Packers make Wilson miserable with 5 picks

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall (23) runs back an interception against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field, Sunday, December 11, 2016.

GREEN BAY - Damarious Randall heard the crowd. The gasps. The groans. The panic as Doug Baldwin backpedaled near the goal line, wide open.

Everyone inside Lambeau Field thought the Seattle Seahawks receiver had a touchdown late in Sunday’s first half. A pass that would cut the Green Bay Packers halftime lead to two scores, within comeback distance against a team that executed the most unholiest of comebacks less than two years ago.

Everyone except Randall.

“Honestly,” Randall said, “I heard the crowd start saying, ‘Oohhh,’ like it was an easy, walk-off touchdown. So I was kind of confused as I was running over there. I didn’t know what was going on, but I just seen the ball.

“I’m see-the-ball, get-the-ball type guy.”

Randall got the ball, all right.

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He tracked it like a center fielder, harkening back to his days patrolling the outfield. He closed like a safety, drawing from his college days when he played the back line at Arizona State.

The catch? By the time Randall outran the football midair, he looked like the intended receiver.

The Packers' secondary had a season’s worth of fortunate bounces in a 38-10 win against their bitter NFC rival. Randall’s first of two interceptions was not one of them.

This was Mike Trout tracking an opposite-field liner, robbing a double. Poetry in motion.

“I played baseball back in my day,” Randall said, “and I used to play safety. So those are the type of plays I’m capable of making. I just made the play.”

It’s a phrase — making the play — the Packers' secondary could hardly say through most of what has been a wretched season.

This is a defense that gave up three touchdowns and 375 yards to Kirk Cousins in Washington. Four touchdowns and 295 yards against Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. Three touchdowns and 288 yards against Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

Before Sunday, the Packers played 12 games this fall. They failed to nab an interception in half of them. Their eight picks on the season tied for 18th in the NFL. Three of those interceptions came from linebackers, only five from defensive backs.

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“They come in bunches,” safety Micah Hyde kept saying through the season. “It’s just the ball’s not bouncing our way.”

Russell Wilson was an unlikely candidate to provide bunches. The Seahawks quarterback does not throw interceptions. He walked into Lambeau Field having thrown just five picks in his first 12 games.

He walked away throwing five against the Packers.

If you expected this group of DBs to be exuberant after matching their season’s total of interceptions, you’d be mistaken. For weeks, they’d been stewing. Bad breaks. Bad injuries. Bad luck. Their frustration multiplied one embarrassment at a time.

They finally let out their exasperation in the locker room.

“We’ve always been a bounce away,” Randall said. “We’ve always been a team that wasn’t getting the bounce. Today, we got that bounce.”

Wilson’s final three interceptions — each coming in the second half — came off deflections. A bounce off cornerback LaDarius Gunter's shoulder pad. A bounce off Baldwin’s facemask. A bounce off running back Troymaine Pope’s fingertips.

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By the end, Wilson could only walk off the field shaking his head. He almost had to smile from disbelief. It was the most interceptions Wilson has thrown in a game.

Sitting at his locker, Hyde was asked if he knew off hand when Wilson last threw even four picks in a game.

“It was the NFC championship game, wasn’t it?’ Hyde asked.

Yes, that game from January 2015 is still remembered. It still stirs extra motivation when the Seahawks come up on the schedule. On Sunday, it also did something else.

It gave the Packers belief.

In his past three games against the Packers, Wilson has thrown 10 interceptions. In 32 games against other opponents since the 2014 postseason, he’s thrown 16 total.

“I think that dating back to the NFC championship game,” Hyde said, “that kind of explains itself. We can get the ball off of him. They’re a very good football team, he’s a very good quarterback. We understand that, but we have a history of doing it in the past.

“So we knew if we come into this game, the guys up front get to him, keep the pocket tight and make him throw from the pocket, we’d be able to get some.”

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They just didn’t know the bunches would come like this. Three deflected interceptions? For this hard-luck secondary? Nobody saw that coming.

Cornerback Quinten Rollins’ interception might’ve been the most fortuitous. He didn’t even see Wilson’s pass, Rollins said, until it deflected off Gunter’s shoulder pads.

Right place, right time.

“I turned,” Rollins said, “and I was looking to see if they were going to make a play. Then I just seen it pop up, knew I had to catch it. But not only be satisfied with catching it. I had to get my feet inbounds too. I was just fortunate.”

A group depleted with so many things outside their control, from injuries to how the football bounces, finally got some good luck for a change. They weren’t about to apologize for it. No way.

Against Wilson, they made much of their own luck. and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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