Defense Steals the Show in Pack's OpenerPosted:Sep 11th, 2017 2:33 pm
As Packer fans, there are few things more satisfying than a win over the Seahawks. Now, it is exponentially more gratifying if it comes in January, but the Pack's season opening 17-9 over Seattle guarantees that these teams finish with the same record, a potential rematch will take place at Lambeau. And we all know how important that would be.
From my perch high in the south end zone, I didn't have the benefit of TV replays, so I didn't get a look at what happened after Rogers' first half interception that looked like it might become just his second career pick six. Judging from my Twitter feed, the calls that moved the ball back to midfield were highly questionable. Oh, well. It's about time the Pack benefited from a big call against the Sea Chickens.
Bottom line, we all know the better this defense plays, the better chance this team plays deep into January, or dare we dream, February. This performance by Dom Capers' unit should give us plenty of hope. Led by Mike Daniels, the Pack controlled things from the start, allowing just 225 yards and 12 first downs--and most importantly, they kept the Seahawks out of the end zone.
It's always dangerous to read too much into season openers. Most teams' starters haven't played a snap in two weeks, they haven't done a lot of live tackling in training camp and preseason games, so a team's Week 1 performance should always be taken with a grain of salt: it's not always a harbinger of how the season will unfold. Defense tends to be ahead of offense to start the season, and that was certainly the case in this one.
That said, the Pack's defense showed more team speed than we've seen in the past and did a great job tackling--two things we didn't see much of last year. The Seahawks' offensive line continues to be its Achilles heel and the absence of running back Thomas Rawls hurt that unit's cause, but take nothing away from the Pack's defense. Daniels was a beast from the opening staff and filled the stat sheet all afternoon: seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 QB hits, and the biggest play of the game, the forced fumble that led to the Pack's first points of the season. Nick Perry was also explosive and kept Russell Wilson on the run and uncomfortable all afternoon.
The offense got off to a decent start, as Mike McCarthy called seven pass plays to open the game. The Seahawks' defense is the best the Pack will face all season and they were up to the challenge, making big plays to snuff out drives. Bryan Bulaga's absence didn't seem to affect McCarthy's gameplan in the first half, as he seemed to leave replacement Kyle Murphy alone to fend for himself. The result was a couple of first half sacks.
In the second half, Murphy got a little help, and seemed more comfortable and overall, held his own against what has to be the most intimidating defense a player could face in his first career start.
Now, let's take a moment to discuss what happened at the end of the first half. I know I wasn't the only one who pulled my few remaining hairs out when McCarthy used his second timeout in the final minute, with the thought that stops on second and third down could give the offense one last chance to put some points on the board. The problem was, he had already wasted his first time out after Seattle's first play from scrimmage, screaming that Wilson should have been called for intentional grounding. With just two left, there was no mathematical chance for the Packers' offense to get the ball back. We all know what happened next. The Seahawks convert, grab momentum and wind up putting three points on the board heading into halftime.
Mike, your defense has dominated, Seattle was content to run out the clock, you're getting the ball to start the second half...r-e-l-a-x. It feels like this strategy backfires nine times out of ten.
Outside of that fiasco, the game went about as perfectly as we could have hoped. Ty Montgomery found a bit of a rhythm and ran hard in the second half. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson made big catches all afternoon, and new tight end Martellus Bennett, despite a boneheaded penalty, had a big catch and run on the final series as the Pack ran the clock out to preserve their eight point win.
Just as important, on a day where a number of big offensive weapons were lost for the season, or a big chunk of the season, the Packers didn't appear to suffer any significant injuries as they prepare for their NFC title game rematch in Atlanta next Sunday night.
That will be the next big test for this defense. On this day, they showed they have taken one small step forward. Next Sunday we'll know if it's one giant leap.