Following a week full of good vibes with Russell Wilson coming back from injury, the Seahawks thought this time would be different at Lambeau Field. More than two decades removed from their last win in Titletown, this would be the weekend they finally got the monkey off their back.
Unfortunately, for those who hoped Wilson’s return would spark an offense that hasn’t met expectations, they would have been better served turning off their televisions or cell phones and instead watching paint dry. Despite the eight-time Pro Bowler’s return, Seattle subjected its fans to one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history, producing a meager 167 yards of offense in a 17-0 shutout loss to the Packers.
Dropping to 3-6 on the season and further hindering their playoff chances, here are five takeaways from the Seahawks latest embarrassment on the frozen tundra:
1. Wilson may have made a miraculous recovery, but he looked anything but ready to play.
All week long, coaches and teammates raved about Wilson’s ability to make it back from a complicated finger surgery in just four weeks. The quarterback should be praised for his effort rehabbing back quickly, but it was apparent only two drives into Sunday’s contest that he wasn't close to 100 percent. After just three practices to prepare coming off injured reserve, he airmailed several passes to open receivers, missed opportunities to unload the football with shaky pocket presence, and threw a pair of interceptions in the end zone on ill-advised decisions into double coverage.
For the game, Wilson completed 20 out of 40 passes for 161 yards and posted a 39.7 passer rating, the fourth-lowest of his entire career for a single game. He wasn't able to get the ball to his top playmakers either, as DK Metcalf had just three catches for 26 yards and Tyler Lockett had two catches for 23 yards. He did look spry running the ball and escaping pass rushers, finding a way to avoid several would-be sacks and rushing five times for 32 yards. While he has struggled throughout his career at Lambeau, this looked more like rust and not being ready to play than a stadium-related curse.
2. Third down woes and poor pass protection continue to ground the offense.
For the past several weeks, coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron have cited third down inefficiency as a primary culprit for Seattle’s inability to sustain drives and control the football. Unfortunately, pleas for improvement in that area continue to fall on deaf ears. With Wilson far from his usual self as a passer and decision maker, the team went 1-5 in the first half on third down opportunities and if not for padding numbers when the game was out of hand late in the fourth quarter, they would have been well below 33 percent on third downs for a fourth straight game.
As a result, the Seahawks held the ball for just 20:51, or nearly 20 minutes less than the Packers. Along with not sticking with the run game enough, poor protection for Wilson once again contributed to these issues. He was under constant pressure on early downs, setting up unfavorable third down chances throughout the game. Overall, Wilson was sacked three times for 28 yards and despite only being hit five times, those numbers don’t tell the story as the Packers harassed him all afternoon long.
3. For three-plus quarters, the Seahawks defense stood tall against Aaron Rodgers and company.
While Seattle couldn't get anything rolling on offense, Green Bay didn't fare much better against stingy defense that continues to improve each week. Returning from a one-week absence on the COVID-19 list, Aaron Rodgers connected with Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 41-yard completion on the game's opening drive after cornerback D.J. Reed slipped on the field. But the unit didn't cave in, ultimately forcing a missed field goal by Mason Crosby.
Over the Packers next six drives, despite constantly being on the field due to an inept offense, the Seahawks forced three punts, created a turnover on downs when rookie cornerback Tre Brown knocked a pass out of the hands of receiver Allen Lazard, and Jamal Adams picked off Rodgers moments after Wilson's first pick to keep the game at 3-0 late in the third quarter. After the first 45 minutes of play, Carroll's crew held the home team to 288 total yards, four third down conversions on nine attempts, and just three points, turning in their best performance of the year to keep the team in the game.
4. Once the dam broke, however, Seattle didn’t have an answer for AJ Dillon.
Unfortunately, with the offense not able to stay on the field all day long, the Seahawks had seen this movie before several times earlier this year and it seemed inevitable the defense would eventually crack. With the Packers holding the ball for 13 more minutes in the first three quarters, they started to wear down and with starting back Aaron Jones sidelined by a knee injury, the 250-pound Dillon took over the game. While he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, Seattle couldn't slow down the freight train in short yardage situations.
With 10:42 to go in the fourth quarter and Green Bay facing a 3rd and goal situation from Seattle's three-yard line, Bobby Wagner met the second year back at the line of scrimmage and looked to have the play snuffed out. But in a rare event, the future Hall of Famer was promptly taken for a ride into the end zone by the powerful back, extending the lead to 10-0. On the ensuing drive, Dillon caught a dump off from Rodgers, made Ugo Amadi miss in space, and by the time Wagner threw him down, he had gained 50 yards deep into Seahawks territory. He would later power his way into the end zone again from two yards out to put the nail in the coffin against an exhausted defense.
5. Fans can stop pointing the finger at officials, who didn’t cheat the Seahawks out of a win.
In a tight game with minimal margin for error until the fourth quarter, Seattle may have gotten a raw deal on a couple of crucial plays. At the 4:06 mark in the second quarter, Rodgers muffed a snap from the center on 2nd and 2 at midfield and defensive end Darrell Taylor appeared to make a clear recovery. However, officials initially ruled Green Bay maintained possession and after Carroll challenged the play by appearing to throw a flip phone instead of his red flag, the ruling stood under the premise Rodgers and Taylor had simultaneous possession. After the game, Carroll understandably seemed to be irked by the explanation given to him.
Then at the 7:53 mark in the third quarter, Wilson's interception made by Kevin King appeared to be dropped by the cornerback before he had possession. But a review from New York ruled the ground caused a fumble and the interception stood as called, taking three potential points off the board for Seattle.
But for those who want to argue those plays altered the outcome, while the Seahawks could have obviously benefited from starting a possession at midfield following the botched snap and Jason Myers could have made a short field goal to tie the game if King's interception was overturned, the Packers didn't score on either of their ensuing possessions. In the end, given the struggles Wilson and the offense endured all night, those two plays weren't the reason they lost.