What they’re saying: Seahawks preview playoff matchup with Packers
Green Bay is 13-3 and is the NFC’s No. 2 seed, meaning that while Seattle was fighting the Eagles to advance, the Packers had last weekend off.
While the Seahawks would have preferred to have at least one home game during the playoffs – which could happen if they win and the Minnesota Vikings beat the San Francisco 49ers – they feel confident heading on the road again where they’re now 8-1 this season.
With the matchup just a few days away, here’s what members of the Seahawks are saying about Sunday’s road matchup.
Head coach Pete Carroll
Carroll’s team has reason to be confident as they’re one of the best teams on the road this season. HE feels that way even though the Seahawks will be playing in “as difficult of a venue” to play at in the NFL in Lambeau Field.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to show that we know how to travel,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks and Packers have played a lot since Carroll took over in 2010, and while Seattle has the edge at 4-3 in that time, all those wins are at home.
Seattle hasn’t won at Lambeau since 1999. This year presents a new challenge as new head coach Matt LeFleur has done some changes on both sides of the ball, contributing heavily to the team’s 13 wins.
“They look different on both sides of the ball,” Carroll said. “They’ve made some big adjustments. I think the biggest thing that looks the most obvious is the way the running back is playing.”
Running back Aaron Jones has been a “huge factor,” Carroll said, which has taken pressure off quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That in turn has changed their offense.
On defense, they’re led by linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, who each have at least 12 sacks.
“They’re really effective,” Carroll said. “They have 25 sacks between those two guys … I don’t think anyone gives you more problems than Za’Darius does in all of the things they do with him. He’s all over the place.”
He has 12.5 sacks and has been a big problem for opposing offenses.
“He’s really hard to block,” Carroll said. “Seriously, he’s just hard to block.”
Carroll compared Smith’s style of play to that of Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who commands double teams while also making an impact in the running game.
Packers tight end Jimmy Graham played for the Seahawks for three seasons, so there is some familiarity against the big target.
“He’s such a monster of a player and athlete that you know he can just make things happen,” Carroll said. “We’ll give him a lot of respect.”
Carroll preaches that the team needs to go 1-0 every week, and he said keeping that mentality is the hardest part of managing players in the playoffs.
“The challenge really is handling the players’ mentality,” he said. “Keeping them balanced and clear thinking and not distracted by the hoopla and the fun of it and all that.”
Linebacker Bobby Wagner
Wagner was named an All Pro for the fifth time in his career, and like Carroll, keyed to the Packers’ run game as what’s different that Green Bay teams in year’s past.
“They have a run game that they kind of depend on a little bit,” he said, noting that it helps Rodgers with play action passes and their offense as a whole.
The game will be cold, likely in the low 20s, but Wagner said after the 2015 playoff game against the Vikings that was below freezing, the weather won’t affect him.
“I’ve never been in a game like that before when you sneeze and before the snot comes out your nose it turns into ice,” Wagner said. “As long as it’s not that I think we’re going to be good.”
Wagner said one thing the Packers try to do is catch defenses off guard by making a lot of substitutions, which could cause confusion and potentially have defenders trying to leave the field when the ball is snapped.
“We have to make sure we don’t get hurt by those little things, those little details”
While Graham is a matchup problem because of his size, Wagner is excited about potentially matching up with him.
“Try and hit him 100 percent,” Wagner said of how to stop Graham. “Try and hit him a lot.”
Safety Quandre Diggs
Diggs returned to the lineup after missing two weeks with an ankle injury. He arguably has more experience against Rodgers and the Packers than anyone, having played for the Detroit Lions for four full seasons and the first part of this season before being traded to Seattle.
He said while Rodgers is a threat in the pocket, it’s better to keep him in there versus running around and making plays that way.
“It’s easier said than done,” Diggs said. “Everybody’s been trying to do that his whole career.”
Jones’ emergence as a true lead back has allowed Rodgers to not have to be “Superman,” Diggs said, and has made the offense more balanced, even if Rodgers’ passing numbers aren’t at his usual MVP levels.
“If I was (Rodgers), I wouldn’t care if my numbers are down. We’re 13-3,” Diggs said.
Rodgers’ top target is Davante Adams, who had 997 yards while playing in just 12 games. Diggs had high praise for the star receiver.
“He’s very good with his routes,” Diggs said. “He and (Los Angeles Chargers receiver) Keenan Allen probably have the two best releases in the game, so I have a lot of respect for (Adams).”
Receiver DK Metcalf
Metcalf had the best game of his young career against the Eagles, hauling in seven catches for 160 yards and a touchdown. While he shined, he doesn’t think the Packers will bring more attention to him than they normally would.
“If they do that, Tyler (Lockett) and (David Moore) are going to have a breakout game,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf may find himself lined up against cornerback Kevin King, who was a star at the University of Washington. King leads Green Bay with five interceptions and is a long, fast cornerback. King’s play is similar to the rest of the Packers’ defense, Metcalf said.
“I know he’s a big corner,” Metcalf said. They’re going to challenge us at the line. They play a lot of man (coverage) and they’re pretty experienced on the back end (with their safeties). Their (defensive) line is pretty good. It’s going to be a good matchup for us.”
This week will be the coldest game Metcalf has ever played in. What was the previous coldest game he was in?
“Probably last week,” he said, laughing. “It’s going to be cold. I’m ready for it.”