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Lambeau Field advantage reinforced by Green Bay’s 27-17 victory at home against NFC nemesis Seahawks
By CHRIS HAVEL
Monday will not be among the sleepless nights the Packers, their fans and head coach Mike McCarthy have endured since a painful January loss in the NFC title game at Seattle.
“You sleep better when you win,” a keyed-up McCarthy promised reporters after a 27-17 victory over the Seahawks at Lambeau Field. It snapped the Packers’ three-game losing streak to their NFC rivals and it ensured the fast start they were shooting for.
“We’re 2-0,” McCarthy said. “It was a great night here at Lambeau.”
It was a great night led by a great player. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ brilliance outshone his statistics, and his stats were awful good.
Rodgers was 25 of 33 for 249 yards and two touchdowns for a 116.9 quarterback rating. But what set him apart was his fancy footwork in and out of the pocket, his uncanny accuracy on the run, his ability to make his pre-snap reads, communicate with teammates and STILL see that the Seahawks’ defense had too many men on the field.
Rodgers is ridiculous. As in ridiculously good, that is. After the hard-fought win, Packers left guard Josh Sitton told NBC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya, “(Rodgers) is the best player in the NFL right now … maybe the best player ever.”
Sitton, like Rodgers, was right on target. That isn’t to suggest the Packers’ 10-point victory was a breeze. That was hardly the case.
First, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense were without receiver Jordy Nelson and right tackle Bryan Bulaga going into the Seattle game.
Then they lost running back Eddie Lacy to a first-quarter ankle injury. To further complicate matters, James Starks was the only other running back listed on the team’s 45-man game day roster. The third back, Alonzo Harris, was inactive for a second straight week.
It meant Rodgers had to improvise and the offense had to make do. Rodgers began by firing a 29-yard laser to James Jones for a touchdown to cap the game’s opening series.
Meantime, the Packers’ defense tackled effectively and en masse. Players such as Mike Neal, Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott effectively rotated in the outside linebacker spot opposite Julius Peppers. The swarming defense held Seattle to 3 first-half points, and running back Marshawn Lynch to just 41 yards in 15 carries.
Seattle rallied with two quick third-quarter touchdowns, but after Green Bay quit biting on Russell Wilson’s ball fakes (he ran 10 times for 78 yards) and stuck to its assignments the Seahawks wilted.
Nevertheless, Seattle built a 17-16 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Rodgers took over. He was 9-for-9 for 91 yards in the final 15 minutes. He connected with tight end Richard Rodgers on a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Packers up 22-17 with 9:28 to play. Then, he hit Rodgers (who made a brilliant catch) to cash in the 2-point conversion to make it 24-17.
On both late drives, McCarthy used Randall Cobb out of the backfield, which meant rookie Ty Montgomery was in the slot. Montgomery responded with four catches for 37 yards in four targets. Cobb hauled in eight catches for 116 yards and Davante Adams toughed it out with an ankle injury to catch five passes for 33 yards.
Cobb and Montgomery were key weapons in both fourth-quarter scoring drives. Rodgers said the Packers saw areas to attack in Seattle’s defense, and Cobb and Montgomery both got open and made plays.
Beyond Rodgers’ brilliance and the Packers’ strong defensive showing here are some other observations:
- The Packers defended Wilson pretty well once they stuck to their assignments. It was encouraging to see Neal and Perry contribute while Clay Matthews operated at inside linebacker.
- Micah Hyde, who recovered a late fumble, once again proved his versatility and his worth. Hyde made plays in the red zone and was one of several defensive backs (Casey Hayward, Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix all played well) who contributed in a big way.
- Jayrone Elliott definitely has merited more playing time. Elliott can generate pass rush and he has a knack for being disruptive and around the football.
- James Starks is an unsung hero. Where would the Packers’ offense have been without his ability to take the phrase “next man up” and make it a reality? Starks is money.
- Richard Rodgers continued to progress as a young tight end. His catch on the successful 2-point play was borderline impossible. I’m still not sure how he saw the football, much less how he caught it.
Wilson was 19 of 30 for 206 yards, while running for 78 yards on 10 carries.
But he lamented the disappointing fourth quarter.
“Yeah, it was a heartbreaker,” Wilson said. “Disappointing game because we felt like we were going to have a chance to go down the field and win there.”
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.