GREEN BAY, Wis. – A prestigious NFL record. The league’s annual rushing title. And, quite possibly, the final game of a legendary career.
In what was otherwise a rather meaningless regular-season finale between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, certain subplots were decidedly more important to the teams and their fans than the game’s actual outcome.
With the Seahawks having already clinched the top record in the NFC with last week’s win over Green Bay, Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the lowly Packers failed to make any kind of a mark on the NFL playoff picture.
True, Seattle never really got into a rhythm, but that was largely due to having 10 regular offensive starters watching most of the second half from the sidelines. And by then the Seahawks already had more important goals in mind.
“It was just weird,” said running back Shaun Alexander, who broke the NFL record for touchdowns in a season when he scored his 28th early in the second quarter. “We’ve never been in a situation where, no matter whether you win or lose, you’re still the exact same seed (for the playoffs). It’s one of those things where you still have to play the game.”
In a game that saw Seattle’s inactive list include six starters – left tackle Walter Jones, wide receiver Darrell Jackson, linebacker D.D. Lewis, defensive tackle Chartric Darby and cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Andre Dyson – the undermanned Seahawks couldn’t get overly excited because there was nothing on the line. Seattle (13-3) had already wrapped up home field throughout the postseason, so Sunday’s game left them with no sense of desperation.
“You take the emotional factor out of any football game, and I think you’re in trouble,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “I think you need to be on edge. I don’t think we were on edge (Sunday). We went out there and played, and played hard, but I trust we’ll be able to be a little bit more on edge for the playoffs.”
While Seattle still has to wait a few days to have its first postseason opponent determined, it’s a safe bet that whoever comes to Qwest Field in two weeks will face a much different Seahawks team than the one that played Sunday.
In what might go down as the final game of Brett Favre’s career, the Green Bay quarterback delivered an inspired performance by throwing for 259 yards and leading the Packers to the fifth-highest point total scored on a Seattle defense all season. Favre’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Chatman with 3:41 left in the third quarter gave Green Bay a 20-14 lead, and the Packers (4-12) never looked back.
Seattle’s total of 245 yards marked its second-lowest output of the season.
But the lack of motivation and plethora of backups on the field made it easy to chalk this one up to indifference.
“At a different time of the season,” Seahawks offensive lineman Sean Locklear said, “it might have been a different game.”
Seattle opened the game with most of its typical starters, especially on offense. Only Jones and Jackson took the day off to rest minor injuries, and yet the Seahawks could never really get into a rhythm.
Even after Alexander sprinted to his left to score a 1-yard touchdown early in the second quarter for a 7-6 lead, breaking the NFL record in the process, Seattle continued to sputter on both sides of the ball.
After falling behind 13-7 at the half, Seattle’s No. 2 offense opened the second half with an eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was engineered by backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.
The Packers scored the next 10 points to take the lead for good, leaving the helpless Seahawks to watch their 11-game winning streak circle down the drain.
“This game will be different from our first playoff game; it would be ridiculous to say anything different,” wide receiver Bobby Engram said, referring to the natural intensity that builds in important games. “But at the same time, you have to find a way to come out and try to make plays in the game.”
In many ways, Sunday’s game was simply a formality. Even though the Seahawks rung in the New Year with an uninspired performance, they believe that the next few weeks will see them revert to their winning ways.
“Obviously, anytime you lose a game, it’s tough,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “But we had a great season. We clinched our division. We clinched a first-round bye. We clinched home-field advantage. Those were the goals we set out to do.
“We accomplished those goals, and now we’re in kind of a sudden-death situation where you have to win each week.”
The Seahawks’ first playoff game is scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 14-15, when they will face one of three teams: the New York Giants (11-5), Carolina Panthers (11-5) or Washington Redskins (10-6).
Any one of those teams is more likely to inspire the Seahawks, who are desperate for their first playoff win since 1984.
“All the goals we’ve set out to accomplish are right in front of us now,” tight end Ryan Hannam said, “and we’ve just got to get it done.”