By Steve Sandmeyer
As former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox used to say, “It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.” As Seattle prepares to take on the Packers Monday night, it’s important to keep that adage in mind.
Granted, both teams are riding high after notching convincing victories at home. But right now, in Week 3, the Seahawks have a golden opportunity to exploit a glaring weakness of Green Bay’s.
How do we know? Just ask San Francisco.
In Week 1, the 49ers went to Green Bay and notched a 30-22 win at Lambeau Field. The Niners’ formula was simple: Utilize their fast, physical defense to create turnovers and keep everything in front of them; Use a conservative approach with their passing game while gathering chunks of yardage on the ground.
If that isn’t a perfect description of who the Seahawks are right now, I don’t know what is.
Marshawn Lynch should find plenty of running room against the Packers and their 27th-ranked run defense. (AP photo)
The 49ers already executed this strategy successfully against the Packers – and they did it on the road. The Seahawks will deploy the same strategy, and it will also lead to a victory – at home.
The Packers rank 27th in the league against the rush. San Francisco averaged 5.8 yards per carry in their victory over Green Bay two weeks ago.
Frank Gore, who is 29 years old and past his prime, ran 16 times for 112 yards. He averaged 7 yards per carry. We’re talking about Frank Gore (cue the Allen Iverson). Even backup running back Kendall Hunter ran nine times for 41 yards, at 4.6 per carry.
Are you telling me Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin aren’t capable – at the very minimum – of putting up at least similar (if not superior) numbers Monday night? At home?
Some of you might be saying, “Alex Smith played a huge part in that San Francisco win. You need to account for that, too.”
Absolutely correct – and I will. Smith went 20 for 26 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Extremely effective. Why? The success on the ground allowed San Francisco to stay conservative with its passing game (per their plan). Twenty completions for 211 yards. That’s an average of only 8.1 yards per completion. Small potatoes.
Sound familiar, Seahawks fans? It should.
Russell Wilson did the same thing last week against Dallas, going 15 for 20 for 151 yards (7.6 yards per completion), one touchdown and no interceptions.
Like Smith against Green Bay, Wilson will have yet another opportunity to do what he’s already been successful at – executing a conservative, short passing game supplemented by a plus running attack. Use the play action as a weapon, complete the quick outs, the slants, the hook routes, and the seam routes to the tight end. Run first, pass second, short-yardage conversion attempts, chew clock.
I’m not going to come up with some wild theory on how to shut down Green Bay’s MVP quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. But I will say that running the football successfully leads to long, drawn out scoring drives that limit the opponents’ possessions. Against Dallas, the Seahawks had three drives in excess of 10 plays and 6 minutes – and two of them were in excess of 7 minutes.
I’ll again remind you that Green Bay is 27th against the rush. The opportunity for “grind-out” drives is ripe for the picking.
Coach Pete Carroll always cites winning the turnover battle. But trust me, winning the time of possession is just as important to him. So is a fast, physical defense that creates turnovers and keeps everything in front of it. So is using a conservative approach with your passing game while gathering chunks of yardage on the ground.
The 49ers already used that recipe two weeks ago on the road.
The Seahawks, with a little home cookin’, are going to do the same at CenturyLink Field on Monday night.
My prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 20
Steve Sandmeyer is a fill-in host on 710 ESPN Seattle. You can also follow him on Twitter @SteveSandmeyer or find him on Facebook at the “Steve Sandmeyer Fan Page”.