Sep 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running backMarshawn Lynch
(24) eludes a tackle by Green Bay Packers outside linebackerNick Perry
(53) to rush for a touchdown during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Shut Down Beast-Mode
All right, all right, that’s probably not happening.
With a player as good as Marshawn Lynch, that’s next to impossible without divine intervention AND some kind of freak injury (I hope neither of those happens by the way; I don’t want an asterisk next to a Packers’ victory. Plus, injuries are never fun. Never).
What Green Bay will need to hope for is to pump the brakes on that bulldozer of a man. At the least, they’ll need to put up more resistance than they did in the previous meeting this season. In that one, Lynch lived up to his moniker big-time, picking up 110 yards and 2 TDs on just 20 carries (plus a catch for 14 yards as well).
That performance was an ominous sign for the first half of the year. Green Bay was the worst team in the league yardage-wise against the run by their bye week.
Afterward, however, they seemed to turn things around in a big way. For the second half of the year, they were a top-10 unit yardage-wise, owing to some changes in playing time and formations by Dom Capers.
Unfortunately, those changes may only have been skin-deep. Going by Defensive DVOA, Green Bay ended up all the way at 24th versus the run even after all their improvements in the second half of the year.
This points to what I feared would be the case even back at the halfway point; the statistics looked better in most cases, but it was based on going against inferior competition. Defensive DVOA points to that fact; the statistic rates plays/games based on the level of competition faced, so the still-low rating despite yardage improvements shows that maybe it was linked to who they played more than how they played.
On that same note, look at the end-or-year Offensive DVOA ratings for the run-games Green Bay faced in the first half of the season and then the second half:
First 8: 1st (SEA)/16th (NYJ)/29th (DET)/11th (CHI)/4th (MIN)/2nd (MIA)/17th (CAR)/9th (NO)
Second 8: 11th (CHI)/13th (PHI)/4th (MIN)/14th (NE)/22th (ATL)/28th (BUF)/31st (TB)/29th (DET)
It’s pretty obvious that the level of competition became much easier to deal with during their so-called resurgence against the run. Hence, the improved ratings to end the year. The game against Dallas — where DeMarco Murray earn 123 yards on them — showed the true nature of the defense.
Sep 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the first half at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
But still, that doesn’t mean it is hopeless here. The guys on that side of the ball really did start playing better and more consistently against the run. Plus, Dallas has a mauling offensive line that has received nonstop praise all season long; it would be hard for anyone to shut that down, even if defensive line and run defense were their strength.
That’s the area I think makes the biggest difference here. Last year, the biggest weakness this Seattle team had by far; this year, they are stronger there (#4 in run block DVOA) but overall that line isn’t built with the same talent as the rest of the roster.
The defensive line and rushers on run plays will have to take advantage and make an impact at the point of attack pretty quickly; the line may not be outstanding, but they do move things well enough to get Lynch going on most days.
Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels, and all of the other linemen up front have an unenviable task ahead of them, but if they can manage to attack strong and fast on those blockers, they have as good a shot as anyone at slowing down Beast Mode.
If they do, a win will be all that much easier to come by for the Packers.
Next: Error-Free Football