A lot has been made of the Packers pass defense going into Sunday’s matchup. The Seahawks defenders are just as good in the categories that count the most.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the relative strengths of the Packers defense going into Sunday’s playoff matchup. The storyline is that Green Bay’s pass defense is far better than their run defense, so the path to victory for the Seahawks will be on the ground. I don’t dispute that an effective ground game will boost the Hawks chances to win. But the aerial defense of the Pack isn’t exactly Legion of Boom quality. In fact, in the areas that matter most, the current Seattle defenders stack up just fine against their counterparts in green and gold.
Let’s look at the Packers first. To be honest, I don’t really care where they rank in yards allowed. The four teams with the most yards passing this season didn’t even make the playoffs. What matters most is scoring and turnovers. Green Bay rates very highly in both categories. They’ve allowed just 19 touchdown passes and made 17 interceptions. Those numbers rank fifth and third in the NFL this year. So they’re stingy and dangerous, a nasty combination.
Time to flip to the Seahawks much-maligned pass defense. Again, throw for all the yards you want. It doesn’t matter much until you cross the goal line. Surprise surprise, the Hawks have allowed just 19 touchdown passes and picked off 16 balls. So they’re tied with the Pack at fifth in aerial scores allowed and rank fifth in interceptions. For the purpose of this argument, I’m deliberately ignoring that Seattle gives up rushing touchdowns like toothbrushes at the dentist.
Back to the pass defense. Strong safety Bradley McDougald did have a couple of penalties in the playoff win over the Eagles, but he also led the team with 11 tackles, 2.5 of those for a loss. There were two big reasons for McDougald’s big game. Both are players who missed some critical games down the stretch for Seattle. They are Quandre Diggs and Jadeveon Clowney, of course.
Clowney had a phenomenal game against the Eagles. As he has all season, his impact on the Seahawks defense goes far beyond his stat line. The Hawks new free safety Diggs has been a huge boost to the Seattle defense as well. With him in the lineup, the Seahawks are 5-1. It’s tough to blame that sole loss on him, as he had two interceptions, one for a pick-six, in that game. Diggs has been a difference-maker in the secondary.
As for the corners, Shaquill Griffin has played outstanding ball this year. He’s consistently ranked in the top ten in the league, exactly the rebound he predicted he’d make this season. The other side has been problematic for Seattle this year. After a fine rookie season, Tre Flowers has practically fallen off the face of the Earth. It isn’t that he’s consistently bad. He has three interceptions, allowed just one touchdown, and even has two sacks. But he’s committed pass interference far too many times at critical points in games, often for huge chunks of yardage. It’s very hit or miss with Flowers, and that’s a huge concern going against a quarterback as talented as Aaron Rodgers.
Even with that, I’ll stack the Seahawks secondary up against the Packers any day. Including every member of the secondary, yes, even Tedric Thompson, they’ve allowed just 11 touchdowns. The Packers corners alone have given up 10 scores. The biggest vulnerability for Seattle’s pass defense is shockingly at linebacker. They’ve allowed seven touchdown passes, after giving up just four last season. You can be sure Aaron Rodgers knows this stat, too. Still, I like our pass defense just as much as the Pack’s. Hopefully, Rodgers won’t on Sunday night.