The last time Green Bay faced Seattle, the Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half and held him to 184 net passing yards on 39 attempts. To be fair, one of those sacks was caused by Rodgers himself.
“We knew they were going to pass it 70-percent of the snaps,” former Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons said. “We knew that Aaron would hold the ball because of the way our DBs jammed their receivers. We knew their routes would be disrupted. We didn’t blitz barely at all. We just rushed four.”
This time, things should go a little differently.
“There is only going to be one thing that is going to be different about this [Seattle] defense,” explains former NFL running back and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. “You saw all the defensive penalties, on holding and grabbing, because teams complained about what Seattle did. If Seattle can’t play like that against Green Bay, it is going to be tough. It may be the longest game of the year if they call it close to how they were calling it in the preseason. I don’t see how Seattle plays with that mind-set.”
Seattle was called for 11 defensive holding penalties last season, including the playoffs, and none for illegal contact. These are two rules that are expected to be enforced more heavily this season. For example, there were 27 illegal contact penalties in the first 17 preseason games after just 38 infractions all of last season. Playing physical helped the Seahawks disrupt the opposition’s passing game.
“It throws off the timing,” Faulk said. “That’s why you see quarterbacks look out of sync when they play Seattle. The extra contact. The holding. The crowding of the receivers. All that stuff. It makes it tougher for a quarterback to work with the timing he and his receiver have been working all training camp to polish off. Then you get to a game and the [Seattle secondary] are just throwing off his timing”
But this time, the Packers have second-year back Eddie Lacy, so don’t expect Seattle to just sit back and play nickel coverage.
“He is a hammer,” Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said of Lacy. “He’s a really good football player. All the stuff we saw in college, he could dominate games running tough and physically he has carried over to the league in what we’ve seen. We have a lot of respect for him. Good catcher, too. And you have to really wrap him up.”
Having Lacy gives Rodgers some breathing room to throw the ball downfield. Before his injury last season, Rodgers was very productive with the deep ball (targets of 20 or more yards), connecting on 18 of his 36 attempts for 676 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. And as you can see below, he was successful sideline to sideline.
That’s key in light of Seattle’s Cover-3 scheme, which means cornerbacks and free safeties divide the field into thirds and play zone coverage.
That means elite cornerback Richard Sherman patrols just half the field., leaving one of Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb defended by an inferior corner. Nelson set career highs with 85 catches and 1,314 yards last season while Cobb amassed 433 yards and four touchdowns before missing 10 games with a broken leg. And to help put even more of an edge in Green Bay’s favor, the Packers are going to run a no-huddle offense more often.
“We’re going to try to go out and do what we do best and that’s our no-huddle,” said Nelson. “Speed the tempo up and try to be successful.”
They were successful with it last season. When the Packers ran the no-huddle offense they averaged 10.1 yards per pass attempt and 8.2 per play when they didn’t.
An up-tempo game with less physicality by Seattle defenders mean a big night for Rodgers and the Green Bay offense.