Last night, NFL fans all around the globe rejoiced as the 2014 NFL season officially kicked off in Seattle, Washington. Unfortunately for most fans of the game, what was expected to be a close hard fought match turned into a bit of a sleeper by the 3rd quarter, as the Seahawks absolutely manhandled the Packers.
Or did they?
First let’s look at the national headlines to understand the consensus across major media:
ESPN: "Seahawks pound Packers in opener."
NFL.com: "Seahawks offense leads way in victory over Packers."
CBS Sports: "Seahawks thrash Packers to open NFL season."
So by observation alone, it appears the Seahawks offense dismantled the Packers defense in a rout. Looking at raw numbers, one can draw this conclusion easily: Marshawn Lynch ran for over 100 yards with 2 TD’s, Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes, and the offense of the Seahawks drummed up 398 yards of total offense. Not too shabby. But taking a closer look at this game, it appears the biggest factor was the Green Bay Packers administering the Plaxico Burress treatment, better known as shooting themselves in the foot (rim shot!).
PENALTIES. Let’s state the obvious first- every team will have penalties in nearly ever NFL game. This game is no different from the rest, seeing both teams pile up penalty yards (SEA-69 yards, GB- 65 yards). What needs to be pointed out however, is both the timing and results of the Green Bay penalties. Of their 7 total penalties, 3 of them allowed the Seahawks to prolong otherwise short drives, and instead of punting, resulted in a combined 17 points. Here’s a quick breakdown of those 3 penalties:
*1st Quarter- SEA 4th and 2 back to punt. GB penalty- Running into the Kicker. Automatic 1st down. RESULT OF DRIVE: Hauschka 35 yard FG.
*2nd Quarter- SEA 2nd and 10 at GB 46. Percy Harvin dropped for a loss at midfield. GB penalty- Offsides (Peppers). 3rd and 12 becomes 2nd and 5. RESULT OF DRIVE: Lynch 9 yard TD run.
*4th Quarter- SEA 3rd and 6. Wilson pass incomplete. GB penalty- Defensive holding (B. Jones). Automatic 1st down. RESULT OF DRIVE: Wilson to Coleman for 15 yard TD.
2 of these 3 penalties directly effected a drive. Running into the kicker turned an ensuing Packers possession into 3 points, and the 4th quarter ‘3 and out’ turned into 7 points. I realize the penalty in the 2nd is a bit of a stretch, but putting a team at 3rd and 12 carries a much lower success rate than 2nd and 5 and provided an extra down, not to mention the fact that anything shy of that 1st down on 3rd and 12 still resulted in a punt as Seattle was too far out to attempt to put any points on the board. 3 penalties resulting in 17 Seattle points.
OFFENSIVE MISCUES. Just like penalties, every NFL team will have offensive miscues, whether it be holding penalties, fumbles, interceptions, so on and so forth. In this particular game, Aaron Rodgers is the culprit (or Jordy Nelson and Derrick Sherrod if you want to be a Rodgers apologist). 2 key miscues by Rodgers directly resulted in 5 Seattle points. Here’s the break down:
*3rd Quarter- GB 1st and 10 at GB 14. Aaron Rodgers INT (Maxwell) returned to GB 8. RESULT OF DRIVE: Hauschka 20 yard FG.
*3rd Quarter- GB 1st and 10 at GB 10. Aaron Rodgers sacked/fumbled at GB 3. Recovered in end zone by GB. RESULT OF DRIVE: SAFETY
I know the drill here: Aaron Rodgers apologists will say Jordy Nelson should have caught that ball and that his deflection put the ball in Maxwell’s hands, or that backup RT Derrick Sherrod (replacing the injured Brian Bulaga) got easily wiped out by Michael Bennett. And that’s fine if you want to take that route. But in my eyes, Rodgers led Jordy too much and Rodgers should have had better vision of a DT coming off his right side, as well as better protection of the football on that fumble. But that’s just my opinion. 2 miscues resulting in 5 Seattle points.
So let’s tally this up here: 3 penalties that continued drives resulting in 17 points, and another 5 points due to offensive miscues. There’s 22 points that Seattle generated due to Green Bay shooting themselves in the foot. And if you truly want to take it a step further, after the safety, Green Bay got flagged with Unsportsmanlike Conduct, which forced the ensuing free kick back to the 10 yard line. Seattle started their next drive at the 50, and was able to drive it home for a touchdown on a short field.
While attributing miscues of the Packers to the final score of this game, let’s not take anything away from the Seahawks. They were able to turn the Packers’ ineptitude into points on a consistent basis, and their defense was able to keep Rodgers & Company in check the entire night. And let’s not forget that Seattle had a major miscue of their own: In the 1st quarter Earl Thomas muffed a punt, which was recovered by Clinton-Dix at the SEA 34, resulting in a Packers touchdown, and keeping the game close (at least for the first half).
At the end of they day, I still think this Seattle Seahawks team will be the one to beat in the West. Easily. But if Green Bay wants another shot at knocking out the defending champs, they will need to play much more disciplined than they did in their first shot this season. And bench LB Brad Jones. Please. Wow is he awful in coverage.