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Packers vs. Seahawks: Positive Flickers from a Dark Night in Seattle

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Packers vs. Seahawks: Positive Flickers from a Dark Night in Seattle

Let me preface this post by saying there will be no mention of the officiating from last night, other than in this brief opener. Everything that could be said about the replacement refs has already been said, and there's a million more intelligent takes on the issue than anything I could produce here.

Believe it or not, and with or without officiating mistakes, there still remains 60 minutes of actual football to cover from the Green Bay Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Monday night.

A number of really poor performances mostly darkened the night, including Bryan Bulaga's worst game as a professional, eight first-half sacks of Aaron Rodgers, the complete lack of separation from the receiving corps and Mike McCarthy's first-half patience with an offensive game plan that clearly wasn't working. It was as poor a first half as the Packers could have ever imagined offensively.

While the majority of analysis on Monday night's contest will continue revolving around the final play and Green Bay's struggles before it, not everything was doom and gloom.

Re-watching the game several times Tuesday night highlighted these bright spots from the 14-12 loss:

 

Heavier dose of  D.J. Williams

There wasn't anything flashy about Williams' stat line (one catch on two targets, 12 yards), but his 37 offensive snaps Monday were a career high. He was used as a blocker on 22 of those snaps (18 run, four pass) and looked comfortable in each role when the Packers went to a power offense. His role is deservedly expanding after another fine display blocking, especially in the run game. He frequently did well in holding off the backside pursuit.

Benson's second half

After running Benson just two times in the first half, the Packers gave the veteran workhorse seven carries on the opening drive of the third quarter. The results were immediately positive. Benson gained 34 of the offense's 54 yards and helped set up the Packers' first scoring drive of the night.

While not explosive in any sense of the word, Benson has such a good feel on zone stretch plays. He's a natural in pressing the edge, then feeling his way back inside as the defense over-pursues to the outside. The majority of his yards Monday night came in this fashion. He also brings an ability to make a three-yard loss into something positive, which is something that couldn't be said about any of the Packers running backs last season.

The box score doesn't tell the story, as Benson played much better than his stat line would suggest (17 carries, 45 yards) Monday night.

Pickett against the run

Veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett continues to show how valuable he is against the run. Facing an offense that could have controlled this game on the ground, Pickett frequently took on two blockers and allowed the inside linebackers to flow to the ballcarrier.

He made a fair share of his own plays against the run too, including at least three instances where he assisted in tackling Marshawn Lynch near the line of scrimmage. His 31 snaps (23 against the run) were productive, ending in nine total tackles (eight assists).

A new Shields

Cornerback Sam Shields has locked down the starting cornerback position opposite Tramon William, with Monday night serving as arguably the best performance he's had since his rookie season in 2010. Two of his best plays (break up of a third-down pass in the first half, and coverage on Sidney Rice in the fourth quarter) were negated by penalties, but Shields had picture-perfect technique on both. A third play, where Shields aggressively pursued down the line and solo-tackled Lynch after a short gain, was also wiped out by a Seahawks penalty.

The Hail Mary to end the game would have been nothing more than a side note had Shields not received a push in the back, as his 5-11 frame and 39-inch vertical leap would have almost certainly made Golden Tate a non-factor on the play. Overall, Shields allowed zero catches on four targets, leaving him with just one catch allowed over 82 pass-coverage snaps in 2012.

Rookie defensive backs

Safety Jerron McMillian and cornerback Casey Hayward continued their strong start in new roles Monday night.

McMillian made a smart break on a third down in pass in the first half and then athletically broke up the attempt, forcing a Seahawks punt. His interception in the fourth quarter was another fantastic reaction play that was made possible by being in the right place during the sequence. He has yet to be charged with allowing a reception in 2012.

Hayward, who was again used as the dime back, broke up a third down pass on the Seahawks' fourth drive that also forced a punt. Late in the fourth, his sure tackle on Tate set up a fourth down that wasn't converted. Over 19 snaps, Hayward allowed just one catch for three yards.

