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Eric Goska column: Defense snaps road-game yardage slump

Sep. 24, 2012
 
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews eyes (52) quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Seattle Seahawks during Monday night's game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews eyes (52) quarterback Russell Wilson (3) against the Seattle Seahawks during Monday night's game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Paved with yards

Longest streaks of regular-season road games in which the Packers have allowed 400 or more yards.

Games | Year(s) | Record
5 | 2011 | 4-1
4 | 1951 | 0-4
3 | 1950-51 | 1-2
3 | 1954-55 | 0-3
3 | 1979 | 0-3

More

The bandwagon carrying fans of the Packers’ defense took on additional passengers in the days following Green Bay’s dismantling of the Chicago Bears.

Nothing like a road test to indicate how smooth the ride might be a year after abandoning the clunker that was the 2011 model.

Heading into Monday night’s encounter with the Seattle Seahawks, the Packers were saddled with a team-record streak of five consecutive road games in which they allowed 400 or more yards. That they halted that ignominious run during a heartbreaking 13-12 loss to Seattle at CenturyLink Field is evidence that the unit is moving in the right direction.

Green Bay muzzled the Bears in grabbing its first win of 2012. The Packers held Chicago to 168 yards, their best effort against their neighbors from Illinois since November of 1975.

Clamping down on an opponent in front of hometown fans is one thing. Doing so in a distant, less-inviting setting can be more challenging.

In the 34 seasons from 1978 through 2011, Green Bay allowed more yards on the road than at home 17 times. That may surprise, but raw yardage can be misleading.

Over that same span, the yards per play that the Packers surrendered away from home was greater in 26 of those seasons. Coach Mike McCarthy’s teams have been typical in that all but his 2008 club was more stringent at Lambeau Field.

Last year was a particular leaky affair. The 3,206 yards permitted out of town set a team record for a 16-game season, and it was the worst per-game average (400.8) since the 1956 club (418.5) settled for a 4-8 record.

The 6.29 yards per play Green Bay served up on the road was the most generous the team had been in any year since statistics were first kept in 1932.

Cut to Seattle where the Packers ran into the buzzsaw that was Seattle. With Aaron Rodgers and his offensive line being tossed about like ragdolls in the first half, Green Bay’s defense needed to stand stout.

For the first quarter-and-a-half it did that. The Packers held Seattle to three-and-outs on three of the Seahawks’ first four possessions. Further, Dom Capers’ unit did not allow a third-down conversion in four tries during that time.

Linebacker Clay Matthews stifled the Seahawks on two of those attempts when he twice pressured Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to throw the ball away. Safety Jerron McMillian knocked away a pass intended for receiver Ben Obomanu on another try, and cornerback Casey Hayward, another rookie, had tight coverage on receiver Golden Tate early in the second quarter.

But Green Bay couldn’t go a half without giving up one big play. With minimal push generated by Matthews and linemen Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and C.J. Wilson, Russell Wilson found Tate on a 42-yard bomb with just over six minutes remaining in the first half.

The Packers didn’t get a sack in the first half, but even with the long TD pass they held Seattle to just 70 yards passing and 149 overall in the first two quarters. Linebacker Nick Perry rectified the lack of a sack by dropping Wilson for a long loss on the Seahawks’ second play of the third quarter.

Rodgers and the offense then helped out by launching into three time-consuming drives. The Packers controlled the ball for 16 minutes, 31 seconds of the opening 21:16 of the second half.

Seattle got two final opportunities. Thanks in no small part to three questionable calls by the replacement officials, Wilson was able to punch in the winning touchdown on a 24-yard pass to Tate as time expired.

Green Bay’s improved defense couldn’t come at a better time. Up next are the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau before the Packers hit the road for three straight games.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports