As I read more about this game I am noticing that the story lines are mostly about Rodgers, the calf, the Packers passing game, Richard Sherman, the “vaunted” Seattle D, Seattle’s 12th man, Lynch knocking people over, Seattle being at the beginning of a dynasty, Seattle being unbeatable, Seattle essentially already being awarded the Lombardi Trophy. But I have a few thoughts about some other potential post-game story lines:
- Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran for 70 yards against Seattle last Saturday night. Seattle’s unstoppable defense struggled to contain the guy. (Actually all 3 Carolina RBs averaged over 5 yards per carry.) Eddie Lacy is a better RB than Stewart – though Stewart has been very good the last 5-6 weeks. While it may seem like Lacy could struggle against a speedy/aggressive defensive style like Seattle’s because he’s not fast, I’m guessing MM and staff are putting quite a bit of time into making sure the O-Line is prepared to open holes and Lacy is ready to give Seattle a taste of its own medicine (won’t just be Lynch knocking guys over). This would be advisable both for time of possession reasons and to open up the passing game. I think there is a real chance Lacy has a career game Sunday. Also worth noting, his asthma shouldn’t be much of an issue. I have asthma too and can attest to how difficult it can be to run in cold weather – really does make it worse. But forecast is for 51 degrees and rain – he should be fine with that. Lacy had 100 yards rushing against Detroit, the NFL’s #1 run defense, in Week 17 – in a meaningful game. And Detroit was only giving up about 60 rushing yards per game at that point. Against Dallas, the #8 rush defense on the year, Lacy had 101 yards. Look for Lacy to assert himself and deliver a quality game. This will be a real test for the O-Line as Seattle has to know the Pack will try to run a fair amount. I’m guessing Chancellor will be playing a condensed field – which should eventually help Rodgers. But if the O-Line can win this battle, there is a good chance Lacy could be a bigger factor than people are talking about now.
- Seattle gave up 377 yards to Carolina last weekend. Carolina is not an offensive powerhouse so at the least, this kind of defensive performance does not align well with the reputation of Seattle’s D. I watched the game and came away thinking that D is not as flawless as the media makes it out to be.
- The Packers defense was not great last week. Dallas had their way for much of the game. Romo and company were solid, the playcalling was solid and the clock management was solid. But the defense woke up a bit in the second half. Peppers got in there with a few huge plays and the D seemed to step up some. Still, I would not rate the overall defensive performance very highly. Clay Matthews was just plain absent. Tramon Williams had a poor game (except for some decent man coverage on Dez at times…though Shields I think should get more credit for that). Morgan Burnett was also absent, barely contributed. Yet, this defense has shown over the course of the second half of the season that it can play at a high level. And many of these guys who were absent last week have had some monster games this year. Yes, I am worried Seattle’s quality O-Line will handle our D-Line like the Cowboys line did for a while. Yes, I am worried about Marshawn Lynch being a beast. And of course, I worry about Russell Wilson’s special ability to make the exact right decision on the football field nearly every time. These are scary things. But I think the Packers defense – much maligned for their poor playoff performances in recent years – may be ready to spring a surprise. Seattle’s offense is well-balanced and they play smart but there have been a few games in the last 6-7 weeks when Capers has drawn up exquisite game plans. I’m not going to guarantee anything here, but I think it’s actually quite possible that our defense, a quiet and often not-talked-about piece of this team, makes a statement and rises up to help the offense in a game when the offense will probably need a bit more help than usual. And importantly, there isn’t a whole lot of pressure on the Packers D right now as I think most expect a fairly pedestrian performance. If Peppers is himself, Matthews makes a difference and Tramon and Burnett play like they can play, there may be a few articles about the Packers defense come Monday morning.