Here’s what we learned from Green Bay’s win:
1. Would these Packers really win any other way? Green Bay raced out to a big lead and looked like it would cruise to victory, but we should have known better. Seattle battled its way back, making up ground by keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers‘ hands, but in the end it was a former Seahawk who destroyed Seattle’s hopes with a third-down conversion.
This season’s Packers have rarely won convincingly, and Sunday also didn’t turn a ton of non-believers into born-again Packer fans. That doesn’t matter to them, though, because a win counts the same no matter the style in which it’s achieved. They all look the same in the record book and they taste just as good to the tens of thousands who packed Lambeau Field for this one.
2. We shouldn’t be surprised that Davante Adams was again the one to make a massive play to push the Packers to a victory. Green Bay’s clear-cut No. 1 wideout and star receiver racked up 160 yards and two scores on just eight receptions (math wizards will tell you that’s 20 yards per reception) and made a massive catch on third down late to extend Green Bay’s drive to the 2-minute warning and force Seattle to burn its final two timeouts. It was a drop in the bucket — or a bag toss into the cornhole board hole over a wall of six piled-up bags, if you ask Chris Wesseling — and a stellar catch in the Packers‘ biggest moment of the season to this point. Would Aaron Rodgers really trust anyone other than Adams? Luckily for him, he didn’t have to, capping a stellar day for the receiver.
3. In the end, the Seahawks looked much like the team they were by the time they arrived at Lambeau: battered, bruised and struggling to enter a full sprint to the NFC Championship Game. Seattle, which seemed so strong for a good portion of the season, was a shell of itself for a significant part of Sunday’s contest, making for a game that was only exciting after the Seahawks tried valiantly to cut Green Bay’s deficit. That effort came up short, though, helping Green Bay secure its 14th win and a trip to Santa Clara. The Packers continued to be who they’ve been for a while now: healthier, more efficient and capable of really opening it up on the back stretch, yet never quite putting a game away until the very end. That end proved to be the difference late, though, when the Packers desperately needed to find a way to prevent Russell Wilson from waving his wand and putting the lesser Seahawks ahead. They did enough to edge the Seahawks, who will thank Marshawn Lynch for his contributions, review the tape and attempt to run things back again in 2020.
4. Seattle dominated Green Bay in second-half time of possession and got enough from its rushing attack (110 yards and two touchdowns on 24 attempts) but couldn’t capitalize late once its defense finally got a huge stop. A crucial drop by Malik Turner on first down undercut a drive that looked promising after a first-down completion to Tyler Lockett for 14 yards, and the Seahawks never recovered, with Wilson checking down to Jacob Hollister in the flat before being sacked on third down. We all geared up for some Wilson magic, because QB heroics is the only way a Seahawks-Packers playoff meeting could end, right? Instead, a lob to Adams and short completion to Jimmy Graham (revenge: earned) was the most magic we’d get and it came from Rodgers, not Wilson.
5. Za’Darius Smith was snubbed from the All-Pro and Pro bowl honors he deserved and he used his undershirt to let us know early, but this was a total defensive effort. He and Preston Smith combined for four sacks and Kenny Clark added another, helping neutralize Wilson’s impact in key moments. For a moment late in the second half, it looked like the much-improved unit might be Green Bay’s downfall, giving up multiple touchdown drives and showing their frustration on the sideline, but that Packers‘ pass rush came up in the clutch, taking down Wilson on a crucial third down. The sack forced Seattle to punt, giving up the ball to end what was ultimately their final possession of the season.
6. Rodgers is headed back to Northern California for a crucial game less than 200 miles from his hometown against the conference’s top seed. He wouldn’t say much about it immediately after the game, but after a pair of postseasons spent at home, this is massive for the 36-year-old. The last time the Packers and 49ers met in the postseason in California, Candlestick Park still existed and Jim Harbaugh was still coaching in the NFL. It’s been a while, and time is of the essence for Rodgers, who arrives with a first-time head coach and a team that doesn’t win in pretty fashion but racks up the victories. They’ll meet a defense with a much better pass rush than the one that sacked him twice Sunday and they’ll have to battle the raucous crowd at Levi’s Stadium. If any quarterback was equipped to lead a relatively inexperienced group into battle, it’s Rodgers.