Packers shut out Russell Wilson, Seahawks in Aaron Rodgers' return
GREEN BAY, Wis. - On a Sunday evening when Lambeau Field turned into a winter snow globe, the Green Bay Packers won an old-school slugfest against the Seattle Seahawks, 17-0.
The offense struggled upon Aaron Rodgers’ return from COVID-19, though it was able to manufacture enough plays with the quarterback to outduel a Seahawks offense that returned Russell Wilson from a three-game absence because of a finger injury.
For the Packers (8-2), it was their eighth straight win with Rodgers at quarterback. They lost last week with Jordan Love 13-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The win placed the Packers as one of four two-loss teams in the NFC, joining Arizona, Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams (the Rams play Monday night at the San Francisco 49ers).
It was the first time since the Packers shut out the Buffalo Bills 22-0 early in the 2018 season they’ve held an opponents scoreless. Wilson was shut out for the first time in his 10-year NFL career
Here are some quick observations from the 17-0 win.
A top-10 defense
It’s hard to watch what the Packers have done the past three weeks against Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and now Russell Wilson and think they have anything other than a top-10 defense. The crescendo came Sunday. Yes, it was Wilson’s return from a three-game absence because of a finger injury that initially was forecast to cost him at least six, and yes the Seahawks quarterback has a bleak history of playing NFL games in the state where he finished his college career. Still, the Packers forced six punts, and the Seahawks’ lone trip into the red zone ended with a Kevin King interception. It was a big stop for a Packers red-zone defense that entered ranking 31st in NFL, allowing touchdowns on 76 percent of its opponents’ visits. The Packers have now allowed 21 points to a Murray-led Arizona Cardinals offense that ranks fourth in the NFL with 30.8 points per game, 13 points against a Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs offense averaging 24.6 per game, and shut out Wilson's Seahawks. Considering they might still get Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith back this season, this might become the best Packers defense in a long time.
Rodgers looks rusty
If you were looking for any signs of rust from Rodgers after his extended absence from COVID-19, the three-time MVP quarterback showed it Sunday. He had Marquez Valdes-Scantling wide open down the left sideline on the game’s opening drive, and though Rodgers hit his receiver for 41 yards, his pass appeared to be underthrown, preventing a touchdown. Later in the first quarter, Rodgers threw late and short to a wide-open Allen Lazard on third down, ending a Packers drive instead of extending it with a big play. Then came his most dumbfounding play of the game, Rodgers chucking a lollipop pass into the end zone on third down, where it was easily intercepted by Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. It was the type of play Rodgers almost never forces, removing any chance for what would have been a chip-shot field goal in a defensive, slugfest game. Rodgers finished 23-of-37 with 292 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 75.5 rating, his lowest since the season’s opener against the New Orleans Saints. It was only Rodgers’ second game without a touchdown pass this season, joining the opener.
Aaron Jones limps off with injury
The Packers entered Sunday intent on riding AJ Dillon over Aaron Jones. At half, Dillon had seven carries, to Jones’ four. Still, Jones is the engine to the Packers' offense, and one of their best drives all game was powered by a pair of Jones screen passes for 45 yards. It was shortly afterward that Jones left the game with a knee injury. The injury initially looked serious, though a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter stated Jones had torn his MCL, which would be unlikely to cost Jones the rest of this season. It would make the Packers' backfield awfully thin after rookie Kylin Hill was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Arizona. Fortunately for the Packers, Dillon appears to be blossoming in his second season. He finished with 66 rushing yards on 21 carries, including both Packers touchdowns from short yardage. Dillon also had 62 receiving yards on a pair of catches, including a 50-yard run and catch where he used his speed to beat the Seahawks defense to the left sideline, then sprinted downfield.
Special teams not so special…again
There’s no question the Packers’ biggest issue is their field-goal operation. It was an problem again Sunday, with Mason Crosby missing his first kick wide right from 42 yards to close the opening drive. It was Crosby’s third straight missed field goal after he whiffed on a pair in Kansas City. The difference Sunday, unlike a week earlier, was the snap-and-hold operation appeared to be corrected. Still, it didn’t keep Crosby from missing his seventh field goal this season, and his eighth kick overall. Crosby later made a 27-yard field goal. He’s now 14-of-21 on the season.