Desperate for a win after back-to-back losses, the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t have visualized a worse start than the one they endured to open Thursday’s crucial matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
At the time, nobody in Seattle was flush with optimism that the Seahawks would manage to outlast the Packers, 27-24.
On the very first play of the game, Seahawks running back Chris Carson fumbled after Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked the football out with his helmet, giving the visiting team incredible starting field position. Three plays later, running back Aaron Jones raced around the right edge on a pitch to give Green Bay an early 7-0 edge.
Shortly thereafter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson airmailed a wide-open Doug Baldwin in the end zone and Seattle had to settle for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers followed up by unloading a spectacular 54-yard touchdown throwing across his body to reserve tight end Robert Tonyan, extending the Packers lead to 14-3 with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
“We had to turn it around…” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll bluntly said after the game. “We were not getting the stops that we needed early on. We were upset about that.”
As Carroll’s squad has done all season, however, the resilient Seahawks clawed back from the mistake-riddled opening quarter, briefly taking a 17-14 lead courtesy of a Wilson touchdown pass to Baldwin and a one-yard plunge by Carson. Despite the disastrous start, Seattle somehow went into halftime trailing by only four points.
Fortunate to be in such a promising situation given the circumstances, the coaching staff pushed all of the right buttons making adjustments defensively after Rodgers diced Seattle up with 214 passing yards and two touchdowns on only 12 completions during the first 30 minutes of action.
Once the Seahawks emerged from the tunnel for the second half, an inspired performance from a beleaguered defensive front helped shift momentum back towards the home team’s favor. Unable to get Rodgers to the ground at all during the first two quarters with a Frank Clark sack the only exception, the front four set up shop in the backfield during the final two quarters, sacking the All-Pro quarterback four times.
“I was really fired up about that because we know these guys are hard to sack and it’s hard to get to Aaron- he just doesn’t let you have him.” Carroll said about Seattle’s awakened pass rush. “But it was a lot of guys working at it, a lot of four-man rushes… That’s really good.”
Leading the onslaught, Clark continued his career year and increased his season total to 10 sacks after getting to Rodgers twice off the edge. Carroll was also thrilled by Jarran Reed’s impressive outing, though he was baffled that the third-year tackle was only credited with half a sack in the game.
“I don’t know if that’s right. We’ll be fighting for whatever is right there.” Carroll said when asked about Reed’s impact as a pass rusher. “But he had a really good game. He was involved in a lot of those hits.”
With pressure from Clark, Reed, and the rest of the front line hitting home frequently, the Seahawks forced Rodgers and the Packers to punt on five of their six second half possessions. And the pass rush came through in the clutch on Green Bay’s lone scoring drive in the half, as Rasheem Green’s first NFL sack forced the Packers to settle for a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
By limiting Green Bay to only three second half points, Seattle’s defense created yet another opportunity for Wilson to orchestrate a game-winning drive. After failing to finish the job the past two weeks in similar situations, he capitalized by hitting tight end Ed Dickson down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown to give his team their first lead of the second half.
Though Rodgers and the Packers would get another shot, Carroll’s defense refused to be denied, forcing a quick three-and-out and paving the way for Seattle’s four-minute offense to bleed out the rest of the clock for a signature win.
“It’s great to see the finish take place. We talk about how we strive to finish and we live for that.” center Justin Britt said. “Finish the moment. It feels good to have the big guys up front ending with the ball and not making the defense go back out there.”
Finally able to finish after struggling to close out several eventual losses this season, the Seahawks still face a long road to make the postseason. But as Carroll preached after last week’s defeat in Los Angeles, there’s still plenty of time for his team to reel off a bunch of wins and the ability to seal the deal in a must-win matchup with the Packers could set a playoff run in motion