Much has been said about Seattle’s secondary over the last couple of seasons – and rightly so. They have dominated the NFL in passing defense for the last, two seasons. So can a hobbled Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers march into CenturyLink Field take down the defending champs on Sunday? Let’s look at the numbers.
Over the course of the 2014 regular season, Seattle faced their share of elite quarterback/wide receiver combinations. Some managed to post decent stat lines, others were flat out shut down.
Week 1 vs Packers (36-16, W)
Aaron Rodgers (189 yds, TD, INT), Jordy Nelson (83 yds) & Randall Cobb (58 yds, TD)
Rodgers’ longest pass play was a 23-yard in route to Cobb against a zone defense. Most other double-digit pass plays were short catch-and-runs to James Starks, Andrew Quarless and Eddie Lacy. The lone interception was a pass that went off Jordy’s hands and was snagged by cornerback Byron Maxwell. The Seattle front seven managed three sacks on Rodgers as well. It looked like Seattle’s defense was much less rusty than the Packers offense in this Week 1 contest.
Week 2 @ Chargers (21-30, L)
Philip Rivers (284, 3 TD) & Keenan Allen (55 yds)
Rivers found tight end Antonio Gates for three touchdowns on the afternoon. Here’s his third one.
The Super Bowl rematch proved to be a fantastic game (as opposed to the Super Bowl itself). The presence of Julius Thomas helped take some secondary attention off of WR2 Emmanuel Sanders, who ended up having a strong day, while top receiver Demaryius Thomas was stifled. Lots of the offensive, passing numbers were posted late in the game as Manning posed a furious comeback to send the game into overtime, with both touchdowns going to tight ends (J. Thomas & Jacob Tamme).
Week 6 vs Cowboys (23-30, L)
Tony Romo (250 yds, 2 TD) & Dez Bryant (63 yds)
A strong rushing performance by DeMarco Murray (115 yards) helped Dallas move the ball against Seattle in this game. Most likely played into how the Seattle defense adjusted as the game went on. Once again, both touchdowns went to tight ends.
Week 8 @ Panthers (13-9, W)
Cam Newton (171 yds, INT) & Kelvin Benjamin (94 yds)
Since he was unable to move the ball in the air, Cam Newton tried his best to move the ball on the ground. He didn’t do so well at that either (12 rushes for 24 yards). However, running back Jonathan Stewart did have some success (79 yds). Newton wasn’t afraid to target rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin, no matter who was covering him. A 20-yard gain came off a broken play where Benjamin made an athletic catch, and an unbelieveable 51-yard catch came via a jump ball thrown into double coverage.
Week 10 vs Giants (38-17, W)
Eli Manning (283 yds, TD, INT) & Odell Beckham, Jr (108 yds)
This game was close through three quarters, until Seattle ran the ball down the Giants throat and scored three, rushing touchdowns in the final quarter. Eli Manning had a decent outing, and was able to successfully utilize WR3 Preston Parker (79 yds, TD) from the slot. Rookie phenom Odell Beckham, Jr was also able to win his match-up against the Seattle secondary – mostly up the right sideline on deep passes into single coverage. This game may have been closer to the end if the Giants showed any semblance of a run game, but only managed 54 total yards rushing as a team.
Week 14 @ Eagles (24-14, W)
Mark Sanchez (96 yds, 2 TD, INT) & Jeremy Maclin (21 yds, TD)
The Eagles had a hard time getting yards against Seattle in Week 14. In fact, the team only tallied 96 passing yards and 57 rushing yards. The two touchdown drives came after the defense and special teams gave the offense a short field to work with.
An early-game blocked punt put the offense on the SEA 14 yard line, which resulted in a short touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. The second touchdown drive began with a 46-yard kick off return. Sanchez then found tight end Zach Ertz a few plays later for a 35-yard touchdown.
So what can we learn from these examples? A few things, actually.
First, it is crucial that Eddie Lacy gets the ball early and often. Establishing a run game not only limits the splash plays in the secondary, but also makes them aware of a need to come in and stop the run. A successful run game early should be able to set up the play action late. As long as Lacy can stave off the asthma issues,
Second, the Green Bay offense needs to utilize the tight end position in this game. Seattle finished the season ranked 19th in the league against tight ends – a weak spot that some of the teams exploited earlier in the season. Watch for Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless to be involved maybe more than usual.
And finally, with a season under his belt, WR3 Davante Adams could continue to make huge contributions in the passing game. In Week 1, it was Jarrett Boykin lining up as the third receiver in the Packers offense, but Adams has matured as the season went along, and his potential was realized last week against Dallas. Get him the ball early, and the secondary won’t know who to focus on.
Hopefully some of these strategies can help the Packers offense conquer the vaunted Legion of Boom on Sunday. I’m interested to see what Mike McCarthy has up his sleeve.