We'll learn a lot more about these two rookies when Drew Brees comes to Lambeau Field Sunday, but two-week returns have been overwhelmingly positive for both rookies.

Hawking around

Hawk didn't make any "wow" plays Monday night, but he was consistently around the football. His effort in the run game was especially commendable, as the inside linebacker's continual flow to the football helped ensure Lynch didn't break off any big runs inside. Lynch's longest run on 25 carries was just nine yards. Hawk was always there to clean up the violent, physical back and finished with 11 total tackles (five solo).

The touchdown pass to Tate in the first half was partly Hawk's fault, as tight end Anthony McCoy had a free run down the seam after Hawk bit on play-action. But from sideline-to-sideline in the flats, Hawk was the linebacker cleaning up for the Packers in the short passing game.

The man on third down

While the Seahawks completely took Jordy Nelson out of the passing game and limited Greg Jennings to dink-and-dunk stuff, James Jones shined as Rodgers' clutch guy. Of Jones' five receptions, four went for first downs on third-down plays.

Unlike the rest of the receiving corps, Jones found just enough separation for Rodgers to find him, then held onto the ball in tight windows. His consistency forced the Packers to play him on 48 snaps (Jennings had 55, Nelson 54), which kept Randall Cobb (nine snaps) and Donald Driver (four) on the sidelines for most of Monday night. Jones is a perfect receiver for this offense when he's not expected to play the role as a No. 1 or No. 2.

Other notes

The Seahawks were just 2-of-11 on third downs. A big reason in that success was keeping Russell Wilson in third downs that averaged over eight yards a pop...Jermichael Finley delivered a hellacious chip block on defensive end Bruce Irvin in the second half. He may be asked to do more of that if Bryan Bulaga continues struggling against quicker ends...Jeff Saturday's heads up fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter avoided a disaster...Rodgers' stretch on 3rd-and-1 gave Benson a chance one play later to punch in his first touchdown. Gusty play considering the defenders bearing down on the Packers quarterback...By my count, Clay Matthews provided five hurries and two quarterback hits...The Packers coverage units did a fine job of keeping dangerous return man Leon Washington in check, especially on the dangerous punt late in the fourth.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (59) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CrispyL's picture

Thank you for being a voice of reason.

bigfog's picture

All official madness aside, I came away pretty impressed by what Capers and Co. were able to do. This is an impressive defense the last two games, capable of winning a street fight.

D.D. Driver's picture

James Jones is the Packers best receiver right now. Where the hell is Jennings? He makes a big issue out of his contract and disappears?

paxbak's picture

Where is the entire offense from last year? No change other than Saturday and we go from scoring 35 points per game to 15 points per game? We played tough defenses last year and lit them up.

I can't get over how bad the offense has looked from the Giants game on including pre-season. It has to be Rodgers. Have defenses figured him out?

cow42's picture

the Packers are fine. the offense is fine. the defense is fixed. when the Packers play bad it is not their fault. when the Packers lose is is not because they have deficiencies, it is because they didn't play up to their ultimately superior level. they will win next week. they will win every week. they will win the Super Bowl.

Jay's picture

I get the sarcasm on the offense. But do you not agree the defense is substantially better than last year?

71Hd's picture

Rodgers may be a part of it, but it would appear that there are two other important factors as well.
The loss of Philbin could be the direct causality if we look at it merely from a perspective of time. How big is his influence missed / Clements not focusing full time on Rodgers.
The line has lost its cohesion. Campen needs to do something consistent, especially when you look at the cold/hot of this game's two halves

D.D. Driver's picture

He is in a slump. He doesn't look comfortable in the pocket at all. He also seems to have the Favre-syndrome where he is way too focused on taking the a big shot down field at the expense of sustaining drives.

He has a leaky line, but so what? There are no MVPs along the line. There are who they are. He is the MVP and he needs to play like it. Some of his sacks he had no chance, but many of them he would have been able to get rid of the ball last year.

