, Anti, but I suspect you’re the only one sporting a shit-scented dome these days.

      There are a lot of reasons why the Packers might consider changes in management and coaching ranks following the season: This isn’t one of them.

      1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

        Hey Savage57 sign the petition now you idiot. And you better let me know who you signed it as?

        1. PF4L December 7, 2016

          Or else!!

          lmao

          1. Anti-McCarthy Fan December 7, 2016

            Just do it PF4L I will keep ranting until McHippo is g

          2. Anti-McCarthy Fan December 7, 2016

            *gone

          3. PF4L December 7, 2016

            You are trying to get people to sign your petition correct?

            Now if your idea of influencing people to sign a petition is calling them a moron and an idiot, you might want to start over and re-think your strategy.

          4. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 8, 2016

            PF4L yes I am trying to get people to sign the petition. Could you please sign it for me please.

  2. Kato December 6, 2016

    The packers would be smart to challenge Earl Thomas’s replacement in this game.

    1. Anti-McCarthy fan December 6, 2016

      Read my rant moron, it’s time to focus on getting signatures in the petition, not make the playoffs.

  3. icebowl December 6, 2016

    Good, fact-based research, as always Rob.
    I really enjoy reading your stuff.

  4. Anthony bourget December 6, 2016

    That’s it. I’m from Boston. I’m surrounded by patriot fans, and I’m an absolute die hard packer fan (thanks to my uncle who’s a share holder). I have never been to lambeau, but this weekend I am coming. My team needs me. And I am ordering 2 front row tickets 50 yard line. This may not be the season we expected but expectations can change quickly with a motivated Aaron Rodgers. We will win because we have to, and this win will turn the season Around. No one is expecting us to do much and as a packer fan, I fucking love it! LETS FUCKING GO BOYS!!!!

    1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

      MAKE SURE THE FANS PROTEST AND SAY “NOT MY COACH”. I WANT THEM TO SHOW THEM HOW FED UP THEY ARE WITH THAT FAT HIPPO OF A COACH WHO SHOULD BE A SWIFT DRIVER CALLED MCCARTHY. PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

      AND THE PACKERS WILL NOT WIN YOU IDIOT. I HOPE THEY LOSE EVERY GAME THEY PLAY THIS YEAR UNTIL MM IS GONE. DO YOU GET THAT IDIOT? SO SHUT UP WITH “LETS FUCKING GO” AND START SIGNING THE PETITION HERE (https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view%C2%A0%E2%80%A6.). NOW PLEASE SIGN IT AND COMMENT ON IT.

  5. PF4L December 6, 2016

    Very well written and valid points concerning the views of the playcalling, use of the middle of the field, also the 3 n outs.

    Now…..
    Where you write “Commit to a running back”. We don’t have any productive running backs (that we’ve seen).
    I think you meant…”Commit to a wide receiver”.

    The articles title…”FIVE IMPROVEMENTS PACKERS NEED TO BEAT SEAHAWKS”.
    But then i realize the Packers defense wasn’t mentioned. I guess were good to go there?
    But you did talk about the Seahawks defense not being that formidable anymore. Then i look….and the Seahawks defense only gives up 16.2 ppg. Which places that 1st in the league.
    But, you were right about Thomas, no one in Green Bay is sad about that.

    So the bottom line is, do i think the Packers can win Sunday. Yes i do, with these improvements.

    The offense scores against a proven defense.

    The Packers defense can play as it did against the plummeting Eagles and incredibly inept Brock Osweiler and the Texans.

    The obvious: No buffoonery, No nightmare mental mistakes, we don’t see Clay on the sidelines of a tight game. If the Packers have the lead in the 4th quarter, they don’t mail it in with 6 minutes left.

    The MOST obvious reason i think the Packers could win. Is the same reason MM, TT have had job security all these years. Aaron fucking Rodgers. Let’s be real…does anybody really think the Packers could win (any games) w/o Rodgers?

