In analyzing this year’s season opener between the Packers and Seahawks it’s almost impossible not to think back to Week 3 of 2012 – when these two teams last squared off – ending with one of the more controversial calls in NFL history.
Though there may still exist some bad blood between Mike McCarthy and Pete Carroll’s squads, both teams have experienced significant changes in face over two short years – most notably at the skill positions. In fact, neither player that was involved with the infamous ‘Fail Mary’ – Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings – is with their respective team at present.
The Packers have seen the departures of Jermichael Finley, James Jones and Charles Woodson – and welcomed in running back Eddie Lacy as a big time upgrade over stopgap Cedric Benson. The Seahawks, on the other hand, are now without wide receiver Sidney Rice (retirement) and cornerback Brandon Browner (free agency).
Turnover in personnel shouldn’t drastically change the dynamic of this match, with a still very offensive-minded Packers team going up against a Seattle club that wins games in the trenches. Turnovers of the football, however, could play a critical role in the outcome of tonight’s game. Neither Rodgers nor Wilson threw an interception in the 2012 meeting (well…) and you can expect both offenses to place special emphasis on taking care of the football in game in which field position is of utmost importance.
If the 2012 loss is as fresh in the players’ minds as it is in the fans’ then one can be sure that tackle Bryan Bulaga will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Bulaga was roughed up by Chris Clemons and rookie-at-the-time Bruce Irvin, giving way to eight total sacks on Aaron Rodgers. Second-year tackle David Bakhtiari and rookie center Corey Linsley should also be tested tonight against one of the NFC’s premier front sevens.
Arguably the most crucial component of the Packers’ success on offense appears to be the ability to establish the run game with Lacy. In their last visit with Seattle, the Packers struggled to create any sort of tempo on offense, leading to virtually zero offensive productivity until the final quarter of the game. Fortunately for the Packers, Lacy has the ability to pick up a handful of yards after contact, unlike many of his predecessors in Green Bay.
The Packers under McCarthy tend to play to their opponents (a good thing this week) and rarely allow a prime time game to go uneventful. At the same time, it often takes McCarthy’s teams several weeks to gel and give the appearance of a contender. Few teams stand a chance on the road against the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks in the season opener but I believe that the Packers have a chance to surprise tonight.