Wednesday is my favorite day of the week during the pro football season. It’s when the discussion shifts from the last game to the next game, which in the Seattle Seahawks’ case means moving on from all that went wrong inside the NFL’s least stimulating stadium to anticipating all that awaits inside the NFL’s most electrifying stadium.
Call it a Lambeau Leap.
For a few hours following Marshawn Lynch’s final carry in St. Louis, where he was swarmed on a play call Delisa Lynch second-guessed with the wrath of a mad mother, Seattle’s Week 2 date in Green Bay, Wisconsin, appeared treacherous. Between the revenge factor lingering from last season’s NFC Championship Game and the cold-blooded efficiency of peerless Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Seahawks’ first 0-2 start since 2010 seems inevitable.
Upon further review, I notice how the Packers were less than dominant in their opener Sunday at Chicago. Green Bay ended up winning — Rodgers is Rodgers, after all, and the Bears, well, are the Bears — but the Packers were forced to rally from a 13-10 halftime deficit because of their defense.
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Specifically, their run defense, which gave up 189 yards in the 31-23 victory.
“That doesn’t cut it,” said coach Mike McCarthy, noting that the number of missed tackles against the Bears was into “double digits” — a slight exaggeration, but for a stickler like McCarthy, one missed tackle is too many.
“We need to do a better job there,” he said.
The Packers need to do a better job, but can they? Starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington, a key component of their run defense, suffered a season-ending foot injury Sunday. The status of strong safety Morgan Burnett is in doubt for the game against the Seahawks — he sat out the opener with a calf ailment — and defensive tackle Letroy Guion is serving a three-game suspension.
Even at full strength, the Packers’ run defense would figure to have trouble stopping the Seahawks, who rushed for 207 yards in the 2014 opener at CenturyLink Field and an additional 194 yards in the NFC title rematch.
Which brings us to Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, a familiar target of Hawks fans long before he drew up Heartbreak Pass in Super Bowl 49. And though Bevell wasn’t among the linemen responsible for allowing the Rams to ambush Lynch on the doomed fourth-and-inches handoff last Sunday, when game-deciding plays turn into spectacular failures the guy who calls the plays is held accountable.
Preceding the dubious decision to put quarterback Russell Wilson in a shotgun formation on fourth-and-short, Bevell’s game plan found Wilson attempting a career-high 41 passes against the Rams. Granted, 32 of those passes were completions — also a career-high — but the Seahawks are not built to throw 41 passes in any game.
The offensive line is a piecemeal collection of Tom Cable projects adjusting to position conversions. It can work — it has worked before — but pass protection requires a cohesion that can only be achieved through repetition.
Attacking a line playing together for the first time in an actual game, it’s no wonder the Rams sacked Wilson six times. The wonder is that they didn’t sack him 15 or 20 times.
Run blocking is not as nuanced a skill as pass blocking. Run blocking is more about desire and tenacity than balance and footwork.
And yet, Wilson threw 41 passes in St. Louis, which is 18 more passes than Rodgers threw in Chicago. What’s that about?
I get how football has evolved since the 1972 Miami Dolphins achieved a perfect record with a 14-7 victory over Washington in the Super Bowl. Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese went 8 for 11 that day for 69 yards. Miami rolled up 12 first downs.
It’s a different era, with different rules implemented to enable The Greatest Team of All Time to record more than 12 first downs on the brightest stage there is.
But enough with the empty-backfield schemes and shotgun formations on fourth-and-inches. Enough with making 41 pass attempts behind a young and raw offensive line ill-equipped to protect the quarterback 41 times.
The Packers have some unfinished business to settle Sunday, and the forecast in Green Bay is calling for the fever pitch at Lambeau Field to be at an all-time high, which is saying something. But the Packers also are banged up on defense — already — and Darrell Bevell’s game plan should be filed under the title “Lady Madonna.”
Same as the verse of the Beatles song. All together now:
See how they run.