Ten Football Takeaways (and one tank) From NFL Opening Night Football – Packers at Seahawks

1.  None of the last nine winning Super Bowl teams repeated as champs the following year. (The New England Patriots did it last, over the 2003 and 2004 seasons.) Only one of the nine, the ’04 Patriots, even won a playoff game the following year.

It’s not a lock for Seattle to advance in the playoffs this year; they’re in a tough division, and lost multiple starters from last year’s squad. But after this season, that number is likely to jump to two with the hawks in 2014. They also have a good shot at repeating as champs, and becoming the first team to do so since, once again, the Patriots did it 10 years ago.

2. It’s no revelation:  Adding arguably one of the best players in the league to what may have already been the best team in the league, as the Seahawks also did before the start of last season, is a big deal. But it was a break for the rest of the league that wide receiver/all around player extraordinaire Percy Harvin would up missing almost the entire regular season last year after moving to Seattle. (Not enough of a break, as the Seahawks picked up the number 1 seed in the NFC anyway.)

Harvin showed what he could do in the Super Bowl, when the Harvin and the ‘hawks shredded the Broncos 43-8 last February in Super Bowl 48.  He had two runs out of the backfield for 45 yards, and a kick return for a TD, in that game. Harvin followed it up, some 7 months later, by shredding the Packers out of the backfield last night as well, for 41 yards on just 4 carries. (Adding 59 more through the air.)

If he can stay healthy, “Lord have Mercy we have Percy” Harvin’s play may help offset some of the losses from last year’s championship squad.

 

3. ‘Hawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell,  capitalizing on Russell Wilson’s super athleticism and body control, used Harvin, Marshawn lynch and Wilson brilliantly.  Several times he had Harvin cut in front with Marshawn also coming across, and with some adept sleight of hand and body language by Wilson, the Packers defense, and sometimes the cameramen, weren’t sure who had the ball.  At one point, even without Harvin in the picture, a read option fake to Marshawn worked so well that practically the entire Packers’ defense, the T.V. camera crew,  and thus almost everyone watching the game, keyed in on Lynch exploding up the middle, while Wilson practically trotted to his left and lobbed a pass to a ridiculously wide open Ricardo Lockette, who easily ran it in for the score.

 

4. Until “garbage time,” and despite the new rule changes that (sadly) prevent a defender from jamming a receiver even inside of 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, Packers receivers were not getting open.

Despite the loss of Brandon Browner (suspended for the first four games of the season, and also acquired by the New England Patriots), the Seattle secondary is good. Very good.

According to often loquacious Richard Sherman, after the Super Bowl the Seahawks, rather than focusing in on going to Disney, were like “okay, we do we play now?”  Attitude is almost everything in NFL football, and if that attitude carries over through this season, they will dominate.  If not, they probably won’t.

Last night  they were playing on a national stage to open the season and defend their title, against a team that some say could be a contender for the NFC title against them.  But, at least to open the season, it looked like they still had that attitude.

 

5. On the flip side of Packers receivers not getting open, the Packers may be a little weak at this position. There are many many good receivers in the NFL.  Great quarterbacks make good receivers very good.

And quarterback Aaron Rodgers makes good receivers very, very good.  But while they have some good players, the Packers receiving corps may be a little thin this year. At least for the championship contender caliber team they want to be. We’ll see.

 

6.   Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch (a social welfare major at Berkeley, incidentally), still plays hungry.  He ran for 110 yards and two TDs on 20 carries. Sometimes through large holes. But he also ran with authority and energy, and gained a lot of yardage after contact as well.  Lynch outplayed the Packer defense.

 

7.  Against the defending Super Bowl champs (a more defensive oriented team), the Packers Defensive line looked weak. The loss of Tackle B.J. Raji (a stalwart on the defensive line and former no 9 overall pick by the Packers),  for the entire season before it even began, didn’t help. But that D line, as of week 1, needs some.

Raji’s replacement, Letroy Guion, who was acquire in March from the Vikings, played his first six years there, appearing in 68 games (28 started over the past two seasons), with 90 tackles. On one play last night Guion half wrapped up Marshawn lynch behind the line of scrimmage, and fell off of him. That happens in the NFL. But it shouldn’t. If a player can get both arms around the waste, the tackle should be made. Guion had no tackles, no assists, for the game.

It would have been interesting to see how Thursday Night’s opening game would have played out, if Raji – the Packers best defensive lineman – were in the game. It looked like predictions that his presence would be missed, were accurate.

 

8.  It’s tough to be a starting  linebacker in the NFL, as the position requires more true versatility than any on the field.  The position also may still be under rated in importance, though over the last several years that has been changing. But last  night, Starting MLB Brad Jones for the Packers looked like he was more fit for a backup role.

I’m no Dom Capers (Packers defensive coordinator);  have been a fan of the flexibility of the 3-4 for many years; and think teams should expand outside of that with multiple formations. (As some teams, increasingly, do.)  But if Julius Peppers is really suited to play linebacker, the Packers should move back to a 4-3 and put Peppers on an outside linebacker spot.

Or they should simply switch to a 4-3 and put Peppers back at one of the defensive end spots. And mix up what they do – that way Peppers gets to actually play end, where he is probably better, more than Linebacker.  And while their D line looked weak, they reportedly have some depth there.

Ideally, the Packers would acquire an upgrade for Jones at linebacker, and use Jones as a solid backup.  Or perhaps Keep Jones in the middle,  flanked by only AJ Hawk and phenom Clay Matthews, for linebackers. (Or possibly put Jones on the right side with Hawk in the middle and Matthews remaining on the left).

No easy answers here, but on several plays Jones looked slow, with sub par tackling.  Part of the problem is of course that in the NFL proper tackling technique is not sufficiently practiced.  And it shows in games, where the most fundamental skill required to win football games – end a play and stop a player’s forward progress, and when need be for clock control and first down control, control where that players goes – is often botched.

 

9.  If Bryan Bulaga, who injured his knee and left the game in the second quarter, does not get (and stay) healthy and or the Packers don’t add some solid help for the right side of their offensive line or somehow get better there, they are not going to have much a shot to go very far; and Rodgers, who was sacked a league leading 51 times in 2012, will get pressured, a lot.

 

10.  The Packers, without some significant improvement, while they still might be the favorite to win the enigmatic NFC North this season again, are not legitimate contenders for the NFC crown this season.

 

11.   Aaron Rodgers pulling a tank for the SNL pump you up characters Hanz and Franz is one of the funniest T.V. commercials of all time:  “You don’t just lift dumbbells, you drink them.”

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