The Packers inched further in the playoffs last week as they took down the Seahawks on a cold night at Lambeau Field.
As with every game, I turned on the footage shortly after the game ended and started grading each position to get an idea of how every individual unit performed in this vital game.
Grades are a great tool to track performance and also to get an idea of which unit stepped up to make a difference in the game. Like many, I’d love to grade each individual player to get an even better idea, but keep in mind that I’m only one man. This season I’ve gotten a better glimpse of who has made the difference each game to help propel the Packers to a win. There were several position groups who really surprised me this week and stepped up when needed most.
Aaron Rodgers fared well in this game. He didn’t ever seem to get too hot or too cold. His play was consistent and he was able to deliver a couple of crucial third-down throws. When the Seahawks brought pressure, I noticed that he was able to step up and deliver a throw with perfect timing. The part of his game that struggled was outside of the pocket. When flushed to either side, the field often got too condensed and he wasn’t able to connect with his receiver. This is typical for most plays against pressure, but I felt like he missed a few opportunities to hit receivers. As always, Rodgers did a great job of protecting the ball and limiting low percentage plays.
Running Backs: B+
The Packers offense went to the ground game early and often in this game. I wasn’t too surprised, given how well the Packers have fared on the ground this season, and also how well Aaron Jones has been playing. Jones seemed to do well on outside runs, which included toss plays, outside zone and stretch looks. When the offense needed the yardage, Jones was able to run behind his pads and pick up 3-4 yards on early downs. Be it under center or in the shotgun; Jones was a key factor in the offense’s performance.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line was hit and miss throughout most of the game. With the loss of Bryan Bulaga, backup tackle Jared Veldheer was called on to step up. Most of the run plays went away from Veldheer, but I thought he held his own when plays were called to the right side of the formation. The interior offensive line was the unit that struggled the most. Seattle was able to get pressure up the middle multiple times, resulting in several busted plays. That’s something that a team cannot afford in these big-time games. Billy Turner struggled throughout most of the game. His pass sets seemed to be just a touch off. The Seahawks gave the Packers interior line fits with their overload fronts.
Tight Ends: B+
This was one group that I was incredibly happy with throughout this game. Jimmy Graham was a key player throughout the game, as he made several big-time catches, one which secured the win for the Packers. It was not only in the passing game but in the run game that the tight ends did well. Both Graham and Lewis did a nice job setting up blocks on the edge that allowed Jones to turn the corner and get some decent yards. LaFleur ran numerous 2 tight end sets throughout the game, as expected, and seemed to have success running to the stacked tight end side. When this unit plays better, it makes the whole offense run more smoothly.
Wide Receivers: C
Davantae Adams carried a huge part of the load when it came to the passing game. Adams was responsible for 11 receptions, 160 yards, and 2 touchdowns when it was all said and done. With the exception of Adams, I didn’t see much from the wide receiver position. I noticed several times that the receivers had trouble separating from the Seattle defensive backs; mainly on comeback routes. Adams was the one receiver who consistently was able to do this. Hopefully, his play in this game can elevate the performance of the other receivers against the 49ers.
Defensive Line: C+
The interior defensive line seemed to do a decent job throughout the game maintaining gap control against Seattle’s run and swallowing up inside runs. Their run game suffered, and as a result Marshawn Lynch only rushed for 26 yards. The downside to the defensive line’s game was against the pass, as several times they run past the quarterback which opened up huge running lanes for Russell Wilson. I’d like to see them play more under control and be aware of the run by the quarterback. Mike Pettine had a good adjustment for his defensive line in the third quarter though and had them play more of a spy in long yard situations.
It was another strong game for standout edge player Za’Darius Smith. Mike Pettine used him all over the defensive front and made it a nightmare for Seattle’s offensive line. Preston Smith also had a solid performance, especially on third down. Like the defensive line, I noticed that the edge players had a tendency to overrun the play and allow Wilson lanes to run in. It can be difficult to judge a rush because the edge players want to disrupt the timing of the throw, yet they have to play under control. Ultimately, this wasn’t much to worry about. The Packers edge players continue to step up week to week and elevate the play of this defense.
Inside Linebackers: C
Blake Martinez seemed to have one of his better games against Seattle, with the exception of a few lapses in the passing game. Martinez really stepped up in the run game and did a nice job filling the B and C gaps. I have noticed that he has had a tendency to overrun plays this season, but I hardly noticed it in this game. Martinez is a player who has consistently improved week to week. He’ll have to play another stellar game against the 49ers and shut down their strong running attack.
Defensive Backs: B-
One thing that worried me heading into this game was the play of the defensive backs. Lockett and Metcalf looked great on film and it was going to be a tough task to find ways to isolate them from the game. The Packers defensive backs were able to do just that when playing zone coverage. Mike Pettine opted to play more zone coverage as opposed to man coverage throughout this game; more than likely to eliminate the threat of the deep pass. Crossing routes were still a concern to me as Wilson was able to hit a couple of receivers breaking across the field. The safeties particularly had a nice game against the run. Amos was able to roll down in the box quickly and add an extra defender, often stuffing the run or forcing Lynch to bounce the play outside.
Every unit did exactly what they had to do in order to win this game. The theme was pretty consistent across the board this week; not too high, not too low. But that’s all that was needed to come away with the win. That really has been the mantra of this team this year.
It doesn’t matter how; just find a way to win. The Packers have the opportunity to do that all the way to the Super Bowl.
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