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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Packers Need Perfection To Win In Seattle

The Green Bay Packers are really wishing they could go back to a week 15 match-up with the Buffalo Bills and find a way to change the outcome of that game. The resulting loss, coupled with Seattle winning out, now forces the Pack to travel into the most hostile environment possibly in any sport.

The 12th man, the raucous crowd of Century Link Field, provides an advantage for the home team that has resulted in a 25-2 record over the last 27 home games for Seattle. Their only losses, to Arizona in 2013 and to Dallas this year, were both close games where their opposition literally played near perfect football.

If the Packers have any chance of going into Seattle and coming away with the victory, they are going to have to be nearly perfect as well. While the Packers offense may provide an attack that Seattle has not seen since at least the Dallas game, if at all this year, the Seattle defense has proven that they can stop anybody.

So how can the Packers pull out the victory? It will come down to six things.

6. Take the crowd out of it:

The 12th man in Seattle is downright awe-inspiring. They may be the loudest and most excited fan base in any sport. While it may be impossible to fully get them out of the game, the Packers need to do two things to limit their effectiveness and excitement.

First, they need to find a way to get a big play early and score on their first drive. This will take the initial wind out of the sails of the crowd. Compare this to the effect of an early three and out and the difference will be staggering.

Second, they need to find a way to force Seattle to punt early. Even if Green Bay marches down the field for a score, it matters little if Lynch then goes “Beast Mode” and breaks half a dozen tackles for a 25+ yard gain into the Packers end of the field. By limiting big plays and finding a way to get one or two of their own, the Packers can control the crowd, at least enough to allow Rodgers to hear the play call!

5. Tackling:

In the Packers first meeting with the Seahawks, they could not bring down anyone in the running game. Seattle poured on the rush yards to the tune of 207 yards, controlling the clock and keeping Aaron Rodgers off of the field. But in the Packers last three games, their defense has stepped it up. They have only missed 13 tackles over that time span and it has showed (credit Rob Demovsky, ESPN).

In simple John Madden terms, when you don’t miss tackles, you don’t allow as many first downs, and the other team doesn’t score as often. Green Bay needs to limit the Seattle offense so that their own offensive scheme is not tied to the score, but rather to their own talent and game plan.

4. Turnover ratio:

Last weekend Carolina was down 14 with the ball in the red-zone. Cam Newton had been moving them right down the field and Seattle’s defense was on its toes. A touchdown would have cut the lead in half with plenty of time for Carolina to get a stop (which they had been doing) and have a real shot at tying the game near the end of regulation. What happened next was a season-defining play. Cam Newton threw a pick-six.

In one play Carolina went from a potential down-seven situation, to being completely out of the game down three scores. In the NFL, turnovers are quite often the difference between winner and loser.

In 2014 the Packers led the NFL in turnover ratio at +14. Seattle was fourth in the league at +9. Oddly enough, the two teams actually rank ninth (Packers) and 21st (Seahawks) in takeaways, but they rank first and second in giveaways. Both of these teams take very good care of the ball. If the Packers want to win this game, they are going to need at least a +1 differential in turnovers. They got that +1 against Dallas and still needed an overturned reception call to hold onto the lead.

3. Protect Aaron Rodgers:

This season was a decent one for protecting Aaron Rodgers. He was sacked only 28 times, which is quite the drop from the 42 he would have averaged last season, and the league leading 51 he had the year before that. For a quarterback to only throw six picks while taking less than two sacks per game, there has to be decent coverage.

With the claf injury limiting the mobility of Rodgers, Seattle will definitely look to get after him and force Rodgers to either take a sack for the loss, or make potentially hazardous throws into the teeth of their devouring defense. In their first meeting, Seattle sacked Rodgers three times and limited him to one of the worst performances of his career, with only 189 yards, one score, and one of his six picks. If Rodgers can get the type of protection he experienced in a number of games this season and avoid getting sacked, he will have time to make the plays needed to keep the Packers offense in control of the game.

2. Get to Russell Wilson:

Flash back to that first game of the season; the Packers only sacked Wilson once. In his other 15 games he was sacked 41 times, bad enough for sixth in the league. This is a product of a quarterback who likes to make plays and also who does not throw many interceptions. This was true of Aaron Rodgers early in his career as well. If the Packers want to force turnovers and limit the time the Seattle offense stays on the field, they need to find some way to get to the quarterback.

The biggest downfall of this strategy is leaving one on one coverage with receivers, tight ends, and more specifically Marshawn Lynch in the back field. Flash back to point number five to solve this one. When Wilson does make a play, the Packers need to get the guy on the ground on the first potential tackle.

1. No Guts, No Glory:

The Packers players and coaching staff need to pull out all of the stops in this one. This is a Seattle team that will have everything going for them, and Green Bay must take advantage of every single play they can get. That means doing a few things.

First, the Packers must pick one time to try an onside kick. They will do this early; not on the opening kick-off, but possibly as early as their first score. The Packers’ number of possessions is a key to the victory and this is a risk worth taking against Seattle.

Second, the Packers need to go for it on fourth down if they are on Seattle’s side of the field. Unless we are talking fourth and over a dozen, Green Bay should go for it. This means passing on field goals to score touchdowns. The Packers cannot get to the red zone five times and settle for a touchdown and four field goal attempts.

Finally, Green Bay must challenge not only Richard Sherman, but the entire Seattle secondary: early and often! If Eddie Lacy has any real shot of getting things going on the ground, Seattle has to know that Green Bay isn’t afraid to throw it all over the field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some trick plays thrown in; such as Randall Cobb taking a reverse in the backfield and then tossing it 40 yards down field to a wide open John Kuhn! Expect Rodgers to look deep to Nelson within the first half dozen plays of the game as well.

If the Packers can do all of these things, they WILL win. It’s a lot to ask for, but they are capable.



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