GREEN BAY - This, ladies and gentlemen, was why the Green Bay Packers were picked by some to win the Super Bowl this season.
Underachievers no more, the Packers pounded the Seattle Seahawks from snowy Lambeau Field back to the Pacific Northwest late Sunday afternoon in a Mike McCarthy-coached tour de force.
“I think this is really a reflection of how we have improved throughout the course of the year,” McCarthy said after the 38-10 annihilation. “I think you are starting to see it all come together.”
The Seahawks’ defense resembled 11 mannequins against the clinical dissection perpetrated by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Their usually crafty offense, which had turned the ball over 10 times in 12 games, had six giveaways against a Packers’ defense that accounted for just 12 previously.
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“It was a statement game,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We all came out and played great.”
No one blows out the Seahawks. Their stingy defense has allowed the fewest points in the NFL since 2012, and coach Pete Carroll annually ranks among the league’s pacesetters in turnover differential.
From 2012 until Sunday the Seahawks had lost one game by a double-digit margin, and it was by 10 to the Packers, 27-17, on the same field in September 2015. Carroll seemed stunned, and for good reason. It was his most lopsided setback since mid-2010.
“This is such a rare occurrence for our team,” Carroll said. “We’ve been playing for a lot of years and have not seen a game like this. We don’t remember those days. We’ve had a remarkable run. The thing just snowballed on us; it just turned out to be a terrible night.”
Winning for the third straight time, the Packers improved to 7-6 in keeping pace with NFC North leaders Detroit (9-4) and Minnesota (7-6), which prevailed in close games before the kickoff in Green Bay.
In all, the Packers trail seven teams in the NFC, and only six make the playoffs.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, the MVP candidate for the Lions, reportedly suffered a torn ligament in the middle finger of his right hand. Seeking their first division title in 23 years, the Lions play road games against the Giants and Cowboys before closing Jan. 1 against the Packers at Ford Field.
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“He’s a tough player,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “I don’t look at stuff like that. This is the NFL, man. Guys are going to play with any and everything.”
Seattle, which would have clinched the NFC West crown with a victory, slipped to 8-4-1.
“Overall, the Packers played a good game,” Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “They’re a great organization, great quarterback. We lost to a good team, and that happens when you play football.”
Now 2-3 against Carroll, McCarthy posted his most significant regular-season victory since the 26-21 triumph over New England in a turnover-free contest at Lambeau Field two years ago.
“This definitely had a similar feel,” said Daniels. “Playing against a top-level team like that (Seattle) and performing the way we did, it’s definitely a confidence booster. Something to build off of.”
No one in Green Bay will ever forget two of Carroll’s victories in the series. The disputed finish in September 2012 was bad enough for fans, but the utter collapse and defeat in the NFC Championship Game was far, far worse.
“Games played before don’t really matter,” said Bennett. “Teams are constantly changing and evolving. There’s people getting hurt, and new people. Different team every year.
“That’s just how it goes. There’s some games I know they wish they beat us.”
Before the Packers could win with their scheme, they had to man up and combat the Seahawks’ physical and emotional intensity that is regarded by football people as unmatched in the NFL.
“You’ve got to match their intensity or they’ll steamroll right over you,” said linebacker Jayrone Elliott. “I thought we came out firing. We tried to play hard. Those guys are going to attack you no matter what.”
Both guard Lane Taylor and Daniels said the Packers successfully met fire with fire.
“Oh, yeah,” agreed Clinton-Dix. “Morgan (Burnett) set the tone with that first pick and really got us juiced up. Then we were just rollin’. The offense was feedin’ and the special teams were holding up.”
Burnett’s pick, the first of five suffered by Wilson, set up a four-play, 26-yard touchdown drive and the Packers led, 14-3. When Dean Lowry sacked Wilson, Jon Ryan’s 31-yard punt led to the Packers’ five-play, 48-yard touchdown drive.
It was 21-3 midway through the second quarter, and remarkably the Seahawks even couldn’t come close to getting back in the game.
“We got our butts kicked,” safety Kam Chancellor, one of the team’s proud veteran defensive players, said. “When you give up a lot of turnovers things can really get out of hand.”
Late in the first half Wilson, whose previous career-high for interceptions was four against the Packers in the title game, scrambled and threw across his body with all his might for Doug Baldwin. He appeared open at the goal-line after running through a zone.
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Damarious Randall, however, ranged from Wilson’s right and swooped in front of Baldwin for the pick.
“Randall set him up,” Clinton-Dix said. “I think we were in a three-deep and Randall made it look like man. He made a good play coming over on that three (Baldwin) going vertical. He saved a touchdown.”
Led by Datone Jones, the Packers applied consistent pressure on Wilson, who for one of the few times in his spectacular career appeared to lose his poise.
“This is a big man’s game,” said McCarthy. “We knew the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball was going to set the tempo. I thought we clearly, clearly won the game at the line of scrimmage.”
Seattle, with Thomas Rawls charging 12 times for 67 yards, rushed for 136. “That guy, he brings it,” Elliott said.
But the Seahawks on offense were done in not by their much-maligned offensive line but their skill players in the passing game.
Wilson, with a passer rating of 43.7, was awful. So was Doug Baldwin, whose drop of a sideline pass was intercepted by Randall. And tight end Jimmy Graham, now fully integrated into coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense in his second season, settled for 16 yards in one catch against primary coverage by Burnett.
When Wilson overthrew Baldwin behind LaDarius Gunter for a possible 33-yard touchdown on the first series, then overthrew Graham behind Clinton-Dix for a possible 58-yard score on the second series, the die was cast.
“He missed a couple of balls deep that he usually hits,” said Carroll. “It could’ve been entirely different. We would’ve been able to hang with them and stay in it.”
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Carroll, the old defensive coach, couldn’t quite believe what Rodgers did to a unit that was allowing an NFL-best 16.2 points. After this stomping, Seattle fell to fourth at 17.8.
“Aaron moved beautifully and found guys and made it look easy,” said Carroll. “That was very frustrating, to just watch him have so much ease and throwing and completing balls on us.”
Rodgers departed early in the fourth quarter with nagging hamstring and calf injuries. His passer rating of 150.8 was his best since mid-2014.
“Great quarterback,” said Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, who gave up a 66-yard TD to Davante Adams on the game’s third play. “But it’s very hard to guard a player for 15 seconds.”
Lane wasn’t referring to the play by Adams. His reference was to the copious amount of time Rodgers was afforded by an offensive line that stymied one of the NFL’s fiercest rushes.
“We’ve shown it all year,” Taylor said of the unit’s pass-protection ability. “We did our thing today. We were physical up front.”
The Seahawks settled for one sack by Bennett and two quarterback hits by defensive end Cliff Avril. Frank Clark, the other outstanding rusher, was shut out.
“They do the job, I guess,” said Avril. “I don’t think they’re that much better than us but they showed it today.”
Bennett went on and on complaining about what he said was the extensive holding being done by the Packers’ offensive linemen.
The Seahawks are a fast defense but Carroll said he had no problems whatsoever with field conditions. More than five inches of fresh snow was removed in the early afternoon.
“Yes, it was very slick, especially toward the end of the game when it got more muddy and choppy,” Avril said. “We have FieldTurf. There is nothing ‘hybrid’ about what they have out here. That (DD GrassMaster) is grass.
“You’ve got to play more flat-footed, but that’s no excuse. We’re professional athletes.”
This was the signature win McCarthy and this team had been awaiting since, well, the last time the Seahawks showed up at Lambeau Field. Anyone up for a rematch come January?