I'm not trying to overreact, Rodgers is "fine." But he was so much more than just fine last year. And he has not even looked close since the Giants game.

PackersRS's picture

Well, Rodgers went to the checkdown receiver this last game almost every time, so I don't think you can pin it on him trying to go deep everytime.

I do agree he's in a slump, but I think it's more happy feet due to the OL being a complete mess. It's not an excuse, he has to man the hell up, stand tall and play like he's supposed to. And he did much better in the second half. But I do think it's the motive of his apparent funk.

cow42's picture

what are you guys talking about?

the Packers are fine. the offense is fine. the defense is fixed. when the Packers play bad it is not their fault. when the Packers lose is is not because they have deficiencies, it is because they didn’t play up to their ultimately superior level. they will win next week. they will win every week. they will win the Super Bowl.

D.D. Driver's picture

Yeah he went to the check down...the times he didn't get sacked. I am the only one yelling "get rid of the damn ball" at my TV?

PackersRS's picture

He held onto the ball. He does that. Has for a while now.

But I didn't see the all22 video. I don't know if there were open receivers.

I do know that a lot of times he avoided sacks by dumping to the checkdown. And he was going to get sacked.

Kuhn had 3 receptions. Benson had 4. Nelson had 2, Cobb had 1, Finley had 4.

He was using the checkdown. It's just that he was overwhelmed every single play.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Think that part of the issue is that the receivers are getting mugged well after 5 yards. The replacement officials have given the DBs a lot more freedom than the regular refs. This may be responsible for our D's improved performance too, but our guys just aren't getting open.

I have noticed that they aren't continuing routes after these extra bumps and grabs. Also their YAC has diminished because they look real tentative running after the catch.

Fish/Crane's picture

And we were lucky enough to lose a game like that- which in the long run will be better for Packer Nation than winning a game like that.

But it is time to let it go. Saints

Tony's picture

D.J. Williams will eventually faze out Jermichael Finley, if he keeps up his inconsistency. Wiliams was a Mackey winner at Arkansas and is really talented. It's good to see him making some positive strides.

trvs's picture

I agree. I think Williams is a great player for our scheme, but I also noticed Finley stepping up a little more when coming back in. Having both players rotate in an out will keep Finley on his toes. Also excited to see Quarless get back out there, since he was playing really well before the injury.

Rymetyme's picture

It would be really nice to have a TE that can catch the ball. All the talent in the world at that position doesn't convert third downs without a reception.

Evan's picture

To be fair, Finley did have two great, huge catches the other night.

Rocky70's picture

Wow.
Benson - 17 carries for 45 yards.
You're pleased with 2.6 per carry ???
GB won't win many more games in season 2012 with their starting RB running at a 2.6 clip. That's pathetic.

packeraaron's picture

It's like you don't even read.

Please point out where Zach wrote he was "pleased with 2.6 per carry"

I'll wait.

Rocky70's picture

"The box score doesn’t tell the story, as Benson played much better than his stat line would suggest (17 carries, 45 yards) Monday night."

His quote: Anyone with a half a brain can easily draw the conclusion that Zach is content with Benson's performance. --- What words are confusing you ???

Zach Kruse's picture

You're the one still twisting the words, Rocky. Never said I was pleased with the final stat line or the yards per carry. But Benson provided the offense more than just a low yards per carry, which is all the box score can really tell you. He changed the entire game on the first drive of the second half. That doesn't show up in the box score.

packeraaron's picture

But...but Zach...that doesn't fit neatly into the How To Build A Haters Narrative Handbook!

Rocky70's picture

The blog title includes the words, "Positive Flickers". My point is fairly simple. There is nothing positive about your starting RB averaging 2.6 per carry.

