The Seahawks travel to Green Bay this weekend for a Sunday Night Football showdown with the Green Bay Packers, the third meeting between the two NFC powers dating back to last year's season opener. While this is a rematch of last year's NFC championship game, both teams are doing their best to focus on the task at hand, not the Seahawks' stunning comeback at CenturyLink Field eight months ago.
To find out more about the defending NFC North champs, we reached out to Packers.com writer Mike Spofford with three questions. Here are his answers:
Q: How have the Packers responded to the NFC championship game loss, and how much, if at all, is that game on the minds of players this week?
A: The players say they all put the tough loss behind them during the offseason program. When the players got back together, they briefly talked about it as a team, and the decision was made that it was time to move on. The mantra in the locker room this week is that it's a new season and a new opportunity. It all goes back to Mike McCarthy saying a few days after the NFC title game loss that the 2015 Packers would not bear the burden of what happened to the 2014 Packers. Will some players be motivated by what happened in January? Of course. Some will use it, some will block it out. But the team as a whole is not making this about revenge or allowing themselves to be distracted by the past. We'll see if the approach works.
Q: How big of a blow is losing Jordy Nelson for the season, and how is the passing game different without him?
A: The return of James Jones couldn't have started better, and the Packers caught a break that a veteran receiver who knows the offense inside and out was available at cut-down time. What remains to be seen is whether the Packers will have a consistent deep threat in 2015 without Nelson, who led the NFL with seven TD catches of 40-plus yards last season. Last week in Chicago, the only deep balls Rodgers threw were a 34-yard completion to Jones on a free play (the defense had jumped offside) and another to Jones that drew a 34-yard pass interference penalty. It's not likely at age 31 that Jones will be a primary deep threat all season, but it was just one game. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb have had their share of big gainers, and the Packers at times are going to need someone who can take the top off the defense, so to speak.
Q: The Packers were very successful on defense for almost all of the NFC championship game, intercepting Russell Wilson four times. What did they do well, and is it something they can repeat?
A: I don't want to oversimplify things, but in my view it really came down to containing Marshawn Lynch. The Packers held him to just 37 yards on nine carries in the first half, and that's when Wilson had three of his interceptions. Green Bay would be thrilled to repeat that, especially given the run defense's struggles against the Bears last week. Even before the Seahawks started their furious rally in the title game, though, Lynch was starting to break through. He had three runs of 11-plus on the drive that ended with the fake-FG touchdown. He broke off two more runs of 11-plus early in the fourth quarter. Then he had six carries for 53 yards on the Seahawks' three TD drives to win the game. He eventually wore the defense out, and Wilson took advantage down the stretch. The Packers simply can't let Lynch dictate the flow of the game, and with one of the defense's top run stuffers, Letroy Guion, suspended and not playing, that won't be easy.