The Seahawks face a familiar and formidable foe Sunday night in Green Bay, with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and the Packers eager for revenge after collapsing late in Seattle during last year's NFC Championship Game.
Even without Jordy Nelson (who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL), Rodgers and the Packers offense was incredibly efficient in a 31-23 come-from-behind win in Chicago in last week's opener. Rodgers threw nearly as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions and also rushed for 35 yards. His favorite target against the Bears was veteran James Jones - a former standout in Green Bay before stops with the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants - who caught two touchdowns and had two more called back on penalties. Pro Bowler Randall Cobb led the Packers with five receptions despite a badly sprained shoulder that threatened keeping him out of the game. Second-year pros Davante Adams and tight end Richard Rodgers also fared well against Chicago.
As Seahawks fans know all too well after the constant disruption Russell Wilson faced last week against the Rams, pass protection is key to a successful aerial assault and the Packers excelled in this area against the Bears, allowing zero sacks of Rodgers and very little pressure. Lacy's strong running was also a key. The burly former Alabama star rushed for 85 yards, averaging a solid 4.5 yards per attempt on 18 carries, which included a short touchdown that ultimately proved the game-winner.
Defensively, the Packers' dynamic duo of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers at linebacker continues to be the story.
After initially starring off the edge and experimenting with him at inside linebacker, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has Matthews fully roaming around, making him that much more difficult to prepare for. Matthews' interception and 48 yard return off of Jay Cutler provided the 4th quarter defensive spark Green Bay needed to beat the up-start Bears (who played well) and new head coach John Fox in Chicago. Peppers recorded 1.5 of the Packers two sacks.
The Packers did allow some explosive plays to Cutler and the Bears, surrendering four plays of at least 17 yards, including a 50-yard catch and run by former Washington State Marquess Wilson. Part of the reason for Chicago's success may have been the absence of starting safety Morgan Burnett, who was sidelined with a calf injury. Micah Hyde started in Burnett's absence. Burnett could return this week.
Also returning this week for Green Bay is former first round defensive lineman Datone Jones, who missed the opener due to a one-week suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Without the powerful Jones, Green Bay struggled stopping the run, allowing 141 yards to Bears' standout Matt Forte - including 106 yards in the first half. Forte averaged a healthy 5.9 yards per attempt and had three jaunts of at least 20 yards against the Packers. Some of Chicago's success on the ground may have been due to struggles with communication for the Packers, who lost starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Barrington may lack the name recognition of some of his teammates but he's the player tasked with making the calls for the Packers. The ankle injury was deemed serious enough that Barrington was placed on Injured Reserve this week. He's expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by Nate Palmer, who took over against the Bears.
On special teams, the Packers boast a talented rookie returner of their own in former Stanford star Ty Montgomery, who had kickoff returns of 46 and 41 yards against the Bears. Veteran punter Tim Masthay struggled a bit in the preseason and had some low, line-drive punts in Week One.