Slice it & dice it anyway you wish. You guys are always defending yourself for what you didn't say. Try (for once) defending your stance using what you did say.

packeraaron's picture

<em>Slice it &amp; dice it anyway you wish</em>

I will, thanks, since that's what you've done. Taken something he's written and attacked it for something it wasn't.

Love it when people can't take what they dish out on a regular basis...

Zach Kruse's picture

There was nothing positive about Benson's second half? That's exactly what I argued, using what I said.

Rocky70's picture

Zach

"You’re pleased with 2.6 per carry ???

Go back to my initial post. The three punctuation marks are referred to as 'question marks'. Not hardly an attack on anyone.

This really isn't as complicated as you might believe. Maybe you need to read with more attention to detail.

packeraaron's picture

Still waiting for where he said he was pleased with 2.6 per carry. Anyone with half a brain should be able to link to it.

Im still waiting Rocky.

Rocky70's picture

Don't you have something to do at B/R? My initial post &amp; question had nothing to do with you. ----- It still doesn't.

packeraaron's picture

Everything that happens at CHTV has something to do with me. I co-founded the effing site, son.

You're just pissed I called you out on your always-negative bullshit.

Rocky70's picture

Sorry, but I really, really don't give a rat's ass about your self-serving analysis.

It's still applies:

"My initial post &amp; question had nothing to do with you. —– It still doesn’t." ------

packeraaron's picture

And I really, really don't give a rats ass who your initial post was direct too. I'm always going to call out your constantly negative attitude, no matter who its directed at.

Oh by the way - still waiting for the link to where Zach wrote he was satisfied. What's that? OH! He didn't write that but you thought you'd be a snarky asshole about it? GOT it.

If you don't want my self-serving analysis, stop visiting my website. Have a great day.

Rocky70's picture

You are classless. What a poor example of a Packer fan. Plus, obviously you are incapable of reading &amp; truly comprehending. Sad.

GBFaninCA's picture

If you watched the game you would know he is what jump started our offense in the second half. I'm not happy about his average, I'm happy that he got our offense moving

cow42's picture

...

the Packers are fine. the offense is fine. the defense is fixed. when the Packers play bad it is not their fault. when the Packers lose is is not because they have deficiencies, it is because they didn't play up to their ultimately superior level. they will win next week. they will win every week. they will win the Super Bowl.

packeraaron's picture

Yes, pointing out the positives is exactly like saying all the above.

*facepalm*

cow42's picture

pointing out the negatives just get you shit on.

*napalm*

packeraaron's picture

Right. Because I never point out negatives. (rollseyes)

Pointing out negatives is fine. ALWAYS pointing out nothing BUT negatives is dumb.

Evan's picture

No one is "pleased" with 2.6 ypc, but as Zach said, "The box score doesn’t tell the story, as Benson played much better than his stat line would suggest."

There is no denying he provided a much needed spark in the 2nd half, was running hard and helping keep the defense from teeing off on Rodgers.

Sizzle's picture

im sure everyone would agree that 4.0 ypc would be a lot better than 2.6, but you have to look at the overall effect Benson had on the offense from the 1st half to the 2nd half. giving the benson the ball 15-20 times a game gives opposing defenses something to think about and makes them at least respect the run which slows the pass rush and opens up the play action. yes the more YPC the better, but in the case of the SEA game I am pleased by the 17 carries.

Rockey please remind me, how many sacks did GB allow in each half, and what the difference in scoring was from the 1st to the 2nd half? It pretty clear to see how valuable Benson's carries are to this offense.

Rocky70's picture

You're only making excuses for the pitiful rushing attack. GB scored 12 points in the game. ----- How can that be good ???

GB finished 15-1 in season 2011. If they had scored only 12 a game in 2011, their record would have been 2-14. ---- Believe me, 12 a game is not good &amp; Benson's 2.6 is part of the problem.

cow42's picture

the Packers are fine. the offense is fine. the defense is fixed. when the Packers play bad it is not their fault. when the Packers lose is is not because they have deficiencies, it is because they didn’t play up to their ultimately superior level. they will win next week. they will win every week. they will win the Super Bowl.

