Prediction Time: Packers at Seahawks NFC Championship Game
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~The Packers opened the 2012 season at home against the San Francisco 49ers, and lost. That was against Alex Smith. The Packers ended the season in San Francisco in the playoffs, getting embarrassed by the 49ers Colin Kaepernick’s record-setting legs.
The Packers opened the 2013 season losing at the 49ers. And then the Packers ended the 2013 season losing, again, to the 49ers, this time back at Lambeau Field.
This year, the Packers opened the season getting whipped by the Seahawks, in Seattle, 36-16. They hope to break that pattern this Sunday, in Seattle again.
However, there have been six instances of the same teams meeting in Week 1 and then again in the conference championship.
All six times, the team that won in Week 1 also won the conference title game.
The Packers are facing long odds and hoping to buck historical trends.
If the Packers are to win, they will need two things to happen:
#1- the refs to call the “points of emphasis” from the off-season, which means throwing flags at the Seahawk DB’s on every play as they re-direct WRs & TEs beyond five yards, and they grab and tug jerseys when the receivers run in front of them across the field, or run past them. Seattle was the reason there was a “point of emphasis” in the off-season in the first place.
#2- They are going to need to have a great gameplan to contain Russell Wilson and keep him from scrambling for huge first down runs.He’s a good passer. He’s smart. But what’s special about him is his ability to escape the pass rush and run for crucial yardage.
Dom Capers cannot send big blitzes against him because Wilson will find the gaps, either through the line or around the edge when one guy loses the edge. We’ve seen that countless times. We saw Jarrett Bush and Mike Daniels lose the edge last year on a critical thrid down failure to the Niners as Kaepernick ran around the left edge on a 3rd and long on the Niners game-winning drive.
We have seen Mike Neal and Nick Perry give up the edge more times than we can count. We also have seen Ha Ha Clinton-Dix lose containment on the edges. And last week we saw Sean Richardson collapse to the inside and allow DeMarco Murray the right side for a big gain around the edge down the sideline.
I don’t see the zebras doing their job properly (they rarely do), and I don’t see all the Packers defenders doing their job all the time. All it takes is one guy, one time, to lose his gap. The brilliant, and athletic, Wilson will make them pay.
In addition to those two focus points, the Packers are going to have to tackle better. They missed 16 tackles the first game in Seattle.
They also are going to have to block for Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Besides the Seattle DL, they have to try and keep Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright from blasting in for losses. They also have two great safeties, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, who love to fly up and deliver huge hits. At least Chancellor hits up high, whereas little Earl Thomas doesn’t mind taking aim at the knees of the runners.
Kevin Gilbride: Seahawks have perfected art of pass interference
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired earlier this month but he’s still perfectly qualified to speak on the Seahawks’ defense, which gave New York fits back in Week 15. When it was over, Seattle cruised to a 23-0 win, holding Eli Manning to 156 passing yards (to his own teammates, anyway) and a mind-boggling five interceptions.
That aggressiveness has been a hallmark of the Seahawks’ ball-hawking defense, one that critics and admirers alike — including Gilbride — say often skirts the rules with little consequence from officials.
“If you think they’re going to be called (for defensive holding or pass interference) and expect that to be the solution to the problem, you’re going to be sadly mistaken,” Gilbride told the Wall Street Journal recently, adding that the Seahawks could be called for pass interference on nearly every play. “They’ve perfected the art.”
Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy said Seattle’s secondary “just don’t seem to care about the rules,” and former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira thinks the Seahawks are taking advantage of the officials’ inconsistently when it comes to throwing flags.
“They look at it and say, ‘We may get called for one but not 10,'” Pereria noted.
I believe the Packers are definitely capable of winning this game, but they need Rodgers to be able to move better than he did last week.
They also need to block well and get Lacy + Starks 30 carries combined.
It’s very important to get the quick Randall Cobb isolated on Richard Sherman, in my opinion. Sherman is great, and especially great competing up high for high balls, deep balls. If he has a weakness, and he does, it’s his quickness. He’s 6-3, tall and lean. A long strider, fast. He’s not a little 5-8 quick, low to the ground guy. That’s where Cobb has an advantage. Sherman is also very intelligent. He will grab if beaten.
Coach McCarthy and the whole team need to pressure the officials to CALL IT PER THE RULES. That means NO HOLDING of receivers. It also means no route-redirecting, bumping, beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. If they can get the zebra’s to call the penalties early, as they did against New England on Brandon Browner, then it will give Cobb the space he needs to eat up the Seahawks. I can see him having a huge game, something like 10-12 catches. Seattle doesn’t miss many tackles, so I don’t see a ton of yards. But if he’s feasting on the defense for 8-15 yard games, it will move the safety his way, and allow a chance for Jordy Nelson to hit them deep on the other side against Byron Maxwell.
The Packers defense has to tackle Marshawn Lynch in his ACL area, his knees, as the Redskins did to Adrian Peterson in 2011. Lynch doesn’t want to go down being hit high, he bounces off and breaks more tackles than anyone. I cannot confirm that he applies silicone to his jersey and pants, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Regardless, DB’s must tackle him, hard, in his thighs and knees.
I just don’t see everything going right as planned. I see the same lazy/incompetent officiating from the refs, allowing Seattle to get away with their molesting Packer receivers.
And I see Seattle’s pass rush getting to Rodgers too often, making him look bad as he did at Seattle in week one, as he did at Detroit in week three, as he did at Buffalo in week 15, the loss that cost the Packers the #1 seed and making this game be in Seattle, not at Lambeau Field.
I also see the Packers running on first down too often, predictably, and Lacy getting battered down for a lot of no-gains.
The Packers should do everything they can to be unpredictable, go play-action on first down. Run on 2nd & longs, etc. Keep that aggressive defense guessing, and wrong.