In my preview of this game, I said that winning wouldn’t take away the sting of losing the NFC Championship Game. And, while that statement still holds true, it still felt really good. It looked a little dicey for a while (I was convinced the Seahawks had the game won once they took the lead), but, even battling through some injuries, the Packers were able to pull out a victory, and we could all go to sleep happy. Or we could all stay awake with giddy excitement and rewatch old Packers games. Whichever you prefer.
Let’s get to the film. As always, stats and ratings from Pro Football Focus.
Nothing that stood out to me as particularly ugly in this game, so let’s go straight to The Bad.
Packers are in Cover 1 Man Under. Tyler Lockett  is near the bottom, seeming to be uncovered at the line. Casey Hayward  is lined up across from him, but he’s playing off. Lockett runs a simple dig, but Hayward takes an extremely wide turn as Lockett comes out of the break. He’s either playing extremely soft or he thinks Ha Ha Clinton-Dix  is going to pick up Lockett as he crosses the field. Clinton-Dix is in the area, but he does not seem to think he is picking up coverage. Clinton-Dix puts a big hit on Lockett after the catch, but not before Lockett picked up some big yardage.
If I were to guess, I would say Hayward was supposed to be playing tighter coverage.
Once again, we’ll look at a big gain by a Seahawks wide receiver – this time it’s Doug Baldwin  – on Casey Hayward and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Baldwin is running a deep out (second receiver from the top) and Hayward is playing inside coverage. Once again, Hayward appears to pass the receiver off to Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix doesn’t see what’s happening until too late and is too far to the middle of the field to do anything about it. I’m more willing to believe this is on Clinton-Dix than the last play, but it seems like Hayward just kind of loses Baldwin. Not a good look.
Here is the touchdown pass to James Jones  after the Seahawks jumped offside. You can see what the defense looks like in this one, but let’s get a better view of that throw.
How is that possible? The degree of difficulty on that throw is ridiculous. It kind of reminds me of the touchdown to Richard Rodgers in the NFC Divisional game last year, but this one is even harder. He rolls to his left, then unleashes an absolute missile from 31 yards out and completes the pass against one of the best cornerbacks in the game. The crazy thing is that this doesn’t even rank as the best throw of his career. Top five, maybe. My hot take? Aaron Rodgers is good.
Let’s look at a couple plays by B.J. Raji .
This is on the very first series. Raji is in the middle. He immediately gets Drew Nowak  off-balance to blow up the play and brings down Marshawn Lynch  in the backfield.
Once again, Raji is in the middle, and once again he abuses Drew Nowak. He completely collapses the middle, forcing Lynch to the outside and into the arms of pretty much the entire Packers defense. Mike Pennel  was credited with the tackle here, but it was Raji who dictated where the play would go.
In my article last week, I talked about how good the defense could be if this version of Raji showed up every week. He’s currently two-for-two. I have very high hopes for him this season.
Since we’re on the topic of defensive line play, I wanted to take a look at this play. Look at what the Packers are doing pre-snap. They’re leaving a huge hole in the middle of the field. You can tell that’s where Marshawn Lynch is looking at going. At the snap, Mike Daniels  absolutely destroys Russell Okung . Daniels pretty much single-handedly takes away the middle of the line as an option for Lynch. So Lynch is forced to go to the outside, where Nick Perry  is waiting for him.
There’s something else I want to point out about this play. Even if Daniels doesn’t make this play, it wouldn’t necessarily be a big play. Julius Peppers  took away the other side of the line. If Lynch hit the middle, Clinton-Dix would be there to meet him. Granted, counting on Clinton-Dix to tackle Lynch in the hole is a dicey proposition, but stranger things have happened. My point is the Packers had their bases covered on this play, even if Daniels didn’t embarrass Okung on national television.
Last look at the defensive line. This is Jayrone Elliott’s  interception in the 4th quarter. This was a huge play. He starts this play on the left side. Watch him read this screen. He gets a push upfield, sees the play developing and simply steps in the throwing lane. Russell Wilson  doesn’t give this play away. He looks in the opposite direction, then looks back to Lynch at the last minute. So this wasn’t an example of Elliott reading the quarterback’s eyes. This was Elliott seeing the screen developing and making a play. It’s an extremely smart play by a young player, and a great athletic play. I could watch this play for hours.
One last look at the defense. The play itself was relatively uneventful: it was a pass directed at Luke Willson  who slipped out of the break and fell down. Clay Matthews  was in coverage. But Matthews wouldn’t even have been in position to cover Willson if it wasn’t for Micah Hyde  pointing it out to him pre-snap.
Before the snap, you can see Hyde running over to Matthews (right side) and pointing him back to Willson. Great recognition by Hyde.
Let’s get to the offense. Before looking at any big play, let’s all just thank Josh Sitton  for saving the life of James Starks.
Starks was stopped when Bobby Wagner  decided that he should come in late and see if he could break a grown man’s back. Thankfully Sitton came in and knocked Wagner back, or we may well have seen what it looks like when a man’s spine snaps and comes through his chest. I’ve seen Alien a lot of times, so I could probably guess what it looks like. Still, thank you Josh Sitton.
This is the touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers . He starts second from the bottom. Aaron Rodgers is flushed from the pocket and Richard Rodgers has to improvise. He never stops fighting and eventually finds enough space for Aaron Rodgers to find him.
Just for fun, let’s watch this throw and catch on the subsequent two-point conversion.
I told many people before the season that Richard Rodgers was going to have a very big year. Looking good so far. He’s not really quick, but he’s big, strong and has great hands. Keep it up, bruv.
