Week 14 late takeaways: Green Bay Packers thump Seahawks to remain on Lions’ heels
Here are Arthur Arkush’s three quick takeaways from Week 14′s late afternoon slate:
1. Masterful Aaron Rodgers showed up along with a monster snowstorm at Lambeau Sunday, but for those who haven’t been paying attention, Rodgers has been on top of his game for the better part of the past month.
The bigger story to emerge from Green Bay’s resounding 38-10 thumping of a Seahawks club that had seemed to hit its stride on offense one week earlier is Dom Capers’ ‘D,’ which picked Russell Wilson a career-high five times.
Damarious Randall, in his second game back from injury, had a pair of interceptions, including a rangy and skilled over-the-shoulder pick before intermission that served as the foot on Seattle’s throat. Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde and Quinten Rollins rounded out the pick party, which was supplemented with a solid pass rush provided by some unlikely sources including rookie Dean Lowry, Jayrone Elliott and a dominant day from Datone Jones in the absence of top rusher Nick Perry and with Clay Matthews still limited.
It was hard to buy Green Bay’s defense picking on Houston and Philadelphia the past two weeks, but this type of performance against Wilson’s Seahawks might be a springboard for Green Bay, which still needs one slipup from the Lions, whom they’ll see in the finale, after visiting the Bears in Week 15 and hosting Minnesota the following Sunday.
But with Detroit squeaking out another victory in uninspired fashion, not to mention MVP candidate Matthew Stafford reportedly suffering torn ligaments and a dislocation on a finger in his throwing hand, if Detroit falters just once, it seemingly makes the Packers the NFC North favorite.
As for Rodgers, who’s clearly still hamstrung physically and was pulled in the second half with what the Packers called a coaches decision, he’s now thrown 10 touchdowns without a pick over the past four games —the best stretch of play he’s enjoyed in more than a calendar year. Green Bay again lost TE Jared Cook, and Ty Montgomery, after providing an early spark, and Randall Cobb exited briefly with their own injuries. Yet with Rodgers in the groove and the defense starting to steady after an abysmal four-week stretch, the Packers, not Detroit, are undoubtedly the NFC North team every postseason participant doesn’t want to face.
2. The Seahawks missed Earl Thomas to the surprise of no one. Their dormant pass rush and coverage issues opposite Richard Sherman came less expected. So too was the clunker from Russell Wilson and his supporting cast.
The bottom line for Seattle is its a completely different bunch away from the Link, as it’s lost three of four now on the road including the past two while being noncompetitive offensively. And the Cowboys can move another step closer to ensuring the road to Houston winds through Arlington with a win over the Giants tonight.
The consolation for the Seahawks following their worst loss in the Wilson era is they’ll return home to host Jared Goff and the Rams on Thursday Night Football. That’s be the Rams coached by Jeff Fisher, who tied Dan Reeves’ NFL record for losses with No. 163 Sunday, 42-14 at home to the Falcons. Woof.
3. We’re starting to believe in the Buccaneers, who held the Saints under 300 total yards for their fifth consecutive victory, a 16-11 home conquest of Drew Brees and Co. Mike Smith’s ‘D’ intercepted Brees three times, including a second consecutive game-sealer by Keith Tandy, increasing their takeaway total during the streak to 14.
With Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers and Noah Spence supplying the pressure in front of an improving back seven, the Bucs have the opportunistic ‘D’ to match their talented offense. Charles Sims appeared healthy in his return to add another target for Jameis Winston, who hasn’t been perfect but seemingly is learning to avoid letting his mistakes domino.
Tampa has proven during its recent run it can win in multiple ways while turning it on for the stretch drive. The combination of a franchise passer and dominant No. 1 wideout, versatile backfield and that surging ‘D’ has commanded our attention and likely the rest of the league’s.
Tampa, at 8-5, is tied for the NFC South lead with Atlanta and the Bucs’ division title hopes shouldn’t be discounted, though they must go to Dallas on Sunday and New Orleans in Week 16, both tough outs on the road. The Falcons have an easier road ahead — San Francisco and New Orleans at home, flanked around a trip to Carolina — but Tampa is healthier and a hotter. Thus, a lot remains to be decided in the NFC South.