Three Drives that Won the Game for the Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback in Green Bay, the Packers will be defined by their offense. That’s what happens when you have the two time (and counting) league MVP on your side.
Even on a day when Mike Daniels and the Packers defense had one of their best performances in recent memory, it’s tempting to focus instead on the Packers’ offensive struggles. It’s also probably fair.
No matter how good the Packers’ defense is, it’s Aaron Rodgers and the offense that will carry the team wherever it’s going to go, and for much of Sunday’s match-up with the Seahawks, Rodgers wasn’t carrying the offense much of anywhere.
But when it counted most, Rodgers and the offense provided exactly what the team needed. Here’s how the Packers’ used their final three drives to put the game on ice.
Drive 1 - 4:20 remaining in the 3rd quarter
After the Seahawks kicked a field goal to move the score to 7-6, the Packers were in a precarious position. To this point, the Packers’ only significant foray into Seahawks territory came via a fumble by Russell Wilson. Now, leading by just a point, the pressure was on.
The drive started about as poorly as it possibly could have. Jahri Evans was flagged for holding, putting the Packers in a 1st and 20 hole right off the bat.
But from there, the offense was basically what we hope the 2017 Packers will be. Operating with two tight ends on the field, the Packers methodically moved down the field. Both Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks caught passes, Ty Montgomery got involved as a runner and a receiver, and Aaron Rodgers capped the drive by catching the Seahawks with 12 men on the field as he lofted a perfect touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson.
It was everything great about the 2017 Packers, showcasing versatility, personnel depth, and the unique talents of Aaron Rodgers. Most importantly, it put the Packers up by eight and took four minutes off the clock.
Drive 2 - 13:38 remaining in the 4th quarter
Seattle didn’t manage to do all that much with its next drive, and after a punt into the end zone, the Packers took over on their own 25-yard line again.
The next drive didn’t provide any major highlight plays, but it was nearly as important from a strategic perspective as the previous touchdown scoring drive.
The Packers used 12 plays to take more than five and a half minutes off the clock and put themselves into field goal position, ending up going up by 10 points with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. While it’s certain they’d have rather come away with a touchdown, the importance of gaining a two possession lead at this point of the game can’t be overstated.
Drive 3 - 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter
Seattle’s third field goal of the game pulled the score to 17-9. With more than six minutes remaining in the game, Seattle, by right, should still have felt confident in their ability to draw even. A relatively quick stop would leave plenty of time for a touchdown drive.
But thanks to a 12 play drive that drained every last second from the clock, they never got the chance.
Much like the previous drive, it’s hard to point to one particular play that really put the Packers over the top, but Martellus Bennett’s 26-yard catch and run immediately after Seattle’s final timeout is as good an option as any.
In a beautifully designed play, the Seahawks completely lost track of Bennett and he came open on a bootleg by Rodgers for an easy completion. Bennett picked up 26 yards, a first down, and put the Packers in a position to bleed out the last two minutes on kneel downs.
Again, it’s arguable that two of these three drives went off without a highlight-level play, but the points scored (however minimal), yards gained, and time drained from the clock are all terrific indicators of what could be ahead for the Packers’ offense. If they can do this against one of the league’s best defenses, the offense should be in great shape.