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Seahawks get to Aaron Rodgers early and often


By Brady Henderson

In almost any other game, one not decided by such a wild and controversial finish, a defense that collected eight sacks in one half would be the story.

Not that anyone on Seattle’s defensive line minds.

“Never. I ain’t never seen nothing like that,” a smiling Brandon Mebane said after Seattle stunned Green Bay on a last-second touchdown pass to emerge with a 14-12 win on Monday night.

Chris Clemons collected four of the Seahawks’ eight first-half sacks. (AP)

And the NFL hasn’t seen too many performances like the one the Seahawks’ defensive line turned in during the first half. Seattle collected eight first-half sacks, the second most in NFL history. It was the most in the first half of a game since the Giants had nine against Chicago in 2010.

“I have never been in a game where you get eight sacks in the first half – or any half,” coach Pete Carroll said. “That was really extraordinary.”

Chris Clemons had a career-high four sacks, putting him on pace to reach double digits for the third straight year. But while he often simply beat opposing tackles while posting consecutive 11-sack seasons, Clemons did most of his damage Monday night by giving relentless effort and chasing down quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“We knew he would hold onto the ball and that was a main focus,” Clemons said. “We know he has a really, really strong arm. We know he can throw the ball on the run, so our thing was just continue to work on our rush throughout the whole entire play until he was down.”

Rookie Bruce Irvin got to Rodgers twice, but perhaps not the way you might expect. For all the talk about Irvin’s speed off the edge, it was the bull-rush he used both times to beat tackle Bryan Bulaga.

“I noticed he struggles with power (moves),” Irvin said of Bulaga, Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2010. “That was my biggest thing all week was practice my power, and it came up big for me tonight.”

It wasn’t just the edges that Seattle’s defensive line exploited. Mebane, valued more for his run-stuffing ability, collected two sacks from his defensive tackle spot. One was a bit of a gift, though, as he fell on Rodgers after his former Cal teammate slipped while dropping back.

“That was a huge night for Brandon,” Carroll said.

The Seahawks couldn’t get to Rodgers in the second half, partly because Green Bay changed its offensive strategy. The Packers came out running to begin the third quarter and threw quick passes to negate Seattle’s rush.

That approach helped the Packers amass 181 of their 268 total yards and all 12 of their points in the second half.

“The game became a totally different football game because of their ability to execute,” Carroll said. “We didn’t respond as well as we needed to.”

Thanks to an incredible first half from Seattle’s defensive line and a miraculous play at the end, it didn’t matter.