Packers, Seahawks prepare for clash of titans
The Sports Xchange
The irresistible force paradox is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
It’s also what will happen at Lambeau Field on Sunday when the Green Bay Packers host the Seattle Seahawks in one of the juiciest matchups of Week 1.
The unstoppable force is Green Bay’s offense. Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers finished third in scoring last season in the NFL. That unit should be even stronger with the offseason addition of tight end Martellus Bennett.
“He’s at the peak of his career. He’s at the top of his game,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Rodgers. “It’s hard to imagine what more he can do or how much better he can play.
“All the great players are looking for extraordinary consistency. He is just such a fantastic football player. We really marvel at the way he can throw the football, find guys, move to make guys available and just be a great competitor. We have the ultimate respect for him.”
The immovable object is Seattle’s defense. After leading the league in scoring defense in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Seahawks finished third in that category last season. Eight of the 11 starters have been selected for at least one Pro Bowl, including defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets last week.
Rodgers and Co. demolished that defense in a 38-10 victory on Dec. 11 at Lambeau, but Seattle was without injured safety Earl Thomas in that game. Thomas is back, teaming with Kam Chancellor for perhaps the best safety combo in the NFL, and Richard Sherman returns at cornerback after being part of offseason trade speculation.
“He’s a difference-maker,” Rodgers said of Thomas. “He’s been a Pro Bowl player in the past. He covers a lot of ground. They’ve got studs on the outside at corner, but Earl covers a ton of ground sideline to sideline and makes a lot of plays on the ball. He has very good ball skills and is a good tackler.”
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay’s revamped defense will be tested right out of the gate by Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. The Seahawks have major questions on the offensive line but signed former Packers standout Eddie Lacy at running back to pair with Thomas Rawls.
After getting shredded for 44 points by Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game, Green Bayadded cornerback Davon House and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois in free agency and used its first four picks in the draft on defensive players, including cornerback Kevin King with the top pick.
The tinkering has continued, with veteran outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, rookie outside linebacker Chris Odom and veteran defensive lineman Quinton Dial signed since Saturday’s league-wide roster cutdown.
Any lack of continuity from that group could be exploited by Seattle’s new up-tempo attack.
“They’re obviously playing a lot faster, huddling 2 yards from the ball and trying to get as many plays as possible,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They were extremely productive in the preseason.”
Both teams are healthy. For Green Bay, right tackle Bryan Bulaga practiced for the first time since injuring an ankle at practice Aug. 23. He had limited participation.
Seattle’s Frank Clark, who had 10 sacks last season, was limited by a wrist injury.
Along with this being a matchup of perennial powerhouses, the game will feature a poignant meeting between brothers. On Wednesday, Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett detailed a harrowing incident after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas on Aug. 26.
According to Michael Bennett, gunshots were fired and he began running. Bennett said police singled him out, ordered him to the ground and put a gun to his head.
“I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed,” Michael Bennett wrote on Twitter. “All I could think of was, ‘I’m going to die for no reason other than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’”
At his locker Wednesday evening, Packers tight end Martellus Bennett broke into tears at the thought of hugging his brother before the game.
“It gets emotional when you think about it,” Martellus Bennett said. “Sometimes a hug is the best thing you can give, you know what I’m saying? You just think, ‘What if?’ You know? ... Two seconds this way, two seconds that way, the whole thing is different so, for me, I’ll just be happy to see my brother because there’s a chance I couldn’t see him.”