JEFF: Mirror Image
By Jeff Falconio
The similarities between the Packers and Seahawks are striking on both sides of the ball. Obviously both run the West Coast offense with a preference toward the pass. However, both teams quietly put together a solid year on the defensive side of the ball with playmakers in the secondary and fierce pass rushers at the line of scrimmage.
Both teams are rhythmic on offense but part of that rhythm is established by a bend-but-don't-break defense that makes plays when it needs to and creates points off turnovers. Neither team ranked in the top ten in total defense yet the two squads tied for sixth in scoring defense. In other words, you can move the ball on either team but when you get to the red zone points can be hard to come by. Furthermore, Green Bay and Seattle made a habit out of forcing mistakes then capitalizing on those miscues.
Consider last weekend's wild card matchup between the Seahawks and Redskins. The key moment came in the fourth quarter, with Washington ahead 14-13. The Redskins got the ball at Seattle's 14 yard line off a fumbled kickoff return and were in prime position to steal the game away after being down throughout the game. Washington could only muster two yards leading to a missed field goal from 30 yards out. Seattle would go on to score three times in the final six minutes to get the 35-14 win. Two of those touchdowns were scored on interceptions.
A similar situation occurred in a pivotal Week 14 matchup against Arizona with the NFC West on the line. Seattle staked a 24-0 lead but Arizona clawed back to make it 27-14 late in the third quarter. The Cardinals recovered an onside kick and all the momentum was swinging Arizona's way but on the next play after the kickoff Marcus Trufant intercepted a Kurt Warner pass. Eleven plays later the Seahawks scored a back-breaking touchdown to ensure a 42-21 victory. As is always the case in the playoffs, protecting the football is crucial and it will be no different this Saturday. Defensively, the two teams combined for 39 interceptions in 2007 (20 for Seattle, 19 for Green Bay) and both secondaries will be waiting to make that game-changing play throughout the day.