Mike Daniels sparks Packers' dominant defensive performance
GREEN BAY – Before the sweat dried, intensity still was seeping from Mike Daniels inside the Green Bay Packers locker room. Towel draped over one shoulder, he did not smile. Barely even blinked.
Just that icy glare usually reserved for opposing guards.
Every reporter wanted a piece of him, an explanation. Daniels had just spent four quarters whipping the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line, seizing Sunday’s opener as his own personal showcase. A game to put on his career mantle.
The Packers rode Daniels to a 17-9 victory at Lambeau Field, the way teams can with a dominant defensive tackle.
“He’s that type of lineman,” teammate Ricky Jean Francois said, “that’s a game changer. He can change the game. He can take your offensive line, and turn it into his game. I know a lot of teams throughout the season will have a hard time when they make game plans. They’re not going to do it for the defense.
“You’re going to make sure you take out Mike, then go onto the next thing.”
What Daniels did to the Seahawks' offensive line was virtuoso. He became a one-man wrecking ball. A chest-thumping, bicep-kissing demolition. Unblockable.
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For one afternoon, he single-handedly set aside fears this Packers defense doesn’t have the pass rush to be a Super Bowl contender.
“He’s a hard-nosed, bad-ass player,” said recently signed defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who wasn’t active Sunday but got a close look at Daniels’ masterpiece. “I think a lot of offensive guys, guards and centers, hate to play against him.”
For years, the Packers' offense has waited for a defense that could win games. A unit that could keep not just bad or average offenses out of the end zone, but make a Super Bowl-winning quarterback look pedestrian. Shut out in Sunday’s first half, backed up with poor field position throughout, that’s what Aaron Rodgers’ crew desperately needed.
Daniels provided it.
With the Seahawks facing third-and-18 in the shadow of their goal line, the Packers' best defensive player went to work. First, Daniels made Seahawks guard Luke Joeckel look like a post in the ground, shooting past him inside.
Quarterback Russell Wilson tried to escape. He tucked the football in the pocket, 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but left enough of it visible that Daniels could aim his punch. Daniels lassoed Wilson by his left arm, jarring the football free.
“When I go to tackle somebody,” Daniels seethed in the locker room, “I’m bringing my hands aggressively. That time, I did see the ball, got it out of there. Playing hard definitely increases the chances to have those things happen.
“I just beat the guy across from me, and got to the quarterback.”
One play later, running back Ty Montgomery entered the end zone on a 6-yard run to the left. The Packers’ 3-0 deficit became a 7-3 lead. They never trailed again.
Daniels didn’t just set the tone in Sunday’s biggest moments. His presence was a constant through the Packers’ opener. The Seahawks offensive line, one of the NFL’s worst units in 2016, could not block him. Didn’t matter how many double teams they threw his way.
By the end, Daniels’ stat line was the stuff expected from a Pro Bowl talent. His seven tackles, second only to cornerback Quinten Rollins’ eight, showed how much he dominated the interior. Daniels, constantly playing in the Seahawks' backfield, added 1.5 sacks and hit Wilson four times.
If it wasn’t the best game of his career, it joined the short list. Daniels never has been an All-Pro, never been a Pro Bowler, but showed the potential to be a game-wrecking defensive tackle that could carry the Packers a long way.
“He’s an All-Pro,” Jean Francois said. “Me and you were looking at the same game today. That was a Pro Bowler out there. If he can do this another 15 more weeks, forget Pro Bowler. You should be calling that dude an All-Pro. Each and every week, he shows he’s that type of caliber player. I just don’t understand why around the league they don’t give him the respect that way.
“He’s always in the backfield. He’s always beating up linemen. He’s always embarrassing them. So what else does he have to do, a back flip once he gets the sack?”
On this afternoon, even the back flip seemed possible.