Packers vs. Seahawks: 10 Keys to the Game for Green Bay
Coming off a win over the division rival Chicago Bears last Thursday evening, the Green Bay Packers should have their confidence back to where it was when the season began, before a season-opening loss.
Playing on the road will make things no easier on the Packers as they have to visit Seattle's CenturyLink Field, home of the "12th Man," which makes it one of the loudest outdoor venues in the NFL.
Doing these 10 things will help Green Bay in its quest to beat Seattle and get above the .500 mark...
Generate a Pass Rush Outside of Clay Matthews
If the Seahawks hadn't decided to make Clay Matthews a focal point point of their game plan going into the game against the Packers, then Matthews' performance in Weeks 1 and 2 of the season probably cemented it.
With 2.5 sacks versus the 49ers and 3.5 while facing the Bears, Matthews already has six sacks on the season, which has matched his total from all of last year.
The Seahawks will certainly devote extra blockers to Matthews, whether it be with multiple offensive linemen or chipping in with tight ends and running backs.
That means the Packers have to apply pressure elsewhere, which they did a good job of doing against the Bears, as Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, D.J. Smith and Erik Walden all got to the quarterback at one time or another.
Whether the pass rush comes from the defensive line, a blitzing linebacker or someone from the secondary doesn't really matter.
The Packers just need someone to get home.
Make Russell Wilson Uncomfortable
The Packers have done a pretty darn good job of making life miserable for opposing rookie quarterbacks under defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
They'll be facing another one when they meet Russell Wilson in a highly publicized matchup on a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. That alone will put pressure on Wilson, but the Packers must do their part too.
Aside from putting a pass rush on Wilson, the Packers must put him in situations and circumstances that are unfavorable to any quarterback, let alone a rookie.
That starts by stuffing the Seahawks run game, including running backs Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.
By stuffing the run, the Packers will put the Seahawks in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations, which will force Wilson to stay in the pocket longer and make it that much tougher for him to convert first downs.
In a nutshell, it's just as important for the Packers to stop the Seahawks ground game as it is to stop Wilson himself, because Wilson will find the sledding that much more difficult when Seattle's success hinges on his play.
Show That Defensive Effort Versus Bears Wasn't a Fluke
The Packers' defensive effort against the Bears in Week 2 was to proportions not seen in Green Bay in quite some time.
Expecting the Packers to have that same level of success week in and week out would be unrealistic, but expecting a better defensive performance than they gave in 2011 is not.
The Packers allowed the most yards in the NFL last season and the most passing yards in the history of the league, stats that can't become trends if Green Bay wants to improve in 2012.
All the Packers have to do is get a few sacks, make some third-down stops and force a turnover or two to beat the Seahawks and pretty much every other opponent on their schedule.
That will help them to win the turnover battle and, in turn, games.
Complete High-Percentage Passes
The Packers offense has yet to find the same level of efficiency with which it operated last year, when it was one of the most potent in the NFL.
Through two games, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put up numbers that have been pedestrian due to a variety of factors.
NFL defenses are starting to figure out how to stop the Packers, and it looks like the response is to play coverage instead of blitzing and to keep a couple safeties back deep in Cover 2 looks in an effort to prevent the deep ball.
The big difference that I saw was that [Rodgers'] yards per completion is a bit lower. It was 13.3 last year, and it's down to 10.0 this year. So I think the big thing is that Aaron Rodgers isn't trying as many longer passes, because last year about one in every three passes, he had the ball in the air at least 10 yards, and now that's down to one in every five passes.
Rodgers and the rest of the Packers offense will have to take what the defense gives them by completing the underneath routes and connecting on them at a high rate.
It will take a total team effort, from Rodgers being accurate and hitting his checkdown routes when the deep ball's not open to players like Jermichael Finley and James Jones not dropping the football as they've been prone to do.
Facing a Cover 2 defense is not a death sentence. The Packers simply have to be patient and know they're going to have to sustain some drives to beat the Seattle defense.
Boost Marshall Newhouse's Confidence
Marshall Newhouse got off to a surprisingly solid start against the 49ers in Week 1 by holding up well against the combination of Justin Smith and Aldon Smith and generally keeping Aaron Rodgers off the ground.
Then a regression appeared to happen in Week 2, when Newhouse gave up pressure to Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin.
It wasn't all bad for Newhouse in Week 2. The Packers had success running the football, including to the left side of the offensive line, after not running that direction at all versus the 49ers.
Still, Newhouse could stand to regain some confidence. Most of the burden falls on Newhouse's own shoulders to help himself, and some of it, on those around him.
