Packers-Seahawks game recap
At about 4:50 this morning the rain turned itself up. In frequency, pace, and sheer amount, when the rain hit its next level I woke up. It was only for a few minutes, this brief monsoon blast, but noticeable enough for someone half asleep, not even wanting to be that much awake. Then the rain dialed back to steady pellets shooting down on a bleak morning at an altogether ungodly hour.
When it rains like that, I wondered in a haze before rejoining my sleep cycle, is that its peak? Is there another number on the dial it could flip to, or was that rain’s version of a triumphant lion roar, a finale capping off hours of continuous downpour? I guess you don’t ever really know until you see or hear something, what the possibilities are, and I was definitely thinking about this rain for too long, but I think for that storm I can say I know that was the best it had.
And now we know where the Green Bay Packers are on this same morning, after a great and big measurement of a season-opener in Seattle against the Seahawks thundered hollow and all-too-familiar tones, ringing of a team with goals, ideas about itself, and those inconvenient truths.
It was unsustained, but for brief moments it felt like the Packers would regain their footing, like they were beginning to find what was working, what they wanted to do. Aaron Rodgers would make an audible at the line on their first quarter touchdown drive and I felt as though he was asserting some control over the game. The defense found ways to get near Russell Wilson but rarely in time or before a door had flung wide open in the secondary. That was when Seattle at least tried keeping the calls balanced, before the score grew too large for even them to ignore the fact that Marshawn Lynch was breaking tackles, getting to the second level like it was a walkthrough in August.
It was previewed here before and feels all the more true today: the Seahawks are just so damn deadly and efficient and good at what they do; you cannot beat them at that game, certainly not in that place. It is loud, sure, but it is how they play in their sanctuary that’s most frightening. Nothing you do matters because in their minds it’s already over.
Green Bay’s offense had good pace, got to the line quick. They wanted so badly to impose their style on the game but never could. It was always played Seattle’s way. You saw that in Rodgers – who just seemed jittery to me on Thursday – not running for a clear first down in the second quarter, making a rushed, high throw over a receiver out of bounds instead. You saw it in virtually no downfield throws to speak of, saw it in a disorganized decision to go for it on fourth down in the third – not a bad decision, mind you, but a brutal non-execution. You saw a team scrambling to try and keep up with an opponent they knew was outpacing them and gaining in separation. The Packers tried to make the game what they wanted it to be. Seattle either changed them or pounced on the mistakes. That’s what Seattle does: They break you into position or wait for you to break down. Nobody wanted these truths to remain so blatantly real in 2014, but here we are.
The backbreaking Packers’ errors? They returned in 2014. Two turnovers on the first plays of two offensive series don’t help a defense, nor does a special teams penalty resulting in a first down. The defense didn’t help itself either, of course, Brad Jones with at least three really painful miscues; the last, another holding call down the field on a play where Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews combined for a sack, the final stubbed toe that felt perversely right for how the game was going.
For the upcoming bells and whistles we heard honked this offseason, for the slivers of promise you should take away – Holy hell is Clay Matthews a destructive monster, Sam Shields’ incredible game in the secondary – Green Bay’s defense, right now, is its same self at the core. Seattle’s running game stepped over and through the defensive front. Miscues in the secondary led to big plays. Percy Harvin moved pre-snap and did so much damage, because this is Percy Harvin playing the Packers, and that is what happens. Seattle changes opponents on both sides of the ball. Green Bay did little to make the Seahawks uncomfortable, and all the exotic defensive lineups and formations look the same at the end of another 11-yard run through the middle.
And yeah, the read-option is not coming to the NFL anymore. It is here right now, teams are getting pretty good at it actually, and yet it is still some unstoppable, mysterious force of football voodoo for this team. I’ll admit to being impressed at Seattle’s usage of the read-option pass – thanks a lot Gus Malzahn – and would just like to extend best wishes to the rest of the league in defending it. Then again, I think it could’ve easily been used special to this game, this opponent.
I don’t know, really, how much to take from Thursday. It’s one game and we’ll forget it soon. It’s also not necessary to think about Seattle, or their peers like San Francisco, again for the rest of the regular season, if you don’t want to. The Packers are in a division where their style works best, where it’s the standard, where the other three teams are chasing them. That’s fine. I don’t think that dynamic changes a whole lot after Seattle, 36-16.
But I think it’s hard not to wonder about the Packers. It’s not that 36-16 wasn’t as ugly as it sounds – it was a total and unquestionable domination. The dial the Seahawks are playing on right now turns up higher, higher than probably any other team in the league. Because of that, this sort of outcome was always a possibility. This was Seattle’s roaring rainstorm of football punishment and control, but only their latest.
To me the biggest difference, and one problem with not playing a conference foe like Seattle (maybe New Orleans being an exception) again this regular season, is that unlike the Seahawks – sure of themselves and ready to make you just as sure – we’ll be left to wonder where the Packers’ next level is. For now we know where it is not.