In the NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers last year, you may remember the Packers held a 21-3 lead going into halftime. The Packers made key plays down the stretch and ultimately won the game 28-23, despite the Seahawks furious comeback and outscoring the Packers 20-7 in the second half of that game.
The reason I bring this up is because of the similarities Russell Wilson and this week’s opponent, Deshaun Watson, share, specifically in terms of their mobility. Both quarterbacks aren’t “runners”, in the sense of quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Cam Newton are, often having at least 5-10 designed run plays alone for themselves in games.
Watson and Wilson are quarterbacks that look to throw first and throw the ball often but will burn you with their legs if they see fit. In the first half of the playoff game I mentioned, the Seahawks were persistent in their attempt to establish the run game the “traditional” way; they even went 3 and out on a series where they ran Marshawn Lynch 3 straight times.
In the second half of that game, Wilson took the game into his own hands. He used his mobility to gash the Packers defense with his legs on scrambles and extended plays in and out of the pocket, allowing him to complete passes down the field. Wilson finished the game with 7 rushing attempts for 64 yards and 48 of those came in the 2nd half.
If the Seahawks could have a do-over of that playoff game, I guarantee you that they would’ve allowed Russ to be Russ from the very first snap of that game and stress the Packers defense to stop him.
This Sunday in Houston, the Packers defense goes up against Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense. Watson, a former MVP front runner in 2017 before tearing his ACL mid-season, is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Additionally, Watson has hit his stride and is playing his best football of the season.
Last week in a road game against the undefeated Titans, Watson went 28-37 (75.7% Completion Percentage) with 335 yards passing, 4 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions and had 4 rushing attempts for 26 yards. He completed passes to 7 different receivers and got the ball to his playmakers. Starting wide receivers Will Fuller (6 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD), Brandin Cooks (9 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD) and starting TE Darren Fells (6 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD) had monster days.
The Packers have yet to play a quarterback with the mobility of Watson this season, so far going against Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. If I’m the Texans offensive coordinator this week, I’m planning on dropping back Watson to pass on nearly every play and stress the Packers defense to stop him.
The Packers rank 14th in the league in sacks-per-game (2.4) and the Texans rank 29th in the league in sacks-allowed-per-game (3.2). As with all quarterbacks who are a dual-threat with their arm and legs, the Packers will need to do everything they can to 1) pressure Watson and 2) contain him in the pocket.
It will be a Texas sized challenge to limit the former Clemson Quarterback who just turned 25. As so many defensive coordinators and players have said over the years regarding Aaron Rodgers, “you can’t really stop him, you just hope you can contain him”.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.