Matt Hasselbeck’s bold prediction seems like it was just yesterday. Made after an overtime coin flip in another January playoff game at Lambeau Field, the proclamation is now 16 years old, but lives forever in Green Bay Packers lore.
“We want the ball and we’re gonna score.”
Of course, Seattle ultimately did not go down and score. After the teams traded three-and-outs to start overtime, Al Harris’s pick-six halted the Seahawks’ second overtime drive and gave Green Bay the decisive points to advance in the postseason.
But when Seattle visits Lambeau again this weekend, the Packers’ defense will be charged with containing the Seahawks’ offense, something it has done well at home in recent history.
Playing at Green Bay has been a curse for Seattle, which has lost its last eight games in Wisconsin. More specifically, in Russell Wilson’s tenure as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback, the Packers sport a 3-0 record at home versus Seattle and did not allow more than 17 points in any of those three contests.
Working in the Packers’ favor this year is an injury-riddled Seahawks offense. The NFC West foe played its wildcard game against Philadelphia last week down several starters on the offensive line and without all but one of its running backs on the initial 53-man roster. While Seattle is still holding out hope for Duane Brown to return to his left tackle post this week, it does not appear likely that left guard Mike Iupati will be taking the field. Adding to the concerns, center Joey Hunt and Brown’s replacement, George Fant, also were listed on the Seahawks’ Wednesday injury report.
Those injuries could help Green Bay’s defense win the battle up front, something APC’s Tex Western touched on earlier this week. Containing Wilson is instrumental for any team hoping to beat Seattle, as the wily veteran remains a dual threat weapon. But the myriad injuries in the backfield to running backs C.J. Prosise, Rashaad Penny, and Chris Carson mean that stopping Wilson becomes the true knockout punch. Wilson led the team in rushing last week with 45 yards on nine rushes, but tailbacks Marshawn Lynch and Travis Homer combined for a meager 19 yards on 17 carries.
To win the game, the Packers will have to do what the Eagles could not: defend the pass. Wilson threw for 325 yards and rode a 108.3 passer rating en route to victory as the Seahawks adapted their offense to fit the personnel available. After being a very balanced offense in last year’s playoff loss to Dallas, Seattle was aggressive early in Philadelphia, passing the ball on 63% of its first-half plays. A similar style should be expected this week, yet the Seahawks have less pass-catching weapons than in previous meetings with Green Bay. During the 2019 season, only three players — receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf and tight end Jacob Hollister — tallied more than 40 receptions.
Perhaps the biggest matchup this weekend is the Seahawks’ red zone offense against the Packers’ red zone defense. Seattle has scored a touchdown on nearly 63% of its red zone drives this season, ranking ninth in the NFL. But Green Bay’s defense ranked seventh in the league in preventing touchdowns inside the 20-yard line, doing so at a 50% clip. With an improved pass rush and a secondary that is beginning to come into its own, the Packers’ defense is in position to get some of those crucial red zone stops.
Wilson threw just five interceptions all season long and his ability to protect the ball was a big reason for Seattle’s +12 turnover differential. It would be unwise for Packers fans to count on another pick-six like Harris’s this time around. So while Seattle may want the ball and want to score, will Green Bay’s defense once again be up to the task in halting the Seahawks at home in the playoffs?