Seattle is Uniquely Built to Take Advantage of Green Bay’s Weaknesses
Currently, I view the Seattle Seahawks as the most well-rounded team in the NFL.
They boast the top-ranked defense, the highest-ranked rushing offense, and a quarterback in Russell Wilson, who is on the verge of reaching elite status.
Since their Super Bowl run last year, Wilson has thrived with a formidable rushing attack supporting him.
In their recent game against the Carolina Panthers, Wilson showcased remarkable skill, particularly in the first half when running back Marshawn Lynch was limited.
During this period, Wilson shouldered the responsibility for the Seahawk’s offense and certainly delivered, executing precise throws.
One notable play involved him dissecting a heavy-pressure defensive look from the Panthers, resulting in a crucial touchdown.
This play demonstrated skill, timing, and trust, indicating significant growth in Wilson’s game.
On paper, the Seahawks may seem to hold certain advantages over the Green Bay Packers, their opponents in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.
However, it’s crucial to consider the context beyond the statistics.
Seattle’s top defensive ranking is influenced by a final stretch of regular-season games against a lineup of subpar to middling opposing offenses (CAR, OAK, NYG, KC, AZ, SF, PHI, SF, AZ, STL), with only one of them ranking as a top-10 scoring unit (the Eagles).
In the playoffs, there are no easy matchups. Seattle must strategically target Green Bay, especially where the Packers’ formidable scoring offense clashes with the Seahawks’ robust defense, identifying and exploiting their vulnerabilities.
This is the path to potentially becoming the first team since the New England Patriots (2003-04) to clinch back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
VULNERABILITY #1: RUN DEFENSE
While the Packers have made significant strides in this area, a potent rushing attack can still exploit this vulnerability.
We need only look back to last week’s clash against the Dallas Cowboys for evidence.
The Cowboys’ ground game posed challenges for the Packer defense, and were it not for one pivotal play where Julius Peppers forced a fumble from DeMarco Murray, resulting in a crucial turnover, the Packers might have surrendered close to 200 rushing yards.
This week, Green Bay will be up against the most formidable rushing offense since their Week 1 matchup against the Seahawks.
The Seahawks, the only team in the NFL with a more potent ground game than the Cowboys, could present similar challenges.
Seattle’s rushing attack relies on a tenacious offensive line that adeptly creates openings for Lynch.
Despite his listed weight of 215 pounds, Lynch runs with the power of a much heavier back, akin to someone weighing 250 pounds.
Green Bay will need to commit additional players to the box to contain him without significantly compromising the secondary.
This is especially crucial given Wilson’s demonstrated improvement in maneuvering outside the pocket.
I anticipate the Packers employing a coverage scheme known as Cover 6 (outlined below) to address this challenge.
In Cover 6, the defense runs quarters coverage on one side (or Cover 4) and Cover 2 on the other.
It’s sometimes referred to as quarter-quarter-half because it divides the deep part of the field into three sections, though not equal in size, as is typically the case in most zone coverages.
This coverage configuration allows for an extra defender in the box while still providing enough players in the deep zones to safeguard against passing threats.
Should the Seahawks’ rushing attack thrive, it not only grants them command of the game but also acts as a formidable defense against a potentially high-powered Packers offense commanded by Aaron Rodgers.
Maintaining control of the ball translates to managing the clock effectively and curtailing the number of possessions for the opposing team.
VULNERABILITY #2: RODGERS’ LEG
The foremost concern for Packers fans is Aaron Rodgers’ injured calf, which also presents the most glaring opportunity for Seattle’s defense to exploit until he demonstrates he’s not hindered.
Last week, Rodgers played on one leg, even resorting to hopping on one leg to reach the line of scrimmage during hurry-up plays.
This week, one can only imagine the discussions in the Seahawks’ defensive line meetings.
They are acutely aware that they’ll press a quarterback who won’t be very mobile.
Probably, Rodgers won’t be moving much in the pocket this week.
This suggests that Seattle will likely face a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy in the run game and a rapid passing attack.
The most effective coverage to counteract these threats would likely be man-to-man, which means we can anticipate strong safety Kam Chancellor positioned closer to the line of scrimmage (depicted below).
This approach allows the Seahawks to play tight man coverage and disrupt the timing of the wide receivers’ routes, an aspect where their typical Cover 3 scheme isn’t as adept.
In Cover 3, the outside defensive backs are responsible for deep 1/3 zones, limiting their ability to be as assertive on the shorter routes the Packers are likely to employ under these circumstances.
Moreover, with more defenders near the line of scrimmage in press man, the defense will likely be more robust if Green Bay opts for a run-heavy game plan.
Seattle’s strategy should be straightforward: On offense, prioritize gaining yards on the ground while maintaining control of the clock.
Defensively, employ an abundance of man-to-man press coverage until Aaron Rodgers demonstrates otherwise.
This disrupts the timing of the quick passing game and fortifies the run defense against a team dependent on both aspects to compensate for an injured quarterback.
The Seahawks are specifically structured to exploit vulnerabilities in the Packers’ approach.
If they strategically recognize and seize these openings, they might secure a return to the championship stage for a shot at the elusive back-to-back victory.