Speaking of young players I’m madly in love with…
I’ve made no secret of my love for Randall Cobb  and Ty Montgomery . This play here shows why I love them both. Cobb starts off in the backfield – a move I wholeheartedly support – while Montgomery starts near the bottom of the screen. Cobb catches a pass and makes a man miss. Then the real fun begins. Montgomery is running a drag route, so he ends up on Cobb’s side of the field by the time Cobb slips the tackle. Montgomery immediately heads over to help Cobb. Cobb sees this and takes a step back in order to create some space between himself and Wagner and give Montgomery some time to get there. Cobb sets up a block for a wide receiver that is behind him. That’s incredible. Cobb’s patience and vision is rewarded by Montgomery blocking both Wagner and Richard Sherman . Thanks to Montgomery’s block and Cobb’s patience, Cobb gained an extra 10-15 yards.
– The highest rated offensive player was Aaron Rodgers (2.9). He eluded pressure all night and made some huge throws.
– The lowest rated offensive player was Don Barclay (-10.8). Pass rushers facing him racked up a ludicrous 10 QB hurries.
– There is a tie for highest rated defensive player. Jayrone Elliott, Datone Jones and B.J. Raji all came in with a rating of 2.3. Raji was a monster and made a huge impact in the middle of the line, at times collapsing it all by himself. He accounted for 3 QB hurries and 3 tackles. Datone Jones wreaked havoc in the backfield, accounting for 1 QB hit and 1 QB hurry. But it was Elliott who made the biggest splash play, perfectly reading a screen pass and nabbing an interception (he also forced the fumble that ended the game).
Here’s the ridiculous thing. Pro Football Focus’ rating system currently exists as a counting stat, for lack of a better term. Each player is graded on a snap-by-snap basis, so someone who played a good game with 70 snaps is likely to rate much better than someone who played a good game with 20 snaps. Here are the snap counts for these three:
B.J. Raji: 42
Datone Jones: 15
Jayrone Elliott: 9
That takes nothing away from Raji, but shows just how much of a difference Jones and Elliott made in their limited time.
– The lowest rated defensive player was Nate Palmer (-3.0). I actually thought he looked decent, but I think I just have extremely low expectations out of inside linebackers.
Although this was pretty ugly:
– Damarious Randall was on the field for 14 snaps. He was thrown at once and he broke up the pass. It’s early, but I really like him.
– Casey Hayward had a pretty bad day. When targeting Hayward, Russell Wilson went 4/5 for 69 yards and a touchdown, for a QB rating of 158.3. He looks really slow to react on wide receiver’s breaks, as we saw above.
– When throwing to Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers was 8/10 for 116 yards, for a QB rating of 115.0.
– After the early injury to Eddie Lacy, James Starks stepped up in a big way. Against a good defense, Starks carried the ball 20 times for 95 yards (4.75 yards per carry). He had one fumble, but, other than that, he looked really good. He has good vision and patience. He has a quick cut to the hole, is elusive and pretty hard to bring down. He’ll never supplant Lacy, but it’s good to know Starks can still make a big impact on a game when called upon.
Here’s an example of Starks’ vision and elusiveness.
– Davante Adams is not as elusive as he seems to think he is. On a couple different occasions he found himself walled off by defenders, and his move was to go backwards, create space and get away from his pursuers. This did not work, because Adams’ game is not built on speed. Just put your shoulder down and get what you can.
– The Packers drafted Aaron Ripkowski this past year. The thought by many was that he was going to become John Kuhn’s replacement. “It’s 2015. There’s no way the Packers will keep two fullbacks on the roster, right?” Well, they did. So far, Ripkowski has been a good player on special teams but has not sniffed a snap on offense. As for Kuhn, through two games he has tallied a grand total of 16 snaps and 0 carries. After Lacy got injured in this game, Richard Rodgers saw more time in the backfield than Kuhn did. So I ask: what’s the point of keeping two fullbacks on the roster if you barely even use one of them?
– Tim Masthay had an average punt distance of 46.3 yards in this game. It was his best average since week 7 last season against Carolina. Maybe he’s on his way back up?
– Jimmy Graham was targeted twice. He caught one pass for 11 yards. When I rewatched this game, I kept an eye on him to see if the defense was doing any particular to take him away as an option in the passing game. As it turns out, they didn’t really do anything special. There were times when the safety would shade in his direction, but most of the time he was one-on-one with a safety (Micah Hyde, Sean Richardson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), cornerback (Casey Hayward) or linebacker (Nate Palmer and Clay Matthews). He just wasn’t creating much space. There were a few times when he was open short, only to have Russell Wilson tuck the ball and run.
One other thing I found interesting about Graham: I didn’t count how many snaps he took at each position, but he seemed to spend the bulk of his time lining up as a traditional tight end. When the Saints wanted to slap him with the franchise tag, he fought for wide receiver money, as he lined-up roughly 2/3 of the time as a wide receiver. Not so in this game. When I looked for him pre-snap, he could normally be found at the end of the line, many times with a hand on the ground. He ran a lot of routes where he came off the line, deked a block to the inside, then ran a route to the outside. Only no one bought the deke, because Jimmy Graham is not known for his blocking prowess.
I didn’t watch the Seahawks’ Week 1 game too closely, but, if they used him the same way in that game, it could be why his numbers don’t look great at this point in the season. It’s worth keeping an eye on.
– Speaking of bad things the Seahawks did, what was with their final drive? They got the ball back down 10 with no timeouts. Instead of running a lot of deep and/or sideline routes, they threw a lot of passes to the middle of the field, or Wilson scrambled to the middle. It was bizarre. In a little less than 2 minutes, they ran 6 plays and the only one that stopped the clock was a spike with 33 seconds left.
Albums listened to: Ryan Adams – 1989; Drake & Future – What A Time To Be Alive; Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon; Stereophonics – Keep the Village Alive; Night Terrors of 1927 – Everything’s Coming Up Roses