Lost in the lamentations over a kitten-soft offensive line Sunday was the fact that, despite the absence of a veteran cornerback and the presence of a rookie, the Seahawks defense pitched a first-half shutout against QB Aaron Rodgers, a first for him in 13 NFL seasons.
Given that the Packers rung up 38 points on Seattle in December, holding them to 17 for the game was akin to denying the Kraken a pirate ship. No one has seen such a thing.
“It was hard for (the Packers) to get in position to make a touchdown,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday as practice began for the home opener Sunday against San Francisco. “They couldn’t get down in there. We gave them one from the five, but we made it very difficult on a really good offense and a really good quarterback.”
The degree of Seahawks difficulty went up in the first quarter when the starter, Jeremy Lane, was ejected for throwing a punch during an interception return that to this moment no one has seen except for the referee who called it.
The ejection advanced Griffin from the nickel spot to the primary target of Rodgers, who shudders at throwing to the side of Richard Sherman but savors humiliating rookies.
It didn’t work much, partly because Griffin, who played 77 of 82 snaps, proved himself an instant adopter of the defense’s prime directive:
“First off, protect (against) the deep ball,” he said before practice. “It’s not too often there’s a game with no catches. You may give up a six- or eight-yard gain. You live with that.”
That helps explain how WR Randall Cobb hauled in nine catches, but only for 84 yards. The Packers’ only pass that went beyond 30 yards was the 32-yard touchdown to WR Jordy Nelson on a free play that came after a Seahawks penalty for having a 12th player.
Griffin, a third-round pick from Central Florida, lived up to the high expectations offered from the coaches since he was drafted. On the road at Lambeau Field against one of the NFL’s all-time great QBs, Griffin did not blink, flinch, heave or list. The longest pass caught on him was 13 yards.
“He had a very solid game for his first time, and it wasn’t that they didn’t know he was there,” Carroll said. “They went after him and he held up quite well. He’s calm and clear. He’s making sense of what we’re talking about. Sometimes guys get a little wacky, but he was not at all like that.
“I checked in with him a few times. He was very poised about how things were going and how it felt it to be playing in a big-time game in the NFL for the first time. He’s really just an impressive kid.”
Told of Carroll’s remarks, Griffin smiled, something he does a lot.
“I enjoy the game — it’s not something I over-think,” he said. “He speaks to me, and I’ll be smiling or laughing. I love playing the game, and I take it to the field.”
Much of Griffin’s calm comes from preparation. He’s an intense student of game film, including quarterbacks as well as receivers. He even takes copious notes, using old-school pen and paper. Imagine.
“It’s kinda hard to remember all that,” he said. “The more I see, the more I write down, the more I remember.”
So 20th century. But so effective.
He said the passion for preparation comes from his father, who offered his son another example over the weekend. The family home in St. Petersburg, FL., was blasted by Hurricane Irma. Fortunately, damage was minimal and there were neither injuries nor flooding because the storm had diminished from a category four to a two.
“During the storm, he said, ‘At the end of the day, I would do whatever it takes to make sure my family is safe. If this happens, I do this. If that happens, I do that.’” Griffin said. “He planned for it. He thinks about it before it happens. The main thing he told me was, you can’t panic. I think that’s where I get it from.”
The family penchant for cool was also his counter-move to the auspiciousness of playing his first NFL regular-season game in the citadel of Lambeau Field.
“I thought about it when we first got there,” he said. “I got a chance to look at the field and it was crazy, just being in that facility. It was perfect. Ultimate experience.
“But I know I can’t let the stage get too big for me.”
If Griffin fails to cringe at renegade cheeseheadery, the world likely is his.
Art Thiel is co-founder of Sportspress Northwest