I thoroughly enjoyed the first game of the season. I have been through most of the coach’s tape, and it opens up a whole new world of things to look at, sadly I am limited by boring things like having a life, but here is what I took away from the game.
My things to watch list for these teams contained Aaron Rodgers, AJ Hawk, and Clay Mathews for the Packers; and for the Seahawks it was their secondary and Russell Wilson. I added watching how Julius Peppers would rush standing up as a linebacker.
We know that the Seahawks defence is good, but it really was excellent in this game. On the all twenty two tape it was easy to see how Earl Campbell sat deep and played the whole field, whilst the corners covered their side, and Kam Chancellor roved depending on the coverage called. Richard Sherman clearly had his receiver covered, but the Packers basically gave up on his side of the field as Rodgers hardly looked right all game. This was so obvious that I spotted it in the broadcast coverage whilst watching the condensed game, and it turns out that Sherman wasn’t targeted once all game. I can’t help but feel that you have to challenge Sherman somehow if you are going to beat the Seahawks, although I freely admit I wouldn’t know how.
You could see glimpses of what makes Rodgers so good, the arm, his manoeuvrability, but also that in being willing to hold onto the ball to make a pay, he takes sacks that he doesn’t have to. In fairness, the interception was not his fault, the ball bounced off the hands of his receiver and was well picked off by Byron Maxwell. The Packers struggled to move the ball and in the first half their two scores came from large chunks that were not successful plays on their part. The first came of a long pass interference call on Bobby Wagner and the second from recovered punt where Richared Sherman blocked his man into Earl Campbell, demonstrating that the pair of outstanding defensive backs are human after all.
The killer plays for the Packers were the two consecutive offensive plays in the third quarter where backup tackle Derek Sherrod gave up sacks. The first play was on fourth and five, with the Seahawks only rushing four and yet somehow they didn’t account for Cliff Avril at left defensive end, who came barely touched to sack Rodgers. There’s no way for me to know the play call or the protection, but although James Starks was on that right side of Rodgers in a shotgun formation, on the snap of the ball, after barely a pause, Starks runs a curl through the line, whilst Sherrod without having looked outside of him focuses on the tackle over him and then tries too late to stop Avril who is already past him. That’s the drive done and the Seahawks get the ball. The Seahawks don’t drive the ball successfully so after five plays they punt the ball. However, on the first play of the next drive, on the Packers own three yard line, Michael Bennet blows past Sherrod to get a strip sack that leads to a safety. These were not the first time that I saw Sherrod beaten this game, let’s hope this doesn’t become a long term problem.
The Packers do manage a nice drive in the fourth quarter to get a touchdown, with a failed two point conversion, but by then it is too late. We shouldn’t overreact to the first game of the season, it’s not exactly unprecedented for the Seahawks to be excellent on defence or beat teams handily at home, but it will be interesting to see how the Packers offence goes the rest of the season.
On offence for the Seahawks, I loved what they did with Russell Wilson, who is not your prototypical pocket passer and is only five foot eleven. However, he is very careful with the ball and the Seahawks put him in position to make plays, by using his manoeuvrability. The very real running threat make their read option plays dangerous, helped by just how good Marshawn Lynch is as a running back. This accounted for both of their first half touchdowns. The first was my favourite play on offence of the game. Russell Wilson first fakes the hand off to Marshawn Lynch then tucks the ball as if to run, but when corner Sam Shields bites on the play as a run, Wilson then pulls up and flips a pass to Ricardo Lockette who runs in the TD. For the second touchdown, Clay Mathews was staring into the backfield during the handoff, and gets sealed by the tight end Luke Williams coming across the line unseen so Mathews can’t make the tackle to stop Lynch running it in.
Marshawn Lynch is so good, very light on his feet and makes his cuts so well. I also love Eddie Lacy, whose cuts are so violent, but in this game he was bottled up by the Seahawks defence, but there were two great backs in this game.
It was harder to get a read on the Packers defence. Time will tell, but although I saw a couple of good plays from Peppers and Mathews, nothing really leapt at me. The one thing that the all twenty two did reveal on the Packers defence was how Percy Harvin got so open in the first half, which was when Morgan Burnett ran into linebacker AJ Hawk, allowing Harvin to get open for a thirty three yard gain.
Overall I wouldn’t be panicking just yet if I was a Packers fan, but I might be lowering my expectations a little after some of the bullish talk that was surrounding them during pre-season. The Seahawks looked like the team who have dominated at home in recent years and I expect them to go well again this season as long as they avoid the injury bug.