    1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

      https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view

      PF41 focus on signing the petition. WE NEED SIGNATURES, NOT FUCKING GETTING READY FOR SEATTLE. I HOPE THE PACKERS LOSE ALL THEIR GAMES UNTIL THAT FAT HIPPO OF A HEAD COACH WHO SHOULD BE A SWIFT DRIVER CALLED MIKE MCCARTHY IS GONE.

      I WANT TO CUT MCCARTHY’S HEAD OFF NOW!

  6. Howard December 6, 2016

    Rob, good article, however something is not right in the article about the seahawk pass D. The Seahawks D give up 231 pass yards a game and are ranked 9th not 19th. The Packers give up approximately 254 a game. The Packers problem is they are giving up 8.2 yards an attempt worst in the NFL. I don’t think the Packer pass defense is close to being comparable to Seattle. Maybe things can change, but the Packer D is going to have to prove it on the field and so far they haven’t against good offenses.

    1. Robster December 6, 2016

      You’re right, the 231 passing yards Seattle is allowing per game is tied for ninth, Packers are 17th. In 2014, however, Seattle ranked first (186 passing yards allowed per game), and in 2015 they were second (210.3), so they’ve regressed considerably. As PF4L notes, Seattle has allowed the fewest points in the league, at 16.2, so the Packers will have to turn their red zone visits into touchdowns – they are only 18th in that ranking (Seattle is 26th).

      1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

        ROBSTER please please please stop focusing on the season, we need to focus on getting signatures to get McCarthy out of Green Bay. So please, make a new page and copy this petition so everyone can get their head out of their ass https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view

  7. gort December 6, 2016

    I too really like reading posts from Rob. They make a lot of sense. Thanks a bunch.

    Sorry to the Anti McCarthy petition guy. As soon as I see the petition, I scroll right past your “rants” and on to the next post. I’ve got no idea if the rest of your post makes sense because the “white noise” of your petition simply wastes my time. Although some may like it, it just doesn’t do anything for me. Just my opinion here and trying to simply provide feedback and not be an asshole.

    1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

      OH SHUT UP GORT I WILL KEEP RANTING AND SENDING THE PETITION UNTIL THAT FAT HIPPO OF A HEAD COACH WHO SHOULD WORK FOR SWIFT TRANSPORTATION CALLED MCCARTHY IS GONE. https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view

      1. gort December 7, 2016

        ouch. that really hurt. especially with the added emphasis that comes from having a stuck “caps lock” key.

  8. Remedy December 6, 2016

    Gonna get smoked. This team doesn’t have the balls to beat Seattle

    1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

      THANK YOU REMEDY! FINALLY SOMEONE WHO GETS IT. THESE PACKERS FANS WHO THINK THEY WILL WIN OUT ARE FUCKING IDIOTS. WE NEED TO FOCUS ON GETTING SIGNATURES ON THIS PETITION (https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view) TO GET THAT FAT HIPPO OF A HEAD COACH WHO SHOULD BE A SWIFT DRIVER CALLED MIKE MCCARTHY OUT. PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND COME BACK AND TELL ME WHO YOU SIGNED IT AS.

  9. Mike December 7, 2016

    Detroit has a Lay-Up this week, so Green bay needs game badly, but when you have to trot out that defense, which always seems a step behind and opposing WRs seem find Big Fat open spaces time & time again “who knows”??. Wilson will kill us running around on broken plays.

    1. ANTI-MCCARTHY FAN December 7, 2016

      https://www.change.org/p/mark-h-murphy-at-the-end-of-the-2016-nfl-season-replace-mike-mccarthy-ted-thompson-and-dom-capers?utmSource=share_petition&utmCampaign=mobile_petition_view

      MIKE please sign this petition. I HOPE THE PACKERS LOSE EVERY SINGLE GAME THEY PLAY THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE YEAR UNTIL MCHIPPO IS GONE. IF HE IS HERE NEXT YEAR, I HOPE THEY FUCKING GO 0-16 I DON’T GIVE A DAMN.