While the Green Bay Packers were rolling over the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of Sunday’s Divisional Playoff game, stretching out a 21-3 lead at halftime, they were doing so with plenty of action for their tight ends. That position group rolls four deep with the return of rookie Jace Sternberger off injured reserve, and all four players made significant contributions as the Packers held on for a 28-23 victory.
For Jimmy Graham, it was three massive third-down conversions. Sternberger was used heavily as an H-back, lining up both on the line and at fullback. Veteran Marcedes Lewis continues to be a punishing blocker in the run game, while Robert Tonyan has the occasional big play but provides a physical presence as well.
All told, the tight ends caught only a total of four passes — three for Graham and Sternberger’s first NFL reception — but they were often decoys or other critical parts of pass plays, helping to free up Davante Adams. The Packers’ top receiver went off for 8 catches, 160 yards, and two scores, one of which came out of 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends, and Adams). The receiver was sure to credit his head coach for that play design, calling Matt LaFleur a “genius” for the call that led to his 40-yard score that made it a 28-10 game.
Meanwhile, the Packers got a huge game from a backup lineman and used a heavy dose of their featured running back on Sunday. Here’s how the playing time and numbers break down.
OFFENSE (64 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 64
While Rodgers’ numbers look good-but-not-great — 16-for-27 for 243 yards and two scores — the eye test shows a quarterback who repeatedly kept Packers drives alive with crucial throws on third downs. Rodgers saved his best passes for the money down, particularly on the game’s last series, when he hit Adams and Graham to seal the victory.
Aaron Jones 54, Jamaal Williams 9, Tyler Ervin 7
After opening the game with a big 23-yard run off the left side, Jones had a less-than-stellar remainder to the came, picking up just 39 yards on 20 carries afterwards. However, his tough running near the goal line saw him picking up right where he left off in the regular season; Jones scored on a pair of one-yard touchdowns, both coming on third-and-goal opportunities in the second quarter. Ervin provided a bit of a spark in the run game, with gains of 18 and 7 yards, while Williams’ handful of snaps largely came in some third down situations.
Davante Adams 59, Jake Kumerow 30, Allen Lazard 20, Geronimo Allison 20, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 5
The Packers made the call to use more tight ends in this game and to try focusing on the run game, leading to Kumerow getting the second-most snaps of any receiver besides Adams. And the non-Adams wideouts were a minimal factor in the passing game: none of them was targeted more than once, and Lazard did not get a single pass thrown his way.
But much of that was due to Adams’ stellar day, as he saw 11 targets come his way. Eight catches, a team-record 160 receiving yards, and two scores is a heck of a stat line for anyone in any game, but it’s a great sight for Packers fans hoping to see the Adams-Rodgers connection come alive once again.
Marcedes Lewis 42, Jace Sternberger 28, Jimmy Graham 24, Robert Tonyan 21
As mentioned earlier, the Packers used a huge dose of Marcedes Lewis as they tried to get the run game going. It didn’t work much outside of the red zone, but the rotation of this group proved to be effective enough to get Jones into the end zone and to create some space for Adams in the passing game.
Graham’s three receptions went for 49 yards, but all three were third-down conversions to move the chains. The lasting memory for him in this game, however, will be his catch-and-run to just barely get to the first-down marker and allow the Packers to kneel out the clock.
David Bakhtiari 64, Elgton Jenkins 64, Corey Linsley 64, Billy Turner 64, Jared Veldheer 64, Lucas Patrick 1
With no Bryan Bulaga — active but unavailable due to the illness that has swept through the Packers’ locker room — Veldheer had to suit up on short notice at right tackle and did so very well under the circumstances. There were a few mistakes, but all told he played an excellent game and should give the Packers some reason to seriously consider bringing him back in 2020 if he is interested.
The rest of the line mostly held up well, aside from two sacks, one of which was ruled so on a Rodgers scramble for no gain. The other came on a third down with about 6:30 left in the game and the Packers threatening to get into field goal range, as the line entirely missed blocking Shaquem Griffin.
DEFENSE (64 plays)
Kenny Clark 55, Dean Lowry 43, Tyler Lancaster 26, Montravius Adams 13, Kingsley Keke 3
Back injury? What back injury? Clark played through his issue with a normal snap count, largely maintaining his high level of play. He finished a sack of Wilson and recorded four tackles on the day, while Lowry and Lancaster had two stops apiece. Adams had the one other quarterback hit for this unit besides the Clark sack.
Za’Darius Smith 57, Preston Smith 48, Kyler Fackrell 34, Rashan Gary 10
The first half was Za’Darius Smith’s, but the second belonged to Preston. Z had two first-half sacks, while Preston picked up a pair after halftime, including a massive sack on third-and-five with the Seahawks facing a five-point deficit. Each player ended the day with four hits on Wilson
Blake Martinez 64, B.J. Goodson 12, Ibraheim Campbell 10, Oren Burks 9
As usual, Martinez led the way in tackling for the Packers, recording ten total tackles in the game. He looked instinctive and active in this one, aggressively picking his gaps in the run game and helping the Packers keep the Seahawks’ running backs almost entirely in check. Goodson and Campbell each had one solo tackle, while Burks finished the day with three assisted tackles plus another three tackles on special teams.
Adrian Amos 64, Darnell Savage 62, Will Redmond 4
Savage briefly left the game for two plays, but was back on the field in short order. When he was out there, he picked up five solo stops, while Amos had five total tackles and a pass breakup.
Jaire Alexander 64, Kevin King 62, Tramon Williams 41, Chandon Sullivan 23
Alexander was matched up on D.K. Metcalf for much of the game, in a bit of a slip from the matchups that most expected. He finished the game with nine tackles and a pass breakup, but had some nice plays in coverage and made some critical open-field tackles to prevent the Seahawks from turning nice gains into huge ones. King had five solo tackles, while Sullivan had one and a fumble recovery that wasn’t.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Will Redmond 21, Oren Burks 20, Ty Summers 20, Ibraheim Campbell 16, Robert Tonyan 16, Kyler Fackrell 14, Chandon Sullivan 12