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Seahawks' deep shots a concern for Packers' defense; flu bug taking its toll

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

GREEN BAY - Russell Wilson presents all kinds of challenges for a defense, and the Green Bay Packers have spoken at length about being mindful of his mobility, the ability to scramble not just for yards but to extend a pass play and take a big shot down the field.

And the Seattle quarterback does it often and does it well, so much so that Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called Wilson one of the best in football at throwing deep.

“I’ve seen some of those balls before,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We have a quarterback behind center and we see those things all the time. But Russell definitely has an ‘it’ factor to him, he has a specialness to him, that when it comes down to clutch time he’s the one who makes the plays. Obviously that’s one of the things that we have to dictate, we have to be on our A game and try to put pressure and give him different looks.”

In the regular season, 95 of Wilson’s 341 completions (27.8%) went for 15 yards or more.

Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are the two beneficiaries of those plays, combining for 49 of those receptions for 1,242 yards and seven scores.

Packers cornerback Josh Jackson gets beaten on a deep pass to Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett during a Nov. 15, 2018 game in Seattle.

“You cannot make a mistake in coverage deep against the Seahawks, because he’ll see and they have the guys that can go get it,” Pettine said. “All those guys can run and even under duress he’ll throw it up knowing they can run under it, so we’ll have to make sure that coverage-wise when communication is required that we over-communicate.”

Three miss practice due to illness

In their final formal practice of the playoff week, the Packers were without three players due to the illness that has been going around the locker room for the better part of the last month. Fullback Danny Vitale, who was just returning from a knee injury, missed his second straight day, as did defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster and running back Dexter Williams.

The other 50 players on the active roster, along with safety Raven Greene, practiced. Part of the session was held outside.

All hands on the ball

The Seahawks finished tied for second in the NFL with 16 fumble recoveries (on 19 forced) during the regular season while the Packers finished 15th in giving it away nine times on the ground. They have fumbled 15 times.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Seattle makes it a point of emphasis, and the Packers’ regular message of ball security has been heightened by the tape.

“The thing about them is they’re real good at forcing fumbles,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, who played in Seattle for three seasons. “We’ve just got to focus on taking care of the ball. That’s one of our big focuses is just make sure when you have that catch, secure the catch and focus on where that ball is and don’t leave it out there or lean for the offense, because they’re taught to punch the ball out, they’re taught to strip the ball out. There are certain zones where they’re really looking to dislodge the ball.”

Three Packers recognized by PFWA

The Wisconsin chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association awarded the Tom Mulhern Stand-Up Guy award for helping the media do their jobs to right tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Tramon Williams and kicker Mason Crosby. The three veterans shared the award for always being available to speak during the week and after games, win or lose, through good performances and bad and wins and losses.

“You guys have a job to do. We have a job to do,” Bulaga said. “Whether it’s good or bad, we need to be accountable for it. I don’t think it matters whether the team plays a great game, whether individually you play a great game or individually you play a bad game, or we lose, I think being accountable is being part of it. Over the years, you understand that, you develop that in your mindset. And it’s good for the fan base to understand what we’re thinking in the locker room and going through, and you guys report that and get that out.”

The award is named for former Wisconsin State Journal sports writer Tom Mulhern, who died in 2014.