NFC Championship Recap: Seahawks D Holds Down Packers O

Calling the Packers’ loss against the Seahawks a missed opportunity would be the understatement of the season. The Packers controlled the entire game up until the final few minutes of regulation. Yet there’s a reason that Seattle’s comeback was even possible in the first place (aside from a fake field goal touchdown pass and an onside kick); The Packers offense lost their matchup with the Seahawks defense.

Too Conservative?
The most talked about aspect of this side of the ball was Mike McCarthy’s decision not to go for any of the two 4th-and-goal-from-the-1 situations Green Bay had in the first quarter. Ultimately, there is no right answer to McCarthy’s decision. It just depends on what your preferred approach is. If you believe that to win in a place like Seattle against a team like the Seahawks, you need to put points on the board whenever you have the chance, then McCarthy’s decision to kick a field goal in both of these situations was the right call. Here at, we favor a more aggressive approach.

One way to think about it is that the Packers would likely not have gotten too many more chances this close to the goal line because the Seahawks have such a good defense.

The other aspect to consider is that there are more benefits than risks to going for it on 4th and 1. Best-case scenario, the Packers would have scored a touchdown. Worst-case scenario, they would have gotten stopped, but Seattle would have been pinned deep in their own territory. Teams tend to be conservative from their own goal line. The odds were in Green Bay’s favor that they’d be able to force a punt by the Seahawks from the shadow of their own goalposts. Green Bay would have received good field position as a result. Perhaps a punt return would have put them in field goal range immediately. At very least, they likely would have been just one play away from field goal range. Basically, the reason to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the 1 is that if you don’t score a touchdown, the odds are good that you’ll get a field goal out of the entire exchange due to field position.

Either way, this decision ends up being an after-the-fact argument. Go for it and score a touchdown, and it’s a great decision. Go for it and fail, and it’s a bad decision. Kick a field goal and lose the game in overtime three hours later, and it’s a terrible decision.

Rodgers Not Sharp:
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t awful. In fact, he was the better of the two quarterbacks on the field on Sunday. He wasn’t sharp, though. His lack of mobility was still a bit of a factor. Although his lone touchdown pass came on a scramble, the injured calf was still an inhibitor.

Rodgers would probably like to have several of his throws back from Sunday’s game. The first one was his interception on the opening drive. It looked like Rodgers was taking a chance because he thought the Seahawks had jumped offsides (and he thought right). The only issue was that no flag was thrown. If this was indeed what Rodgers thought, he had to see a flag and make sure before taking a chance like he did. He ultimately uncharacteristically forced a ball at Richard Sherman.

In the 2nd quarter, Rodgers had the chance for a big play with the Packers already leading 13-0. Rodgers moved left out of the pocket to buy a little time and had Randall Cobb running a dig over the middle of the field. Rodgers misfired high, though, forcing Cobb to jump for the ball. One could argue that Cobb should have caught it, but had Rodgers put the ball right on his receiver, he probably would have walked in for a touchdown and a 20-0 lead.

On the next drive, after Russell Wilson’s 2nd interception, Rodgers fired another pick. There was clearly a miscommunication here, and once again, the Packers missed an opportunity.

On Green Bay’s final drive, which sent the game to overtime, Rodgers had yet another missed opportunity. This came on a seemingly harmless incompletion to his tight end Richard Rodgers, matched on the outside against Kam Chancellor. Rodgers had Jordy Nelson inside of his tight end to the right, matched on Richard Sherman. Sherman was playing with one arm at that point, making it difficult for him to move as well and change directions quickly. Sherman was beat inside on a slant by Jordy Nelson. Rodgers had him for a good gain if he threw it.

However, on the left side of the formation, the Packers ran an in-route/fade/rub concept between their two receivers against man coverage. The fade was run from the slot. The in-route cut underneath the fade from the outside. Not only was outside corner Byron Maxwell beaten by the in-route at the snap, he then had to fight through the traffic of the fade route. It looked like this was the design of the play. With the Seahawks blitzing, there was no one in the intermediate middle of the field. This would have been a big gain and maybe given Green Bay a shot at the end zone on the ensuing plays.

It’s tough to entirely fault Rodgers for his decision on this play. No one in the league throws a fade stop route quite like him. This was the route Richard Rodgers was running. It just wasn’t open on this play.

Switching to Man:
The Seahawks are a predominant zone-coverage team, but they switched to man coverage for the entire 2nd half. In fact, they played some form of man coverage on 100% of Green Bay’s second-half pass plays. Green Bay didn’t force the issue in the second half, instead choosing to sit on their lead as the Seahawks continued to shoot themselves in the foot on offense. When the Packers did throw, Seattle was able to suffocate their receivers. Rodgers was just 7-13 for 63 yards in the second half. Outside of their final drive, he was just 4-8 for 27 yards.

Final Thoughts:
The Packers did have some success running the ball in this game. The Seahawks generally stop the run with speed. They largely rely on their linebackers and safeties to close running lanes quickly. Green Bay’s offensive linemen did a good job of getting to these second-level defenders beyond the line of scrimmage though. Their receivers also did a good job on these second-level defenders when asked to block inside.

Ultimately, though, the Seahawks figured out the Packers offense, holding them to 22 points and 306 total yards. If not for great field position in the first half, Green Bay might have only put up 10 points. The Seahawks didn’t shut the Packers down completely, but they won this aspect of the matchup.

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