A ton of money was wagered on the Packers in the hours leading up, dropping the spread to 4/4.5, but Seattle ended up winning by 20. The Super Bowl hangover either never arrived or will reveal itself on a time-release basis.
Green Bay’s defense was awful. Marshawn Lynch gets tackled harder during Seahawks practices. He’s been known to laugh when he runs, wrote Sam Farmer, so now Haha Clinton-Dix’s name finally makes sense. Brad Jones was awful. The Packers middle linebacker had a gift interception knocked away by Zach Miller, committed an illegal contact penalty that negated a sack, and was flagged for defensive holding on 3rd-and-6 at the beginning of Seattle’s final touchdown drive.
Seattle didn’t need Russell Wilson to do much besides throw some short passes and not lose possession. He was more than up to the task.
The Seahawks look more dynamic on offense, mostly because Percy Harvin was fully healthy. But even with all the players the 49ers are missing, they’re still plenty tougher, stronger, faster and smarter on defense than the Packers. The only way Seattle scores 36 on the 49ers in a game this year is if the team wearing red, white and gold commits at least three turnovers.
However, the Packers boast a capable offense. And watching how they attacked Seattle’s defense provides some clues as to what the 49ers will need to do when they face their fiercest rivals.
The bad news
Seattle’s defensive front is insanely good. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and O’Brien Schofield all had sacks, and Avril viciously slammed Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga into tight end Richard Rodgers (no relation to Aaron). Bulaga missed the rest of the game with a knee injury, while Rodgers missed several plays due to neck soreness — Avril shoved Bulaga’s helmet into Rodgers’. No concussion symptoms were announced, but, well, you know …
Brandon Mebane displayed his own version of “Beast Mode,” and even old Kevin Williams looked good. This group as a whole is big, fast and mean.
Eddie Lacy rushed for 24 yards in the first three plays … and finished with 34 yards on 12 carries. That’s only slightly better than the 11-carry, 14-yard day Frank Gore had against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. Colin Kaepernick rushed for 130 yards on his 11 carries in that game, but the 49ers can’t go into their next two battles against Seattle expecting to grind out a win on the ground.
The good news
First, there’s a very high probability that the 49ers are still a better team than the Packers. They’re certainly more balanced, anyway. Second, there were a couple other clues that it might not be impossible to throw on the Seahawks.
Aaron Rodgers didn’t so much as look at Richard Sherman, who plays left cornerback exclusively. So the Packers stuck Jarrett Boykin over there and targeted Byron Maxwell (who had two PBUs) repeatedly. Jordy Nelson (83 yards on nine catches) and Randall Cobb (six receptions, 58 yards) didn’t put up crazy numbers, but Cobb drew a 44-yard pass interference on Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks also lost nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane to a groin injury.
That injury is irrelevant to the 49ers, since they don’t face the Seahawks until Thanksgiving. Maxwell is a talented player, one of the many good/great cornerbacks Pete Carroll has trained in the Pacific Northwest. And it’s not like Rodgers dominated on Thursday night. He only passed for 189 yards and one touchdown — the least he’s put up since passing for 177 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in January. Alright, that was Rodgers’ last game; the point is it’s possible to slow him down these days.
The Seahawks looked impressive in their 2014 debut. They could look great throughout the first half of this season, as I wrote yesterday. (A few people took umbrage with my predictions — particularly the part where I said the Seahawks could win their first nine games — even though I didn’t pick them to make the Super Bowl. That’s how much people around here can’t stand the Seahawks these days.) But Pete Carroll’s squad isn’t unbeatable, and their cockiness could come back to bite them. Using All-Pro safety Earl Thomas as a punt returner is phenomenally stupid, for instance.
The 49ers are going to beat some teams on the ground this year, but not the Seahawks. But the 49ers traded for Stevie Johnson just to keep Sherman busy, and if the 49ers are going to do some damage with the three-WR sets so many have focused on throughout the offseason, this is the team they’ll do it against. They’ll probably succeed in that mission once. The Seahawks are good, but they aren’t going 16-0 this season … I think.