It took Seattle's Shaun Alexander less than three full quarters Monday to out-gain the Packers' rushing production (141 yards) in the past three games. It's one thing to struggle against Minnesota and New England's run-stuffing defenses, but Green Bay had no excuse to muster all of 51 yards in 19 carries against the Seahawks' previously run-challenged group.
The blocking remained out of sorts with the Packers forced to start three rookies on the line because of right tackle Mark Tauscher's lingering groin injury. The running game was featured early and often, but Ahman Green managed to slither free only once for a 14-yard burst early in the second quarter. He finished with 44 yards in 14 carries, giving him an anything-but whopping total of 127 yards in the last three outings.
Vernand Morency offered next to nothing (four carries, 8 yards) in reserve for the second straight game, making his 101-yard effort Oct. 29 against Arizona a distant memory.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus
A tale of two halves ended on a bad note for a unit that appeared to have finally put its litany of coverage misdeeds behind it. A defense that had but 14 takeaways in the first 10 games was downright tenacious in forcing four turnovers by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the first half.
Charles Woodson had two of the three interceptions to give him a team-high four. The first came on a pass that caromed off defensive tackle Ryan Pickett's helmet and the second by jumping Deion Branch's short route over the middle.
Al Harris, plagued by drops of would-be picks in recent weeks, ended an eight-game drought for his second interception of the season, skillfully coming off his receiver on the perimeter to slide over and snare a throw to the inside.
The highlight of the can-do-no-wrong half was Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's getting around left tackle Walter Jones to hit Hasselbeck from behind, knocking the ball forward into the awaiting arms of rookie linebacker Abdul Hodge for a 29-yard touchdown return. However, that was the extent of the Packers' pressure of Hasselbeck, who rallied the Seahawks with three touchdown passes in the second half.
With Harris and Woodson holding Branch and Darrell Jackson to a combined six catches for 58 yards, the Seahawks exploited nickel back Patrick Dendy with D.J. Hackett, who had five receptions for 67 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to start the comeback from a 21-12 deficit.
Hodge, in his first pro start, struggled as expected in pass coverage, getting beat by tight end Jerramy Stevens for a two-point conversion and a 3-yard touchdown that sealed the victory. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins had a costly, if questionable late hit of Hasselbeck on a third-down incompletion that ignited the Seahawks' final touchdown drive.
RUSH DEFENSE: F
The only good news is rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk was a tackling demon with a game-high 15. Most of those takedowns came because he was pretty much the last line of defense for Shaun Alexander in his frequent runs to the left side.
Alexander did more than just become the first opposing player this season to reach the 100-yard rushing mark - he had that licked by halftime and rolled up 201 yards in 40 healthy carries. The last time the Packers were gashed by a 200-yard individual performance was Sept. 24, 1989, when the Los Angeles Rams' Greg Bell totaled 221.
A combination of overpursuit on Alexander's stretch plays and terrible tackling on his cutbacks did in a Green Bay defense that surrendered 235 yards on the ground. Its previous season worst was 131 against Philadelphia in Week 4.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus
Season statistics that have suggested that the Packers are generally foolproof in covering kickoff returns are sorely misleading. Just look at the stat line of kicker Dave Rayner, who had a team-high three special teams tackles.
Seattle followed the blueprint of other teams before it, sucking Green Bay's cover guys into the middle of the field and springing Nate Burleson to the outside for an average of 25.8 yards in five returns. A 45-yard runback up the left side - Burleson's second of that distance, though the first was negated some by a holding penalty - set up the Seahawks offense at midfield for their game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
The interior of the Packers line lost containment on Craig Terrill, who got a hand up to block a 28-yard field-goal attempt by Rayner in the second quarter. Jon Ryan was unusually shaky, averaging just 34.8 yards in five punts. Morency averaged only 21.7 yards in seven kickoff returns but showed some burst late in the game with a 35-yard dash.
For the most part, shoddy pass coverage actually wasn't at the root of this defeat. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, though, has to be taken to task again because no adjustments of substance were made to at least try to slow down Alexander. What's more, Sanders inexplicably backed off on applying heat on Hasselbeck in his first game back from a serious knee injury, apparently because he didn't want to run the risk of leaving Hodge to fend for himself in pass coverage if the other linebackers were sent to blitz.
Special teams coordinator Mike Stock has his own problems to rectify since his generous kickoff-coverage unit isn't helping the defense any.
Head coach Mike McCarthy's hands were tied in getting the offense on track because the Packers had possession for less than 24 minutes.
McCarthy wasn't rewarded for his rededication to the running game, which continues to sputter. Still, it was puzzling early in the game that he called for a long throw by Favre to tight end Bubba Franks in the end zone on first down inside the Seattle 30, which backfired as Kelly Herndon made the interception.
McCarthy similarly erred in letting Favre let the ball fly two more times into double coverage in the fourth quarter, both resulting in interceptions that foiled a possible comeback from a 34-24 deficit. There was plenty of time remaining that Favre didn't need to go for the home-run throw.