GREEN BAY—The Packers defense is faced with the daunting challenge of stopping the two-headed monster that is the Seahawks running game.
“To me, the difference in defending these guys is you have to be concerned about Russell Wilson on every play. He can make the big play at any time. When you have to account for the quarterback, you aren’t squeezing the run lanes down as hard. That opens up their zone scheme,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Thursday when asked to explain the challenge the Seahawks pose.
The Seahawks rushed for 207 yards in a 36-16, opening-night win over the Packers. Marshawn Lynch pounded out 110 yards on 20 carries and Wilson, the Seahawks’ quarterback, gained 29 yards on seven runs. Lynch and Wilson represent an inside-outside combination that can stresses defenses vertically and horizontally. As the No. 1 rushing team in the league, Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards and Wilson added a difference-making 849 yards.
Therein lies the special challenge the Packers face in trying to stop the Seahawks’ running game: The quarterback is a runner.
“It’s obviously a major challenge. When you have a No. 1 running game, and then the threat of Russell Wilson pulling the ball down and getting out on the perimeter, that opens up the play pass game. When you four-man rush, Wilson knows there’s going to be a seam in there,” Capers said.
Lynch is the No. 1 concern because of his tackle-breaking ability.
“He might be the toughest guy in the league to get down with one guy. We missed too many tackles in the first game. You’ve got to get the second and third guy there,” Capers said. “They don’t get into a lot of third-and-long situations. One of our goals is to get them into third-and-six or more.
“You have to tackle well. You have to play good leverage. You can’t pop out of your gap. And you’ve got to play aggressively. If you’re sitting there waiting, it’s going to be a 5-, 6-yard surge.”
The run sets up the pass for what Capers termed an “underrated” Seahawks receiving corps. It’s led by Doug Baldwin’s 66 catches for 825 yards and three touchdowns.
“People start loading up too much to stop that run, then they become one-on-one matchups on the outside,” Capers said.
Tom Clements’ offensive unit will be up against the No. 1 defense in the league, led by the most physical secondary in football. The big question facing the Packers offense is will the Seahawks use a blitz-heavy scheme against Aaron Rodgers, whose mobility is compromised by a leg injury?
“They’re not a big pressure team; they generate pressure with their up-front people,” Clements said. “They’re a fast team, they swarm to the ball, play very hard.
“We’re ready for whatever it is they do.”
Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum has no doubt prepared his field goal team for Kam Chancellor’s hurdling strategy.
“You don’t see that happen very often. Seattle tried that against us a few years ago with Bruce Irvin. You have to have awareness. It’s really kind of a trick play from a rush standpoint,” Slocum said.
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