One of the biggest questions surrounding the Green Bay Packers’ roster leading up to Sunday’s game with the Seattle Seahawks was how the team would handle the linebacker unit. Nick Perry was injured last week and was out for the game, and Clay Matthews came in limited with his shoulder injury once again; with the team often lining up “elephant” ends Julius Peppers and Datone Jones at both outside linebacker and as interior pass rushers, how would the team divide up the snaps on the edge?
As it turned out, those two players wound up staying on the edge almost entirely, opening up an opportunity for rookie Dean Lowry to shoulder a heavy load on the line. Lowry was coming fresh off his best game as a pro a week ago, when he recorded his first career sack, and he picked up right where he left off. The fourth-round pick out of Northwestern got another sack this week and had the second-highest snap count of any lineman, showing the motor and physical tools that made him an exciting prospect this spring.
Meanwhile, the Packers continue to use Ty Montgomery as their primary running back, with Christine Michael as a change-of-pace pounder. For the second straight game, James Starks was an afterthought, signifying that the veteran may be running out of time in Green Bay despite having another year left on his contract.
OFFENSE (59 plays)
LT David Bakhtiari 59, RG Lane Taylor 59, C Corey Linsley 59, RT Bryan Bulaga 59, RG T.J. Lang 57, T/G Jason Spriggs 6, T/G Don Barclay 2
The Packers got a nearly-complete performance from Lang, who returned early from his foot injury to start and play well throughout this contest. The rest of the game went well for the line also, as they allowed just a single sack on Aaron Rodgers and gave him great time to throw throughout the game. The Packers’ didn’t rush for a ton of yardage - just 93 yards on 30 carries, but there were times when they were effective - and that 3.1 yards per carry average was dragged down by a few kneel-downs and losses by the two quarterbacks.
QB Aaron Rodgers 48, RB Ty Montgomery 30, RB Aaron Ripkowski 24, RB Christine Michael 17, QB Brett Hundley 11, RB James Starks 7, FB Joe Kerridge 4
Speaking of two QBs, Rodgers was pulled early in the 4th quarter with the Packers up 28-3 in an effort to conserve the health of his right calf, which he injured on the first touchdown pass to Davante Adams. He was brilliant throughout the game, however, completing 78% of his passes for more than 10 yards per attempt. He made a couple of picture-perfect deep throws to Adams - the touchdown and another along the left sideline - and was able to set up his receivers often for decent yards after the catch.
Montgomery finally got the start at running back over James Starks, and Mike McCarthy appears to be ready to commit to #88 being his feature back. He still did not reach double-digits in carries, but he did have nine rushes for 41 yards while Michael added 10 carries for 36.
Hundley was incomplete on both of his pass attempts.
WR Jordy Nelson 55, WR Davante Adams 53, TE Richard Rodgers 34, WR Randall Cobb 33, TE Jared Cook 16, WR Geronimo Allison 13, WR Jeff Janis 3
The Packers continue to keep Cobb’s snap count down, though he tweaked an ankle in the second quarter that kept him out for a bit. Cook left the game in the second as well and did not return, thanks to a chest injury; the Packers will need to hope that his injury was not a broken rib, or else he may once again be missing some time.
For the second game in a row, Janis was on the field for a very brief period but took another end around for 19 yards. This one finished in the end zone, however, as Janis recorded his first career regular season Lambeau Leap in unorthodox fashion. One must assume that in using the end-around in back-to-back games, McCarthy is trying to set up a tendency that he can get defenses to focus on on the future.
DEFENSE (71 snaps)
S/ILB Morgan Burnett 71, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 71, QB Quinten Rollins 71, S/CB Micah Hyde 65, CB Damarious Randall 61, CB LaDarius Gunter 56, S Kentrell Brice 17
Once again, Burnett was called into action as an inside linebacker for much of Sunday’s game, and he came through with flying colors. Burnett recorded the game’s first interception, setting the tone for the entire contest. Even if the receiver did not fall down, Burnett was in perfect position in front of him and probably would have picked off the pass anyway.
Meanwhile, Micah Hyde stepped in to play a lot of safety while the Packers rotated through their top three cornerbacks for much of the game. As usual, Hyde dropped down into the slot on occasion as well, with Brice picking up the slack at safety.
All told, the Packers’ defensive backs recorded all five picks on the day, and had a total of seven passes defended.
ILB Joe Thomas 71, OLB Julius Peppers 53, OLB Datone Jones 45, OLB Clay Matthews 24, OLB Jayrone Elliott 20, ILB Jake Ryan 8
Ryan’s injury mist still be bothering him significantly, leading to his small snap count and the use of Burnett inside often. Thomas didn’t miss a snap, and he led the team with 10 total tackles.
Green Bay was able to get significant contributions from the outside linebackers, and both Peppers and Jones played almost exclusively on the edge instead of lining up on the interior in pass-rushing situations. It clearly worked, however, as the Packers got pressure on Russell Wilson throughout the game.
Jones had arguably the most impressive day of any of the linebackers - he recorded a sack but had a whopping five hits on WIlson and was the only player with more than one. Elliott added a big sack as well in rotational duty.
Mike Daniels 49, Dean Lowry 34, Letroy Guion 29, Kenny Clark 25, Christian Ringo 11
With the injury situation requiring Peppers and Jones to stay outside, the Packers gave Dean Lowry a long look as an interior lineman and he performed very well. Lowry recorded a sack - his second straight game with one - and was active in helping to collapse the pocket with regularity. Guion and Clark were active in the run game and Ringo even pitched in by forcing a late fumble by Alex Collins that put the cherry on top of the defensive performance. Perhaps the funniest play of the game was Ringo running onto the field late and sprinting to the line of scrimmage at the snap, using that momentum to absolutely pancake the Seahawks’ left guard.
Seriously, try to find something more ridiculous than this:
Ringo's "delayed blitz" almost sacked Wilson with the left guard https://t.co/rYFfC8Tks6— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) December 12, 2016
And it’s almost an afterthought, but Daniels was his typical self, wreaking havoc on the line throughout the game.