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Game notes: Benson changed the game

Posted Sep 25, 2012

SEATTLE – Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had absorbed an eight-sack beating one time previously, and it also happened to be in a Monday night loss on the road.

It came in 2009 at the Metrodome against the Vikings. The difference this Monday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle is all eight sacks happened in the first half of the 14-12 defeat.

“It’s definitely embarrassing to give up eight sacks in one half,” left guard T.J. Lang said. “Some were miscommunications, others were one-on-one matchups and guys getting beat.”

To be fair, one of the eight sacks came when Rodgers slipped and fell in the pocket. But he was also spared a ninth sack in the fourth quarter when his scramble back to the line of scrimmage, which is technically a sack when no yardage is gained, was ruled a 1-yard pickup and a first down following a replay challenge. That was the only potential sack in the second half.

“We responded pretty well in the second half, but they pushed us around quite a bit in the first half,” Lang said.

What turned it around was the running of Cedric Benson. After getting just two carries for four yards in the first half, Benson got 15 runs for 41 yards in the second half, slowing Seattle’s rush. Before losing seven yards on his five carries in the fourth quarter, when Seattle’s defense adjusted, Benson gained 48 yards on 10 carries in the third quarter, nearly five yards per rush.

Mike McCarthy said multiple times in his post-game press conference that he should have adjusted offensively sooner, and he took responsibility for that.

Still, two third-quarter drives highlighted by Benson’s runs only produced a pair of field goals when the Packers couldn’t finish them off. As frustrating as it was getting shut out in the first half, settling for two field goals was almost as maddening.

The offense produced just one touchdown, in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Benson, and the unit has only four touchdowns through the first three games. The Packers have half as many TDs on special teams, one in each of the first two weeks.

“We’re not playing up to our standards right now,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “We’re not executing. We’re not making plays when the opportunity is there.

“When it comes down to it, we’re not playing our ball.”

One of those drives was nearly a touchdown, but a third-down pass in the end zone to Donald Driver was slightly high and glanced off Driver’s outstretched hands. Even with his limited snaps, Driver wasn’t about to make excuses.

“The thing for me, I’ve always said I have to make plays,” said Driver, who was targeted for a pass on that play only. “I should have made that catch, but I let that one slip away.”

End-zone tussle: Normally one of the Packers’ more level-headed players, Jennings lost it momentarily in the fourth quarter after taking what he felt was an unnecessary shot from Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner in the end zone.

Jennings popped back up and went after Browner, leading to a tussle in the end zone that finished with both players on the ground. Both players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, so the skirmish became irrelevant.

Interestingly, Jennings said Browner apologized to him, though he said Rodgers was out of the pocket and that’s why he hit him. Defenders can’t be called for illegal contact downfield when the QB leaves the pocket and the ball hasn’t yet been thrown.

“It’s football, guys get a little frustrated,” Jennings said. “Obviously, I got a little frustrated, a little hot. It is what it is.

“I Iet my emotions get the best of me there and I shouldn’t have. I apologized to my teammates.”

Not the same: Cornerback Charles Woodson was asked where this controversial ending ranks for him compared to the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 AFC playoffs against New England.

Not even close, really.

“This is early in the season, so we still have a long road ahead,” Woodson said. “That was a playoff situation and we had to go home after that. I don’t want to compare the two.”

It was a similarly helpless feeling to Woodson, but all he could point to was that there’s more football ahead.

“What are you going to do?” he said. “We’ll go back to Green Bay and continue to get better as a team. That’s all I’ve got.”

Additional coverage - Packers vs. Seahawks

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