GREEN BAY—Physical, in-your-face defense against up-tempo, here-we-come-again offense.
That’s the crux of Seattle vs. Green Bay in the NFL Kickoff Opener on Thursday night, and it won’t be about one team forcing the other out of its game plan. It’ll be about which strength is stronger.
“They play a physical-type defense. That’s the way they are,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We’re going to do what we do best, and that’s our no-huddle. Speed the tempo up and try to be successful.”
The Packers aren’t naïve to the fact that the no-huddle is what Peyton Manning and the Broncos brought into the Super Bowl last February and got whipped. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers volunteered that knowledge when speaking with reporters on Sunday, noting he was in attendance at MetLife Stadium that night.
Rodgers’ spoke of the Seahawks’ confidence and “swagger,” and the ultra-loud CenturyLink Field crowd that will be on their side.
So what makes the Packers think they can be more successful than the Broncos were, or than 16 of the last 17 opponents who have visited Seattle since Green Bay’s last trip there two years ago?
Two things. Precision and balance.
The former starts with Rodgers, who puts completion percentage and ball security at a high premium normally. This week those items are heightened in importance.
“When you play a defense like this, it’s about very tight execution and not turning the football over,” Rodgers said. “This defense thrives on turnovers and getting after you and hitting you and getting you off your spot.
“You have to make accurate throws, and the windows are even tighter with the amount of ground they can cover.”
As for balance, Green Bay’s ground game is more formidable than it’s ever been in the Mike McCarthy era, with Eddie Lacy and James Starks as the 1-2 punch.
Somewhat forgotten in the aftermath of the “Fail Mary” fiasco in Seattle two years ago was that Rodgers was sacked by the Seahawks eight times in the first half of that Monday night contest. Only when the offense turned to running back Cedric Benson to grind out some tough yards did the Packers come alive and take a fourth-quarter lead.
Rodgers went out of his way Sunday to praise Starks for how far he’s come since last summer, knowing his role and providing a second option after Lacy that doesn’t slow the offense down.
“Going into a season, this is best we’ve felt,” Nelson said of the running game. “The depth that’s there, skill that’s there, the continuity up front what they’re doing. It’s great to have it.
“Every team wants to be balanced, and I don’t think you could be more balanced than we were last year.”
The wild card in this matchup could be the league’s officiating emphasis on illegal contact and pass interference penalties. Calls were way up in the preseason.
How that impacts the physical style of Seattle’s secondary will be watched closely. The Seahawks have said all along they won’t change the way they play, and the Packers certainly don’t expect them to.
Nelson said he’d be “shocked” if there are as many downfield contact penalties on Thursday as there were in the preseason games. He and his receiving mates are going into the game prepared for physical opposition rather than hoping for officiating help.
“I’ve never gone into a game saying, ‘Hey, they have a bunch of penalties and we’re going to rely on them having more penalties so we’re successful,’” McCarthy said. “That’s not a mindset we participate in.”
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - AUG. 31