O’Neil: Seahawks get a chance at creating another landmark moment against Packers
The Green Bay Packers are not a measuring stick for the Seahawks.
They’re more like a landmark.
The Packers are the one opponent that could be trusted to tell you exactly where the Seahawks have been over the course of the past five seasons, from Seattle’s rise to a bonafide contender in 2012 to its peak with consecutive Super Bowl appearances to the plateau of the past two seasons.
The Seahawks and the Packers are the only two NFC teams to have reached the playoffs in each of the five past seasons, and they have played one another five times in that span with the home team winning every time.
That history is one part of what makes Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field so appetizing.
1. The rise
Seahawks 14, Packers 12, Sept. 24, 2012
The end of this game is what everyone remembers with Russell Wilson throwing what very well may have been the first game-winning interception by any NFL quarterback. But it was the first half of that Monday night game in which the Seahawks announced themselves to the world as one of the most devastating defenses in the Super Bowl era with what was a simply overwhelming two quarters of defense. Seattle shutout Green Bay in the first half, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times and limiting the Packers to 87 yards of total offense.
While the world would remember Golden Tate’s “touchdown” deciding that game (and thereby ending the officials’ strike), the most significant thing to happen was that it was the first national glimpse of a defense that would allow the fewest points in the NFL in four successive seasons.
2. The peak
Seahawks 36, Packers 16, Sept. 4, 2014
Seahawks 28, Packers 22, Jan. 18, 2015
The two teams played twice in one season, first to open the regular season and then to decide the NFC championship. One game was a coronation for Seattle, the other simply one of the most incredible comebacks in playoff history as the Seahawks came back from trailing by 12 points with 3:52 left in the game. After being intercepted four times in regulation, Russell Wilson completed two 35-yard passes in the only overtime Seattle needed, the second going to Jermaine Kearse for the game-winning touchdown that made you think the Seahawks couldn’t lose, which only added to the sting of what might be the most heart-breaking defeat in Super Bowl history.
3. The plateau
Packers 27, Seahawks 17, Sept. 20, 2015
Packers 38, Seahawks 10, Dec. 11, 2016
The Seahawks have played 80 regular-season games in the five years Wilson has been quarterback. These are the only two they’ve lost by double digits. It’s pretty downright remarkable that Seattle has been so consistently competitive even in games they’ve lost. It also speaks to the fact that over the past two seasons, the Seahawks have been unable to find the momentum that carried them to the Super Bowl in back-to-back years.
Those two losses have something else in common, though. Seattle’s secondary, which has been the signature of this defense, wasn’t at full strength in either loss to the Packers. Kam Chancellor was in the midst of a contract holdout in 2015, reporting to the team three days after that defeat in Wisconsin. Last year’s rout occurred after Earl Thomas suffered a season-ending leg injury.
They’re back this year, paired together in a defense that will begin its season in a staredown with the quarterback who is regarded as the best in the league in Aaron Rodgers.
“We want to be whole,” said Kris Richard, Seahawks defensive coordinator. “We want to be at our best. We want to have all of our best guys out there competing against one of the best who’s ever done it.”
This isn’t a test for Seattle. It’s not a gut-check. It is an opportunity for Seattle to make what would be an incredibly convincing statement about their trajectory for this season. If the recent history tells us anything, it’s that Sunday’s game will be a landmark moment.