MMQB: Packers 48, Seahawks 10

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (left) tossed four interceptions for the second time in two weeks, as the Seahawks lost to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, 48-10.

Green Bay Packers 48, Seattle Seahawks 10
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Play of the Day: Facing 3rd-and-less than a yard from the Packers' 36-yard line, Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp wanted "U" personnel (2RB, 1WR, 2TE) on the field to convert on third down and move the Seahawks within Olindo Mare's field goal range. The Seahawks lined up in I-Formation, with Justin Forsett at tailback behind Justin Griffith, and both tight ends lined up to the right, with John Carlson shaded behind John Owens. Deon Butler was split wide to the left.

At the snap, Hasselbeck faked the fullback give to Griffith, pivoted and faked a misdirection play to Forsett before bootlegging out to the right behind zero blockers. Carlson had been jostling with A.J. Hawk to sell the multiple play-fakes going on behind him, and once he released on what appeared to be a corner-post route, he was greeted by Packers safety Atari Bigby, who hadn't bit on any of the fakes going on in the backfield and was in perfect position to run alongside Carlson, making him an unappealing target for Hasselbeck to throw to.

With seven players in to block, and nobody blocking Jarius Wynn, Brad Jones, or Hawk, all of whom were now bearing down on Hasselbeck, the quarterback attempted a pump-fake, but the ball came out and fell into the arms of Hawk, who rambled 29 yards to help up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Brandon Jackson that gave the Packers a 7-0 lead they would never look back from.

Less than a yard was needed, and that was the best Knapp could come up with?

Handouts to the Standouts

Defensive end Darryl Tapp responded to Rodgers' biting accusations and turned in a solid game, finishing with three tackles and splitting a sack with Lawrence Jackson. Tapp also got three hits on Rodgers, not including a sack on the first play of the game that was nullified by an offsides penalty on Brandon Mebane. One of Tapp's three tackles was for a five-yard loss, one of the few negative plays the Seahawks' defense created.

Forsett was his typical scrappy self, carrying the ball 14 times for 70 yards, while adding a reception for four yards out of the backfield. He also returned a punt for 20 yards in the fourth quarter.

Jon Ryan was again the team's MVP, punting four times and posting a sterling 42.8-yard net average. Ryan's day was aided by a 64-yard punt in the first quarter.

Carlson caught both passes thrown his way and scored the Seahawks' lone touchdown.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"

For the second week in a row, Hasselbeck was intercepted four times. Hasselbeck certainly has played better football, but it's worth noting that one of interceptions was tipped at the line, one came while he was being pressured on what was a (another) boneheaded play-call. The other two weren't great throws, but the case could be made that they might not have happened if he had better targets to throw to. It's not unreasonable to expect an $8 million dollars per year wide receiver to beat Jarrett Bush, a fourth-year cornerback from Utah State, and the ball that sailed over Deion Branch's head and into Bigby's arms could've been avoided if Branch were eligible to ride a roller-coaster.

Oh, and another game, another nine route to Branch. If I'm Hasselbeck, and I hear that play-call, I'm pulling a Nuke LaLoosh and throwing at the mascot.

It's not much of one, but they are giving Deon Butler a chance and he's not making plays. Hasselbeck threw his way eight times on Sunday, and the third-rounder from Penn State caught one pass for 15 yards. It was a nice catch, and kept a scoring drive alive, but more was needed from Butler on Sunday.

Deon Grant's "effort" on Ryan Grant's 56-yard touchdown run. Grant's salary doubles to $4M in 2010, and he's owned $13M in 2011-12, which he's unlikely to be around for. Not sure what matadors are pulling down these days, but he showed today that he's got those skills.

Lack of discipline: Seven first-half penalties for 50 yards is flat-out unacceptable, especially considering who they were coming from. Mebane (penalty was attributed to Colin Cole, but it was Mebane that jumped offsides), Patrick Kerney, Jordan Babineaux, Cory Redding, Branch, and two on Sean Locklear. An additional flag on Houshmandzadeh was declined.

These flags weren't on rookies who don't know better, these were on core guys who should be leading by example. In a way, they are.

Offense

Prior to the broadcast, FOX analyst and former NFL head coach Brian Billick mentioned that the Packers were concerned about how their defense had been giving up the big play, and boy did the Seahawks take advantage of that early and often on Sunday.

Hasselbeck hit Houshmandzadeh for 31 yards down the right sideline in the second quarter, and on the next series, the Seahawks would have three consecutive pass plays of 15, 17, and 18 yards.

For the 2009 Seattle Seahawks, those constitute "big plays", and that's acceptable, provided they happen consistently, which they don't. And because Greg Knapp is calling the plays, a three-play sequence that gains 50 yards is followed by a run for no gain, which is actually a 10-yard loss because the left tackle that should be playing right guard was flagged for holding. So on 1st-and-20, you call a tight end screen for 8 yards and a quick slant for 10, before you run up the middle to convert a 3rd-and-2 and settle for a field goal when you're already trailing 14-0 on the road.

And then he and the head coach lament the team's "execution" on plays like the 3rd-and-2 near the goal-line. Or they'll point to Hasselbeck's clumsily thrown interception for the reason why the 3rd-and-less than a yard play on the opening drive failed, even though rarely in the history of football has a "fake fullback give, fake misdirection toss, bootleg right corner-post" worked on 3rd-and-inches when the quarterback has three defenders in his face and a blanketed tight end as his only option to throw to.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

On the bright side, at least the Seahawks, who were clearly headed for another embarrassing road loss, got a look at young guys like Mike Hass, Cameron Morrah, Louis Rankin, and Owen Schmitt, right?

