Tremendous effor t falls shor t in S eattle
Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers opened and closed their season with defeats in Seattle.
It tells you they’re just not as good as the Seahawks, at least not at CenturyLink Field, but that wasn’t the case for most of the way in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers had excellent schemes and gave tremendous effort. They just fell apart at the end.
Offense, defense, special teams and coaching. All four shared almost equally in the 28-22 overtime defeat.
Here is a rating of the Packers in their loss to the Seahawks, with their 1 to 5 football totals in parentheses:
RECEIVERS (2 ½)
Unlike the first game, there were a few occasions when Jordy Nelson (66 of 69 snaps) did line up across from LC Richard Sherman. The great majority of his plays came against RC Byron Maxwell. Four of his receptions (for 65 yards) were against Maxwell, an aggressive, long, press-man specialist. There were several deep balls in which Nelson failed to separate. He dropped one stop route and, from the 6, tripped at the top of the route on a corner route against nickel back Jeremy Lane that skipped off his fingers. Upon drawing a pass-interference penalty on Maxwell, Nelson barked back when Seattle coaches complained to the side judge. It’s something Nelson never does. Cobb (60 at WR, five at RB) wasn’t able to dominate Lane, a matchup that should have been in his favor. It was impressive to watch the 195-pound Cobb crack back on SS Kam Chancellor without fear. Even with Sherman playing one-armed the entire fourth quarter (elbow), the Packers didn’t test him with Davante Adams (61) or Nelson. Failing to make Sherman cover and tackle in that circumstance was a miscue. As has happened many times, the opponent kind of ignored Richard Rodgers (28) and he made plays. From detached locations, he displayed fast feet in and out of his breaks, presented himself well as a target and caught everything. His blocking is another matter. Eddie Lacy was stacked up on third and goal from the 1 because JC Tretter was late off the ball and because Rodgers couldn’t sustain against SLB Bruce Irvin. When the Packers’ fourminute offense failed, Rodgers was manhandled by DE Michael Bennett at the point of attack. Asked to leadblock against Chancellor from the backfield, Rodgers came in soft and went flying back faster than he approached. His size screams blocker but his play doesn’t. Andrew Quarless (27) was unable to separate from WLB K.J. Wright from a split-receiver location on a late third-and-4 incompletion.
OFFENSIVE LINE (4 ½)
Generally, Bryan Bulaga’s two false-start penalties should disqualify him from “Stars of the Game” consideration. His down-in, downout performance, however, was too special to leave out. Bulaga didn’t allow a “bad” run and his only pressure came on a bull rush by DE Cliff Avril. Both Avril and DE Michael Bennett powerrushed Bulaga but he anchored well. A massive man, he has learned how to use that size. He’s also improved his pass sets and doesn’t often miss with hand placement. On the other side, David Bakhtiari wasn’t quite as flawless as Bulaga but played well, too. Bakhtiari displaced the ends on runs to his side and executed some combo blocks with Josh Sitton. He was late cutting off NT Kevin Williams; otherwise, John Kuhn would have scored from the 1. He also had a mental error in four-minute that partially led to a minus-4 for Lacy. Coordinator Dan Quinn relied on four-man rushes but when they were repelled he had to send a fifth rusher. His final blitz rate was 23.7%. Guards T.J. Lang and Sitton stayed off the ground and in front of their man. The only sack came on a stunt when Lang overset too wide to halt Bennett but then couldn’t get back to pick up Avril. Corey Linsley
5 got flattened out a few times on reach blocks and backdoored once by Williams, the distinguished old Viking.
QUARTERBACKS (2 ½)
Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 against Pete Carroll’s Seahawks with a long completion of 31 yards. This time, he didn’t hit a pass more than 13 yards downfield. Granted, the Seahawks have the NFL’s best secondary, but many regard Rodgers as its best quarterback. His protection was little short of superlative. He missed deep five times, including two to Nelson and two to Adams. The trajectory of his long balls was off. He cost the Packers a field goal by throwing late to Adams and having it picked off by Sherman in the back of the end zone. There was no need to throw that second interception on first down from the Seattle 33. He came close to a third on a too-flat throw to Nelson when Maxwell was all over him at the front pylon. Yes, the calf might have been an inconvenience. It also was his fourth game playing with the injury, and he moved better on it this time. Lacy was set up for a big gain on a screen when Rodgers stepped the wrong way and then bailed out on the throw, never even giving the play a chance. He could have attacked the wounded Sherman but didn’t. When Russell Wilson emerged from his horrendous funk to make game-winning plays, Rodgers offered little in the second half. Of course, he made a few great throws. His lethal hard counts also drew Seattle off three times. In the end, Wilson proved to be the tougher man to beat. Great players need to make great plays in conference title games, and Rodgers really didn’t make any.
RUNNING BACKS (4 ½)
Lacy (49) isn’t as good as Marshawn Lynch. Perhaps nobody is. Still, Lacy is a tremendous back for a big game like this. After being KO’d by Chancellor in September, he almost appeared to have a vendetta against Seattle. He spun less. He eluded less. It was almost like he ran toward contact and tried to bull over or through as many Seahawks as he could. In all, he broke three tackles. This season, perhaps more than any other, offensive linemen across the league have “helped” their backs by pushing the pile from behind. Both Lynch and Lacy benefited several times. Once or two, he made desperate late lunges for extra yardage. When Bennett penetrated between Bulaga and Lang, Lacy shrugged him off and turned a 3-yard loss into a gain of 7. James Starks (14) was terrific, too. His 32-yard cutback was awesome because he made the great FS Earl Thomas miss on a no-excuse shot. DE O’Brien Schofield had Starks dead to rights 5 yards in the backfield but he darted left and made 3 out of nothing. It wasn’t Kuhn’s fault that he came up a foot short of a TD. On a third and 1, Williams shoved Lang back two yards on the snap and gave Kuhn (23) a substantial lick from the side. With a good piece of running