"The Seahawks have Chris Clemons at right defensive end who's averaging six pressures a game, so that's going to be difficult for Marshall Newhouse," said Jahnke (via CheeseheadTV.com).
Clemons has developed into one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, and Newhouse will have his hands full. There are going to be times when Newhouse will have to handle him one on one, but it would behoove the coaching staff to give the Packers left tackle some help once in a while, too.
Prove Signing Benson Was Right and Trading for Lynch Wasn't
Recall October of 2010 when the Packers made a play for former Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch.
"(Packers general manager Ted) Thompson went after Lynch," wrote Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "He offered a fourth-round draft pick, but Seattle did the same."
The Packers would bid no higher, refusing to offer as much as a third-round draft choice.
Things would seem to have worked out well for both the Packers and the Seahawks, as Green Bay went on to win the Super Bowl that season and Lynch would go on to rush for over 1,200 yards in Seattle last year.
Two years later, the Packers were still in the market for a running back and went out and signed Cedric Benson as a street free agent. Benson was signed to the NFL minimum and didn't cost the Packers a mid-round draft choice.
Now that they are playing head-to-head, it's an opportunity to draw comparisons between Benson and Lynch, and the Packers will want to prove they made the correct choice by waiting and signing the former Bengals running back.
The Packers don't need a 100-yard game from Benson to win. They'll be more than happy if they get a repeat performance from Week 2, when Benson averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry and had four receptions to help Green Bay grind out a victory.
Get Continued Good Play from Rookies
After getting a whole lot of nothing from their rookie class in Week 1, the Packers got a major contribution from their first-year players in Week 2.
Defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels notched their first career sacks, safety Jerron McMillian nabbed his first career interception, and Casey Hayward held his own in the dime package.
Those performances went a long way towards the Packers defense dominating the Bears offense and Green Bay getting a tally in the win column.
In order to beat the Seahawks in a hostile environment, the Packers could certainly use another solid showing from those rookies.
And it would be even nicer if linebackers Nick Perry and Dezman Moses would join their cohorts on the defensive line and in the secondary as players making big impacts.
Get Randall Cobb His Touches
In Week 2, when Randall Cobb had only one rush and a single catch, the Packers certainly proved they don't have feed him 10-plus times per game on offense in order to win.
But the Packers also found out just how dangerous Cobb could be in the opening game, when he lined up all over the field and caught seven passes.
Whether he lines up at running back or wide receiver or goes in motion from one to the other doesn't matter.
The Packers just need to get the ball in his hands, because he's so explosive.
Not only is Cobb a threat with the ball in his hands, but by getting him the ball on underneath routes and on swing passes out of the backfield, the Packers offense can help expose the soft underbelly of the Cover 2 defense, should the Seahawks employ such a look.
Once the Packers give Cobb the football a couple of times early in the game, it could have the side effect of drawing attention from the Seahawks defense. And that will only help to open up Jermichael Finley down the seam or the rest of the wide receivers deep.
Maintain the Status Quo on Special Teams
Special teams has been a strength for the Packers two games into the 2012 season.
Randall Cobb has a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. Mason Crosby has a 54-yard field goal. Tim Masthay has a league-leading seven punts downed inside the 20. And Tom Crabtree's 27-yard touchdown on a fake field goal on 4th-and-26 beats them all in terms of generating excitement.
Seattle has a solid special-teams unit of its own, which features former Packers punter Jon Ryan.
The Packers just have to keep the momentum going and not change anything. Special teams has been one of the biggest positives Green Bay has going for itself at this early point in the season, and coordinator Shawn Slocum won't want that to change.
Involve Greg Jennings in the Offense If Available
The past few weeks haven't been easy on wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Starting with a concussion that forced him to miss multiple preseason games, continuing with a groin injury that prevented him from playing last week against the Bears and culminating in speculation about his future in Green Bay, Jennings has been in the subject of attention for everything but his play on the field.
Even though he was held out of practice on Thursday and head coach Mike McCarthy said he wasn't as far along in his progress as the team would have hoped (via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), there are still several days until the Packers play on Monday. And if Jennings participates, it's time they get him involved in the passing game once again.
Even though Jennings played in the season opener against the 49ers, his contributions were limited to 34 yards on five catches and getting nowhere near the end zone.
Jennings doesn't need to lead the team in catches or receiving yards in order to be effective, but making him a bigger part of the offense will benefit the Packers in more ways than one.
For one, he's dangerous with the ball in his hands and is a threat to score on almost any reception. And two, the more attention Jennings receives, the better.
He'll only help to open up more opportunities for his teammates.
Brian Carriveau is a Green Bay Packers Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Unless cited otherwise, quotations were gathered first-hand.
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