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The Grudge Match: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Friday, September 18, 2015

 

NFC champions and would-be NFC champions face off again in week two

Who really should have won the NFC title game on January 18, 2015? The Seattle Seahawks, by virtue of the worst (almost) full game by quarterback Russell Wilson (14/29 passing, 4 interceptions, 1 touchdown) managed to pull out a win for the ages in the final minutes against the previously dominant Green Bay Packers. Everyone knows this. The Packers are sick of being asked about it. Likewise, the Seahawks are sick of being asked about Super Bowl XLIX. 

But now, as the two again would-be conference champions face off in an early season matchup Sunday, Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, the old news from January is fodder again. Because this week two tilt isn’t just another game. So, let’s go — once more, with feeling. We’ve got some issues to work out on the football field. 

Exorcising demon ghosts

There are more than a few haunts from last season looming over the Seahawks and the Packers. Both teams’ seasons ended sourly and surprisingly after being in perfect position to clinch victories in championship games. The Seahawks blew their chances at a second consecutive Super Bowl ring with one disastrous play call. 

In contrast, the Packers blew their chance at the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth by coming up with new and unique ways to fritter away a double-digit lead in the game’s waning minutes. If the Seahawks’ season death was a shotgun blast to the chest, the Packers’ self-administered immolation was as a result of about a dozen stab wounds, mostly by their own hands. 

One of the Packers’ bugaboos in the NFC title game was a blown onside kick attempt. The offending culprit, one Brandon Bostick, eschewed his assigned duties and decided to try to field the bouncing ball instead of block his man. The ball doinked off his helmet and into the arms of the Seahawk (opportunistic Chris Matthews) he was supposed to block. The rest is haunting history in Packers lore.
 
Bostick is now an ex-Packer, as is his former boss, Packers erstwhile special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Fortunately for the Packers, they were presented with an opportunity to exorcise this ghost by having to field a crunch-time onside kick attempt in the waning moments of their week one game against the Chicago Bears. 

This time, to the Packers’ great relief, the player replacing Bostick on the onside kick attempt, rookie linebacker Jake Ryan, correctly fulfilled his duties and went straight about blocking his man. The result: Wide receiver Davante Adams (replacing the injured Jordy Nelson) easily fielded the fluttering ball and the game was over. 

I told you they should have thrown a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette

The Seahawks were also presented with a prime opportunity to exorcise their 2014 season-ending gaffe in last week’s game against the St. Louis Rams. Trailing in overtime, facing fourth-and-one, the Seahawks made the obvious choice to hand the ball off to Beast Mode to collect the needed gain to continue their drive toward the goal. 

This time, the inevitable Lynch handoff was stopped in its tracks, as were the Seahawks’ hopes for a week one victory against a division rival. Demon ghost not exorcised. But oh what fun it’s been to contrast that play with the season-defining final offensive play from last season. Seahawks fans will have to understand that I’m using the term “fun” rather liberally in this instance. 

What’s on the line

This time around, as the Packers and Seahawks meet, the stakes are considerably lower, but still quite significant. The Packers were able to emerge victorious over a division and conference foe, even without their No. 1 receiver (Nelson) lost for the season. Though they were able to overcome the loss of their receiving star against the Bears, how it will impact the rest of the season remains to be seen. 

Previous Packer and once-again newcomer James Jones, after a year in exile (Oakland) returned to lead the Packers with two receiving touchdowns. He does not have the stretch-the-field abilities of Nelson or other current Packers receivers (Randall Cobb, Adams) but he does have one thing Nelson had: The confidence of Aaron Rodgers. Two clutch touchdowns and a third called back by a dubious penalty will do that for you. 

The Packers, despite exorcising the ghost of onside kicks, still have a more significant and troublesome ghost to exorcise, that being the Seattle Seahawks. The blue birds of the Pacific Northwest are their fiercest bugaboo team of late. The Seahawks have won three in a row, dating back to 2012 (Fail Mary game). This is what’s most on the line for the psyche of the Packers, with the extra mustard of needing the advantage in possible playoff seeding scenarios. 

The Seahawks face no such psychic wound when squaring off against the Packers in Lambeau Field. Their concerns are more visceral: Do not start the season 0–2. Coming out of the gate with two losses would not necessarily be fatal to the Seahawks’ chances to once again take the NFC West crown, but it certainly won’t be easy to overcome. Every other NFC West contestant already has a one-game lead on the Seahawks.
 
Should the Seahawks emerge from Lambeau Field victorious, they will gain not only playoff seeding advantage over the conference’s other presumed heavyweight, they will also be out of the NFC West doghouse. 

It would be foolish to assume we know the identities of both the Packers and Seahawks after just one game each. More tricks will certainly be pulled out of their sleeves. Which, if any, ghosts will haunt these two cousins may very well determine who wins on Sunday night. 

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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