Idiot Fan's picture

We get it, dipshit - you're awesomer than us.

Evan's picture

Aaron - I'm curious for your take on MD Jennings on the hail mary. You okay with him going for the INT (and getting it, of course) over knocking the pass down?

packeraaron's picture

I think he's in a tough spot to knock it down, but that's what he should have done. That said, he caught the ball and pulled it to his chest. In every logical universe that's an INT - except this one.

D.D. Driver's picture

Honestly, with all of the bodies around the ball I think by trying to bat the ball down you risk it bouncing off someone's helmet and up in the air. I'm fine with him going for the pick in that situation.

Evan's picture

Yeah, I totally agree. Coming from behind and over the top of Tate, knocking it down would have been hard/dangerous.

Shields, on the other hand, would have been in perfect position to knock it down were he not, you know, assaulted on the play.

Norman's picture

+1 on that, no telling where the ball might have ended up, maybe even a legitimate Seahawks touchdown.

zeke's picture

I don't get why this is even a question. Jennings intercepted the pass. There was no "simultaneous catch," and who is to say that if Jennings had just swatted the ball that same idiot ref wouldn't have called defensive PI and given SEA another chance from the 1? I can see if Jennings had gone for the catch and missed it, but he didn't.

Jay's picture

Everyone who keeps saying that they should just bat the ball down needs to go back and watch the last few successful hail marys, like the Lions one this past SUnday or the Michigan State game last year, were successful because the ball was batted down right to an opponent. It's not as simple as just bat the ball down.

PackersRS's picture

That's what they're taught to do.

One thing that nobody has mentioned is the thought of batting the ball OUT OF THE FIELD.

Batting the ball doesn't necessarily means batting it forward, moreso in this circumstance where they were able to jump vertically.

M.D. Jennings tried to make a play, and he said so himself. If at any moment he tries to prevent the catch instead of going for the int, the Packers win the game.

I'm not accusing him of costing us the game, mind you, and it was an interception, but he played it wrongly, and more important, for the wrong reason.

http://www.packers.com/media-center/videos/MD-Jennings-feels-like-he-had...

"Did you consider knocking it down?"

"At the last minute, I saw I think it was Charles and Sam go up for it, I could tell it was going through their hands so I was just trying to go ahead and get it and make a play".

Rocky70's picture

You couldn't be anymore correct. If MD had leaped with the intention of knocking the ball down (one arm &amp; hand), his vertical leap would have been much higher. ---(Instead his vertical leap involved nearly his entire upper torso in the attempt to catch the ball.) ---There's a good chance that he would have been the only player to even touch the ball. A strong fist would have ended the game on an incompletion. (It's like tipping a rebound to a teammate in b-ball)

Evan's picture

That's fair. I was just curious.

Evan's picture

What do you mean by "wrong reason"?

I feel like you're interpreting "make a play" as some selfish motivation for what he did. I obviously can't get inside his head, but to me "make a play" has no such connotation.

PackersRS's picture

Yes I am. I do realize it's purely interpretation but that's what the action plus the explanation led me to believe.

davyjones's picture

Did you see Titus Young of the Lions just the day before--caught the tipped ball for a TD. If you can control the ball, it seems you ought to try to.

Fish/Crane's picture

I believe "knock it down" is not the right approach anymore.

"Knock it out" of the end zone may have been Jennings best course.
Option two- intercept it.
Option three- make the two point conversion.
Option four- lower the high flying trapeze act earlier than halftime when new winds are strongly opposed.
Option five - consult the I Ching weekly

PadLevel's picture

Will be interesting to see if McCarthy uses his Jumbo package (3 TE set) for run plays early in the first quarter of the next game. This was the only way on Monday night to cool the Hawks pass rush. Maybe they finally figured out a way to beat physical defenses playing Cover2?

GBFaninCA's picture

*crosses fingers*

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