Monday, January 05, 2004

Packers 33, Seattle 27. This was a very close game played by two very similar teams. Both teams have great run offenses but struggled to run the ball. Both teams have great a pass offense and a struggling pass defense. The Packers gained 2.4 yards/carry to Seattle’s 2.3 yards/carry. The Packers had 319 yards passing to Seattle’s 300 yards. There were few penalties and no turnovers until the last play of the game. Seattle could have won the game if Maurice Morris or Koren Robinson hadn’t missed/dropped touchdown passes or Ahman Green’s crucial 4th down carry had been ruled a fumble, but any missed opportunity or mistake was amplified by the similar ability of the two teams.

First Quarter: Seattle was hurt by dropped passes all game long, but the Packers had two crucial drops in the first quarter. Robert Ferguson dropped a 2nd down pass after a penalty that effectively ended one drive and Antonio Freeman dropped a 3rd down pass that would have been 1st down yardage in Seattle territory. Seattle had one successful drive, Shawn Alexander actually had a 17 yard carry but only had 28 yards on 19 carries for the rest of the game, and the Packers had a successful goal line stand in the first quarter although Alexander was very effective near the goal line for the rest of the game. Grady Jackson was fantastic getting into Seattle’s backfield and making plays in pursuit up and down the line of scrimmage. Aaron Kampman was excellent holding his position on run plays, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila did much better on run defense this game instead of pushed out of the way like he did in the first half against Seattle back in October. Packers 0, Seattle 3.

Second Quarter: Both punters struggled because of the cold weather, Josh Bidwell had two early touchbacks and Tom Rouen couldn’t get any distance. William Henderson made an unbelievable catch right off the defender’s hip and it set up a field goal. Seattle’s receivers were able to get separation on the Packers secondary all game and Robinson, Itula Mili, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Ingram were open often. Matt Hasselbeck was very accurate and at least half of his 20 incompletions were drops. There is nothing worse than watching the officials take points off the scoreboard when they ruled Hasselbeck didn’t fumble (tuck rule!) and Nick Barnett, who had a great game, didn’t score a touchdown. Brett Favre and Javon Walker are a great deep pass combination. Favre is never right on target with Walker, few NFL quarterbacks hit their receivers deep in stride, and Walker is excellent at adjusting to the ball. Bubba Franks has caught zero or one pass in 8 of the last 10 games, but he gets behind the safety with no help deep in the end zone for probably his longest catch of the season. I expected Franks to be a serious threat deep over the middle this season, and this was the first time I saw it work. The defense was fired up after the touchdown and got its only real sack on Hasselbeck all game on Seattle’s first play, and it caused a fumble to kill the drive. Packers 13, Seattle 6.

Third Quarter: Mike Holmgren’s Packers teams always made successful adjustments at half time. Seattle’s offense is no different. Seattle had the ball 6 times in the first half and scored 6 points. In the second half, Seattle had the ball 4 times and scored 21 points. All the drives were long, consistent drives and it was a very impressive performance from Hasselbeck considering he did it all without much help rushing from Alexander. Of course he had some luck too when he threw a perfect pass right to Packers linebacker Hannibal Navies, who didn’t catch the ball, allowed it to bounce off of him, and was caught by offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson. Favre threw the ball up for grabs a few times, and I wish he would stop doing that. He threw it up once for David Martin, and Martin should have caught it. Favre has been throwing it up once or twice a game all year and usually it gets picked off, but not today. The Packers secondary fell apart short as receivers keep getting open, but no long touchdown passes. Mike McKenzie is trying to play through his injury, but it is obvious he is a step slower with his injured toe. Packers 13, Seattle 20.

Fourth Quarter: I have no idea how Randall Godfrey failed to tackle Green on 4th and 1 on Seattle’s 3 yard line. My best guess is a combination of strength by Green and bad angle by Godfrey. The next drive the Packers ran and passed the ball to get to Seattle’s 20 yard line, and then proceeded to run the ball 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown. After this outburst for 4 yards/carry, the announcers reminded everyone that it is obvious that the Packers are built around running the ball with Ahman Green. Uh huh. Green is a top 5 running back in the league, but Favre’s 319 yards passing were much more important than Green’s 66 yards rushing. This team is built around Favre and he is very productive in this offense. Green is the best complimentary player Favre has ever played with, but Green is still the compliment to Favre. Watching the Packers last touchdown drive, I thought it was great that the drive took so much time off the clock, but it didn’t leave the offense enough time to score on its last drive. The Packers secondary never looked worse in the game than the 59 yards it allowed on 4 pass attempts in one minute. With about a minute and a half left, Seattle was down to the Packers 8 yard line. It was a great goal line stand until Barnett committed pass interference in the end zone. Walker made a great reception, but Ryan Longwell hasn’t kicked for distance all year and especially not in cold weather. Packers 27, Seattle 27.

Overtime: Apparently Hasselbeck was wrong, because Seattle didn’t score. Both defenses looked sharper in the overtime, which was really surprising after both defenses allowed a combined 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Both teams had unsuccessful drives until Hasselbeck threw the interception to Al Harris that he returned for a touchdown. Holmgren looked upset in the post-game interview that Hasselbeck called an audible on the play. I remember a game in the mid-90s in Minnesota when backup Packer quarterback T.J. Rubley (he was the third string QB who came in after Favre and Ty Detmer both got hurt) threw a game ending interception on an audible, and Holmgren had him cut the next day. Holmgren won’t cut Hasselbeck, but he might want to in anger and it’s a good thing that Holmgren doesn’t have his GM powers anymore. The Packers corners haven’t jumped too many short routes this season, whether it is conservative play or lack of speed to jump the routes I don’t know, but Harris played that one perfect. Packers 33, Seattle 27.

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