In order for the Packers to win on the road in Seattle, the defense didn't need to be great, but it had to make stops in crucial situations to give Aaron Rodgers and the offense the ball. The offense didn't need to be special, but Aaron Rodgers needed to be sharp and the run game had to be effective.
Seattle finished with 207 rushing yards to just 80 for the Packers, and Russell Wilson finished with better numbers than Aaron Rodgers. Wilson finished 19 of 28 for 191 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, and a passer rating of 52.1. Rodgers finished 23 of 33 for 189 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 47.9.
The linebackers (minus Brad Jones) didn't perform terribly, but the secondary was burned on some crucial third-down conversions and a plethora of missed tackles turned short gains into long runs by Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.
Throw in some injuries to Bryan Bulaga, Eddie Lacy, and Richard Rodgers and Thursday night went from disappointing to nightmare-ish.
Let's take a look at the grades.
Aaron Rodgers wasn't "special" on Thursday night, and didn't even look sharp at times. In his defense, the run game stalled, the wide receivers weren't creating separation, he didn't have an athletic tight end like Brandon Bostick to keep the defense honest in the seam, and oh yeah...he was playing the best defense in football at the hardest place to win in the NFL.
His interception off the hands of Jordy Nelson may be more Nelson's fault than Rodgers, but Rodgers could have thrown a better ball in that situation also. Rodgers didn't seem very comfortable in the pocket, and that intensified once Derek Sherrod came in to replace Bryan Bulaga. Rodgers didn't test Richard Sherman once the entire game in what seemed like a pre-planned strategy heading into the game. He also fumbled while being sacked for the third consecutive game.
Running Backs: B
Eddie Lacy finished with 12 carries for 34 yards, and looked to be building momentum towards an impressive outing before being taken out of the game with an apparent concussion. Until Lacy learns to save himself from unnecessary hits, his concussion problems will likely shorten his career. He is a powerful back who runs with an aggressive nature, but those hits and concussions are going to add up quickly. Lacy was solid in pass protection, and added three receptions for 11 yards from the backfield.
James Starks led the unit with 37 yards on seven carries and added two receptions for 11 yards. Starks showed great vision when the run blocking did break down, and bounced out a few runs that could have been losses otherwise. If Lacy isn't ready to go against the Jets, Starks appears ready to shoulder the load.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C
While Jordy Nelson caught nine of 14 targeted passes for 83 yards, the rest of the unit was woefully unproductive. Randall Cobb had six catches for 58 yards and one touchdown against the Seahawks slot cornerback, and Andrew Quarless added three receptions for 26 yards.
Without a threat down the seam of the defense, the Seahawks defense was able to key on Nelson and Cobb on the same side of the field, since the Packers completely shied away from Richard Sherman. This led to the offense resorting to check-downs and short passes. Add in the fact that wideouts were unable to create much separation, and you were left with an unproductive offense that couldn't move the offense at a respectable clip.
Offensive Line: B
Rookie center Corey Linsley performed well in what many considered a death sentence in his first career start. He finished as the second-highest rated starter on the team with a +2.2 overall rating according to Pro Football Focus. He finished blocks well, had excellent footwork, and even helped out on combo blocks well. If the rookie from Ohio State can continue to play at that level, the loss of JC Tretter is somewhat minimized.
The potential loss of Bryan Bulaga, however, would be disastrous. That was proven very quickly when Bulaga went down with an MCL strain on the 20th offensive play of the game. Derek Sherrod is just not an NFL-caliber player anymore. I don't know if it's mental or if that leg injury took away all of his athletic ability, but Sherrod could barely get in and out of his stance and was beaten soundly for two sacks, including one that turned into a safety and pretty much put the game out of reach.
