Packers could feast on vulnerable Seahawks secondary in return to Seattle
Tenth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2018 regular season.
GREEN BAY – What’s more intimidating than playing inside the NFL’s loudest stadium? Playing there with only three days of rest.
The Green Bay Packers will face what has been perhaps the toughest task in all the NFL, traveling to the Seattle Seahawks for a Thursday night kickoff Nov. 15. Even if the Seahawks have slipped since their Super Bowl heydays of 2013 and '14, CenturyLink Field has been arguably the most daunting environment in all the league over the past decade.
It’s fair, however, to question whether CenturyLink Field’s reputation has become more of a myth. Nobody doubts the max volume, but last year CenturyLink wasn’t the same, unwinnable environment for road teams. The Los Angeles Rams won there 42-7 last December. Two weeks later, the Arizona Cardinals squeaked out a 26-24 win. In all, the Seahawks lost four of their final five home games in 2017, almost unfathomable given their past success.
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Their late-season difficulty winning at home dropped the Seahawks to 4-4 at CenturyLink Field. The last time they didn’t have a winning record at home was 2011, before their current window of success. From 2012 to 2016, the Seahawks were 34-6 at home.
It’s no coincidence the Seahawks also failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Last season could be a fluke. With its noise-boosting acoustics, there’s no question CenturyLink Field remains one of the loudest, most intimidating NFL stadiums. A difficult place to play, but the Packers hope they can channel what road opponents figured out late last season.
Here are three things to know about the Seahawks:
No more legion
The Seahawks teams that won one Super Bowl and appeared in two consecutive were powered by the league’s top secondary, a group of defensive backs self-titled the Legion of Boom. Over the past couple years, that group has all but disappeared. Gone is cornerback Richard Sherman, the long, boisterous cover man who was selected to three straight All-Pro teams. Gone is strong safety Kam Chancellor, whose neck injury prompted his retirement announcement earlier this month. Free safety Earl Thomas’ future is uncertain as he has held out this offseason. The Seahawks remained a top secondary last season, finishing sixth in the NFL with 209.2 pass yards allowed per game. But it appears that for the first time in a long time, the Seahawks defensive backfield could be mediocre or worse this fall.
Perhaps the slip in their defense was inevitable once the Seahawks paid Russell Wilson like the franchise quarterback he is, giving him a four-year, $87.6 million contract before the 2016 season. Just ask Packers fans: It is hard, if not impossible, to have a franchise quarterback’s salary on the cap while maintaining an above-average defense. Wilson remains one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, leading the NFL with 34 touchdown passes and finishing 10th with a 95.4 passer rating last season. So long as he’s behind center, the Seahawks should be a playoff contender. Yet their identity through the Super Bowl years was ground-and-pound with Marshawn Lynch, supported by brass-knuckle defense. With Wilson as their identity, this is a very different Seahawks team.
The Packers had to return at some point. For the first time since January 2015, the Packers will return to the site of perhaps the worst defeat in their long history. The Packers have played the Seahawks three times since their 28-22 overtime loss in the 2014 NFC Championship game, winning each. But all three were inside Lambeau Field. Better believe there will be some unpleasant memories for Packers players who were on the team that collapsed within sight of a Super Bowl trip.
Packers schedule glimpse
Nov. 15 at Seahawks, 7:20 p.m., Fox/NFL Network.
Week before: vs. Dolphins, Nov. 11.
Week after: at Vikings, Nov. 25.
On the horizon: vs. Cardinals, Dec. 2.
Coach: Pete Carroll (112-79-1 overall, 79-48-1 in eight seasons with Seahawks).
2017 record: 9-7, 2nd in NFC West.
Scoring offense: 22.9 points per game (11th in NFL).
Total offense: 330.4 yards per game (15th).
Scoring defense: 20.8 points allowed per game (T-13th).
Total defense: 323.2 yards allowed per game (11th).
Series: Packers lead 13-8.
Last meeting: In a typically low-scoring game between these two rivals, the Packers opened their 2017 season with a 17-9 win against the Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The Packers were shut out in the first half before scoring a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, taking a lead they never surrendered. Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 42 passes for 311 yards, one touchdown and a rare interception on his home field. Randall Cobb led receivers with nine catches for 85 yards.