Of course not.

Even with less than seven minutes to go in the game, Hasselbeck was still throwing screen passes to Branch and Jones in an effort to put some points, or signs of "scratching and clawing" can be pointed to on Monday morning. Neither Hass nor Rankin got a single offensive snap on Sunday, and Schmitt was called upon to lead block and run a few diversionary routes. Morrah was, as he's been most of the year, puzzlingly inactive on Sunday.

Upfront, center Max Unger was overmatched early on Sunday, which is to be expected since this was just his second NFL start and it was against a 3-4 defense. He's also picked up Chris Spencer's patent-pending "head bob" before the shotgun snaps, and a few of his snaps when doing this sailed a bit.

Guard Mike Gibson was used a bit more at right guard this week, and he showed a bit of the "dirtbag" mentality that Mora has referred to, playing to the echo of the whistle. Chris Spencer played there otherwise. Sean Locklear and Ray Willis struggled on Sunday, with Locklear being repeatedly beat by Packers' pass-rushers and Willis missing a block that blew up the aforementioned 3rd-and-2 play.

Defense

Defensively, the Seahawks started well, forcing a three-and-out on the Packers' first drive. After surrendering a touchdown in defense of a short field, Seattle again forced another Jeremy Kapinos punt and appeared in good position to do so again, but Cory Redding's encroachment penalty turned what was to be 3rd-and-9 at the Packers' 28-yard line into 3rd-and-4. The Packers used back-to-back Rodgers-to-Greg Jennings connections of 40 and 24 yards to give themselves a 1st-and-Goal at the Seahawks' 3-yard line before the Seahawks knew what hit them, and Ryan Grant easily punched it in from three yards out to open put give the Packers a two-touchdown lead.

Seattle's struggles on third downs could be directly to blame for Sunday's loss.

In the first three quarters, the time Rodgers was still in the game, the Packers converted on 7-of-11 third down conversions, including a stretch during the second and third quarters where the Packers converted on 6-of-7 third down opportunities.

What made these conversions additionally damaging was the amount of yardage they covered.

Of the seven successful conversions the Packers had during that run, none came on attempts longer than 8 yards, yet the Packers gained 172 yards of offense, including passing plays of 28, 38, 38, and 40 yards, along with a 16-yard run by Ahman Green. They also gained 14 yards on a 3rd-and-15 down near the Seahawks' goal line that prompted Mike McCarthy to go for the jugular near the end of the second quarter. (They settled for a field goal after an offensive pass interference penalty on Spencer Havner)

One wonders what effect the failure to get off the field on those downs has on the defense's psyche.

After Rodgers took advantage of a running lane created by a three-man pass rush to gain 9 yards on 3rd-and-8, Ryan Grant took advantage of a poor angle by Deon Grant to go 56 yards for a touchdown on the very next play.

On a 3rd-and-8 from the Seahawks' 45-yard line, Rodgers connected with tight end Jermichael Finley on a 28-yard play that helped set up the Packers' first touchdown of the second half. During Green Bay's next possession, Finley once again torched the ‘Hawks secondary, more accurately Deon Grant, for 38 yards on 3rd-and-1 that preceded Brandon Jackson's four-yard touchdown plunge that officially moved this game into the "Laugher" category.

On that play, Jackson actually hid behind Aaron Rodgers coming out of the huddle, took the fullback give, and nobody on Seattle's defense had any idea where the ball was. Mebane, who dragged Jackson down as he crossed the goal-line, wouldn't have discovered which running back had the ball had Jackson not run right into him.

That just added to the embarrassment.

Will Herring started for Aaron Curry, who was inactive, and led the ‘Hawks with 8 tackles. Tapp and Jackson split the team's only half, and David Hawthorne and Tapp, Jackson, and Hawthorne made the team's only plays in the Packers' backfield.

Packers quarterbacks attempted 29 passes, and not one Seahawks' player was credited with a pass defensed on Sunday. Marcus Trufant appeared to have one, but was instead called for (another) pass interference penalty.

Special Teams

Ryan was the special teams standout, punting four times for a 42.8-yard net average and pinning the Packers inside the own 20-yard line once. Packers punt returner Jordy Nelson wasn't able to return one punt, which his also a good thing.

Olindo Mare was 1-for-1 on field goal attempts, but only one of his three kickoffs made it to the end zone. Seattle allowed a 33-yard return to open the game, with Mike Hass needing to double-back and make the tackle, along with Lawyer Milloy. Jamar Adams and Owen Schmitt added special teams tackles, as well, though Schmitt's was when Charles Woodson, who was out there in defense of an onsides kick, ran out of bounds to avoid risking injury.

With the Packers putting 48 points on the scoreboard, Rankin and Forsett got ample opportunities to return kicks. While both had at least one decent return—Rankin went for 30, while Forsett had a 29-yard return—neither appear to be the dynamic, game-changing return man that Josh Wilson has proven to be.

Forsett returned one punt for 20 yards.

Summary

I predicted a 38-10 win for the Packers, so I'm not at all surprised by the outcome. In fact, I'm sure not many people were surprised by today's 48-10 blowout, which in of itself is a real problem for the decision-makers at the VMAC.

When expectations drop, revenues aren't far behind.

"We're not going to join them, they're going to join us"


In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.

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