Josh Sitton led the entire offense with a +4.6 overall grade (+1.7 pass block, +2.2 run block), while T.J. Lang (-3.9 overall, -3.3 run block) and David Bakhtiari (-5.0 overall, -3.2 run block) didn't grade out quite well. Pro Football Focus grades aside, the unit played aggressively, gave Rodgers plenty of time to complete throws, and generally performed well other than a some porous play from Sherrod and a couple of bad penalties from Bakhtiari.
Defensive Line: D-
The loss of B.J. Raji was considered a massive blow to the Packers run defense, and Thursday's performance proved that notion. Mike Daniels was handled by James Carpenter for the majority of the game, Letroy Guion did next to nothing, and Datone Jones didn't make much noise either.
Josh Boyd finished with a +0.6 overall grade on 24 snaps, while Daniels ended up with a +2.8 overall grade (+3.7 run defense, -1.0 pass rush).
Guion (-2.3 overall, -1.7 run defense, -0.7 pass rush) and Jones (-1.9 overall, -1.9 run defense, -0.1 pass rush) didn't grade out as well.
Clay Matthews (1.5 pressures) and Julius Peppers (2.5 pressures) were able to create some pass rush off the edge, but not consistently enough to make Wilson uncomfortable in the pocket. Mike Neal was a non-factor as either a lineman or a linebacker, but Nick Perry did flash some potential in only nine snaps. His pass break-up off a bull rush was a thing of beauty, but his limited snap count makes me believe he isn't in the coaches' good graces.
A.J. Hawk appeared flat-footed in coverage (to the surprise of no one), and didn't shed blocks very well either. Some of that falls on the defensive line for being absolute turnstile, but you have to expect your inside linebacker to not get driven downfield on multiple plays.
While Hawk's performance (-4.1 overall grade) was lackluster, Brad Jones' performance (-5.8 overall) was downright pathetic. Jones was flagged on two defensive holding calls that would have gotten the defense off the field. Jones was also tackling way too high, getting dragged downfield on tackles, and couldn't keep up with Zach Miller, one of the slower tight ends in the league, in pass coverage. If Jones is considered the best coverage linebacker on the roster (he played every single snap in dime coverage), then this team is in trouble.
Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may have missed three tackles, but he was clearly the best safety on the field. Morgan Burnett played all 70 snaps but I couldn't tell you why. He graded out at -2.4 overall with -1.9 in pass coverage. I'm starting to feel less and less confident that he will ever revert to pre-injury form, as he looks hesitant on his reads and isn't playing with much quickness or intensity. He did lead the team with eight tackles, but most of those were after sizable gains in the passing game.
Micah Hyde finished with five tackles, but his pass coverage is still suspect. He continues to be a sure-tackler in run support, but I'm not sure if he will ever be much more than that. Casey Hayward graded out the worst of any secondary member with a -2.5 overall grade with three missed tackles.
Sam Shields graded out well with a +3.2 overall grade (+2.9 in pass coverage), but had a horrible mishap in coverage when he got caught peeking into the backfield on a read-option pass that turned into a touchdown. Tramon Williams broke up a few passes and was adequate in run support.
Mason Crosby hit from 23-yards out on his only attempt and averaged 72.3 yards per kickoff with 3.84 seconds in hang-time.
The Ginger Wolverine was less than stellar; his four punts went for an average of 38.3 yards. He could have helped flip the field possession for an ailing defense, but he was unable to do so on multiple attempts.
Overall, the team looked underprepared and overmatched. Some of that falls on the coaching staff, some of that falls on the players, and some of that is just what happens when you play the defending Super Bowl champs at their place and things don't bounce your way.
The Packers look to rebound on Sunday afternoon against a New York Jets team that barely got past the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday.
I'll be making the trek from west-Michigan for the game, and will be bringing my dad and younger brother to their first game at Lambeau Field (My grandpa took me there twice as a young kid). If there's any local bars or tailgates worth visiting, let me know in the comments section below or on twitter. I'll be the guy in the Rodgers jersey with bright yellow camouflage pants (that should limit me to about half the population?).