Pretty fitting for Jimmy Graham to have reeled in the final ball to push Green Bay over the cusp, huh?

As is apparently an unwritten rule in the handbook of NFL games that involve the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, early scoring but leaving the door open made Sunday night’s contest a close one, much closer than it should have been. And as is the fourth consecutive game in the postseason between the two teams, the home team managed to pull it out in the end.

After a super quick start that saw the Packers jump out to an early lead that was pushed to as high as 21-3 going into halftime, the Seahawks kept it close, clawing away at the lead until they were only down by five points, 28-23. On the back of Russell Wilson, the Seahawks were able to keep themselves in the game every play, which presented its fair share of issues for Green Bay.

Head coach Matt LaFleur, in his first season at the helm in Green Bay, put together a very solid offensive gameplan that was carried out to a ‘T’ in the first half, as his even mixture of run and pass plays helped keep the Seahawk defense on their heels, which had a ton of issues stopping the Packers when they needed it the most.

The first half and the second half presented different concerns for each team, and the early lead mantra reared its ugly head in the second half, as the Seahawks did just enough on defense to keep giving the ball back to Wilson, as he was able to nickel and dime his way down the field to close the gap.

In the first quarter, Green Bay was tasked with opening the game with the ball, and they showed their commitment to mixing in both runs and passes as they marched down the field. The drive resulted in the team’s first touchdown of the day, as Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Davante Adams on a beautiful sluggo route that made the Seahawks defensive backs get all twisted up like a pretzel.

After the score, each team traded punts for four consecutive drives (two each), and this streak was broken up by a field goal by Seattle. Following up that score with a score of their own, the Packers got Aaron Jones into the end zone with a one-yard score.

Seattle went down the field again but had to settle with a field goal try, which kicker Jason Myers missed from 50 yards out. This field position helped give Green Bay the start they needed, moving down the field to give Jones his second TD of the first half, on another one-yard plunge.

That score ended the first half, and the Seahawks came out of the half with something to prove, which they did by marching down the field and letting Marshawn Lynch run it in on the goal line (pretty good idea huh). Each team traded TD’s on their next drives, and then Seattle came back and scored their final points of the game, as Lynch busted into the end zone from one yard out.

Trading punts as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter, timely play calls by LaFleur helped keep the ball in the hands of the Packers, and once the third-down conversion to Graham was confirmed through replay, then the celebration could begin as the ball was knee’d three times and it hit double zeroes.

This game was anything but pretty or perfect, and the team is very much aware of that fact. But accepting that the team can win even without being perfect is the exact mindset that is needed to make sure the roster does not fall into any holes that can push them out of the game in a heartbeat.

An evenly-distributed gameplan is all fine and dandy, but playing the cards in a more efficient fashion, which means keeping the foot on the gas for the whole game, is something that LaFleur looks to be struggling with at times. However, as he gains experience in games, the point of pushing that focus into the playcalling is something that the team can count on moving forward.

109 rushing yards is not going to get it done, especially for this team that depends on both ways to move the ball. Rodgers had a zero-turnover game, but his 11 incompletions and two sacks are areas that need to be improved upon for next week, especially with how tough the 49ers front seven unit is.

To be successful in San Francisco, this team needs to improve in certain areas of the game. Looking at their previous matchup can only provide film and reasons why they lost by almost 30 points, but seeing how SF has evolved over the season is going to be the biggest component in GB’s success next week.

Rushing the ball on a more consistent basis should be the first step that this team tries to push next week, and including Jamaal Williams into the gameplan more would be a great tool for carrying that out. 22 total touches and 66 yards for Jones is quite low for him, but his two scores help combat that low yardage total.

For Williams, his one carry and one reception are most likely due to playoff rotations changing up the snap counts, but Williams is a solid back that provides different aspects to the huddle than Jones, including being more of a physical presence and the willingness to lower the shoulder and drive the pile.

On defense, both Za’Darius and Preston Smith were in the backfield on a consistent basis, and Kyler Fackrell and Rashan Gary were providing good second-team reps in their absence. However, this was against a really beat-up offensive line for Seattle, and the Niners provide a much, much better O-Line that this unit will need to get through and create pressure.

Both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King had great games tonight, as the Seattle combo of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf were only able to put up 13 catches for 195 yards and one TD on 15 targets, with Lockett putting up 136 and the lone score himself. By shutting down Metcalf, a vertical threat that Wilson loved last week against Philly was taken out of the game, making the team have one less weapon.

Everyone knows how good of a game SF puts out on the field every weekend, and this upcoming game will not be any different. LaFleur got his ass kicked last time they played, coming out of their bye, and the hope (obviously) is that this game is not anything like that.

Rodgers put up fewer than 100 passing yards in that game, the run game was shut down, and the Niner receivers (especially George Kittle) shredded the secondary of ours, making life absolutely hell-ish. 

Keys to advancing to the Super Bowl rest on the shoulders of LaFleur and Rodgers, as both make – or break – this team’s success. The veteran gunslinger and the rookie team leader are both showing their wit so far, and next week’s affair will only present a tougher test.


Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23