Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones (89) catches a pass for a touchdown against Seattle Seahawks cornerbackRichard Sherman
(25) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Early free plays
When you play a game against an elite opponent, the last thing you can afford to do is give them free opportunities for yards and scores.
Throughout his career, Aaron Rodgers has been one of the best we’ve ever seen at capitalizing on those type of mistakes to turn things in Green Bay’s favor.
In fact, this is something the Packers have at-the-ready in their offense. As soon as they notice that there is an offsides/encroachment/neutral-zone infraction flag thrown, the receivers know to change whatever route they were set to run and instead take it deep while Rodgers immediately goes into high-risk mode and throws into places he wouldn’t try otherwise.
If it ends as a pick there is no problem since Green Bay will have the ball back on a 5-yard penalty regardless; if not, there will be a nice pickup of yardage and/or a score that otherwise would not have been available.
Sep 20, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) was charged with pass interference on a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiverTy Montgomery
(88) as safetyEarl Thomas
(29) watches in the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
In this game, there were two such opportunities presented to Rodgers and he capitalized on both occasions.
The first one was on the Packers first drive, on a 2nd-&-15 from the Seattle 29. Rodgers hit the hard-count, which got Michael Bennett to jump. After the jump, everyone ran deep and James Jones took a post route over the top to catch a pass right at the end zone, beating Richard Sherman by about a step.
Sherman was also right there for the second free play, on the final Packers drive before halftime. In this one, the defense had just sacked Rodgers previously, but then he got them while they were antsy for another jump. This time he first looked midrange for an open Randall Cobb, but then he noticed Ty Montgomery streaking up the field and lofted one his way. Sherman and Earl Thomas were back there, but Sherman got a bit lackadaisical and committed pass interference on the attempted catch, resulting in a 52-yard penalty that eventually led to a field goal.
The offense didn’t have its usual high-powered day like we are used to at Lambeau (though that was to be expected against an elite defensive team), but plays like this were crucial in giving Green Bay an early lead while they tried to figure out things.
The points provided by those two drives ended up being the eventual margin of victory in a battle that was probably closer than the scoreboard would have us think.
Next: Starks Steps Up