GREEN BAY, Wis. – When the Green Bay Packers met the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC Championship in 2014, Seattle was powered by its superior defense while the Packers were driven by their high-powered offense.
How things have changed.
Both units were below average for the season, and especially so down the stretch. Seattle, which finished 23rd with 23.9 points allowed per game, yielded at least 24 points in each of its final five games of the regular season. Green Bay’s offense, on the other hand, failed to surpass 24 points in six of its final seven games.
Other than turnovers, Seattle’s defense has struggled in every area. Seattle finished 26th in total defense (29th in yards per play), 22nd against the run (28th in yards per play) and 27th against the pass (21st in yards per attempt). The pass rush is feeble (30th in sack percentage), and the situational defense hasn’t been good enough (16th on third down, 26th in the red zone). Green Bay running back Aaron Jones could find success not only as a runner; Seattle allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs.
Seattle’s secondary used to be filled with household names, with Richard Sherman at one cornerback and Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor forming one of the best safety tandems of the era. Today, it’s Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers as the corners and Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs as the safeties. In last year’s game against Seattle, Davante Adams caught 10-of-12 passes for 166 yards. Finding ways to get him open will be important for coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
Turnovers have been Seattle’s saving grace. The Seahawks’ 32 takeaways led the NFC and were third-most in the NFL. They came evenly split between interceptions and fumbles. Defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney forced four fumbles and Rasheem Green added three. Nine players have interceptions, with Flowers, Diggs and linebacker K.J. Wright having three each. Green Bay finished second in the league with only 13 giveaways, though it had three vs. Minnesota and one vs. Detroit in its last two games.
Clowney and linebacker Bobby Wagner are the Seahawks’ top defenders. While Clowney had only three sacks, he had 54 pressures. He splits his time almost evenly between the left and right sides. Like Green Bay with Za’Darius Smith, he’ll rush from the edge or the inside. So, every member of the Packers’ offensive line will get his chance. Wagner led the NFL with 159 tackles and added one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed.