Elliott's turnovers turn momentum
A.J. Hawk used to tell Jayrone Elliott all the time to get two hands on the football.
If the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker wasn’t dealing with an injured finger, Elliott might have heeded the team's all-time leading tackler’s advice during the waning moments of Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Instead, Elliott caught his first NFL interception off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with only one hand. It was the turning point in the Packers finally fending off the two-time defending NFC champions, who won the last three games in the series at CenturyLink Field.
The only regrettable part of the play was that Elliott fumbled the ball after a 2-yard return. He recovered the ball, though many on the Seattle sideline contest offensive tackle Justin Britt wrestled it away in the scrum. The officials ruled in the Packers' favor.
Elliott picked off the pass when he stepped in front of Wilson's screen pass intended for running back Marshawn Lynch. If that wasn't enough, the former undrafted free agent forced a fumble by running back Fred Jackson on the Seahawks' next series, in the final minute of the game.
“I think coming in here, if you were to ask who was going to make those plays, I don’t think anyone would have said Jayrone,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I’m really excited, really happy for him. Hopefully he enjoys this victory as much as all of us are.”
Elliott, who was limited in practice last week with a quadriceps injury, saw only nine defensive plays with most of his work coming in the second half. Meanwhile, he led special teams with 22 snaps.
He made his opportunities count. His two turnovers with less than 7 minutes remaining changed the momentum of the game after Wilson engineered a pair of scoring drives coming out of halftime to give the Seahawks a 17-13 lead.
When the interception dropped into his hands, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder tried to take it back like Matthews did in last week’s 31-23 win over Chicago. He agreed he’ll need to take better care of the football next time.
“I was just trying to rush the passer and kind of fell back on to it,” Elliott said. “I caught the ball and thought I was LeSean McCoy with it. I’ve got to take better care of the football when I get it. I wanted to score but, hey, we won the game.”
The Packers’ defense wasn’t perfect, but executed coordinator Dom Capers’ game plan when it mattered most, containing Lynch to 15 carries for 41 yards and not giving up an explosive play to the scrambling Wilson.
“It’s very key because you’ve got to play four quarters and football is a momentum game,” Elliott said. “It’s like a roller coaster — you go up and down — and we did a great job of fighting through adversity and making plays to overcome it.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.