Skip to main content

Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Seahawks


Sunday's game at Lambeau Field will be like a chess match, or maybe a game of chicken.

Former Green Bay Packers head coaches Mike Holmgren and Ray Rhodes make their return to Green Bay with the Seattle Seahawks to go up against Mike Sherman and the Packers.

Those coaches will send their teams on a collision course and look to see if the other guy flinches. But having played for all three coaches, I know none of them will budge, which is why this game should be one of the most exciting of the year.

In addition to Holmgren and Rhodes, also making his return to Green Bay will be Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who spent one season on the Packers' practice squad and two others as a backup to Brett Favre.

Playing behind the league's only three-time MVP, Hasselbeck learned what it takes to be a great NFL quarterback. Now in his third season in Seattle, he seems to have turned the corner.

Hasselbeck reads defenses well and does a good job going through his progressions. At 6-foot-4 he has a good view of the field to spread it around to his receivers.

One of his top targets is Koren Robinson, the 2001 first-round draft pick. Robinson's best route is a seam route, running about 15 yards full speed before breaking toward the post.

We call that route a '4-beater' because it beats a cover-4 defense. The Packers mix in a lot of cover-4.

That could open up tight end Itula Mili on crossing routes. Mili is very effective on the red zone and in that we he reminds me a lot of Bubba Franks.

If Robinson draws double coverage, Darrell Jackson is another capable receiver.

Hasselbeck's strength as a passer is to the strong side, so expect the Packers to bring heat that way and play a roll-up coverage to the weak side. In addition to blitzing, the Packers will try to confuse Hasselbeck with combination coverage.

But the Packers also need to concern themselves with the run. Shaun Alexander is one of the best running backs in the NFC. He's a load at 229 pounds, but he's also a shifty runner capable of a 1,500-yard season.

Seattle's running attack is a perimeter scheme, with most of Alexander's big runs coming off tackle thanks to All-Pro Walter Jones. It's a similar attack to the one utilized by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.

For the Packers to stop the run, the front four has to penetrate and move to cut down those lanes.

On third down, Bobby Engram is Seattle's key receiver. Now in his eighth NFL season he's a possession guy who knows how to get open. If Bhawoh Jue can shut down Engram, the Packers have a great chance of winning.

After a two-sack game last week, look for safety Darren Sharper to get his first interception of the season, maybe something that will break the game wide open. If he's able to play, Antuan Edwards (questionable, ankle) needs to continue to be active at the line of scrimmage.

Of course Al Harris and Mike McKenzie need to continue to play like Pro Bowlers.

People are wondering if the Packers will come with an aggressive an attack as they did last game against Chicago. As far as I'm concerned, once you start to play that type of defense you can't go back.

Having said that, if the Packers don't blitz as much against Seattle as they did against the Bears, that doesn't mean they aren't playing aggressive. Ed Donatell knows he has to take his shots based on the opposition.

He'll look to keep the Seahawks on their heels, but he can't go in there assuming that the same attack that worked on Chicago will work on Seattle. It just doesn't work that way.

The Packers will be careful and choose their spots. At the same time, they just have to go out there, take it to them and get it done.

Offensively the Packers will have to contend with a take-no-prisoners defense led by coordinator Rhodes, who was dismissed after one season as head coach in Green Bay.

Rhodes will have his guys ready to play and will leave nothing in the bag.

The Packers better be ready to be blitzed because Seattle brings what often looks like eight people at a time. Expect the Packers to drop into max protection. If the offensive linemen can continue their superb play and keep Favre from being sacked, the Packers can put some points up on the board.

If not, it could be a long day for Favre & Co.

One of Seattle's corners is the rookie Marcus Trufant. He's fast and takes chances, but plays like a veteran.

There's no reason the Packers' wide receivers can't be the strength of the offense, so whenever they see man-to-man, they need to exploit it.

I'm looking for Donald Driver to catch a deep crossing route for a touchdown after a pass-action fake to Ahman Green.

Speaking of Green, he'll be going up against the team that traded him in 2000. Green is a premier player and he isn't the type to hold a grudge. But let's be honest, any player going against his former team for the first time is going to be hyped up.

The Seattle defense is well-coached and they believe in themselves. They're going to be aggressive and take some chances, including bringing both safeties up the gut and betting the house.

If the Packers exploit those opportunities, they win. If not, it's going to be tough.

The Seahawks are going to make some defensive stops, and that's where Josh Bidwell can come up big. As the weather turns to fall, the hangtime and placement of his punts becomes more critical.

This is the time of year Ryan Longwell earns his money. At one point he might be kicking into a 20 mph wind. The next time that wind might be behind him, and another time there might be no wind at all.

Longwell has always been fantastic as making those adjustments and that's why he's the best bad-weather kicker in the league.

Last week the Packers tried a fake field goal on fourth down against the Bears. They didn't get the first down, but they demonstrated an aggressive attitude and they've given Seattle something else to think about. That's good coaching!

So far this season Antonio Chatman has been solid on his returns. If he gets just the smallest crease, he could break one. Chatman might end up owning this game.

Other players I'm expecting to have big games are Harris and defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt on defense, Driver and tackle Chad Clifton on offense, and Marcus Wilkins on special teams.

The last time Holmgren was in Green Bay was in 1999. The Seahawks beat the Packers 27-7.

Looking back, we played too tight. We really wanted to win that one, but Seattle had nothing to lose and they kicked us round. We just made too many mistakes.

It should be different this year. Most of the guys on the team now didn't play for Holmgren and weren't there in 1999. They don't know what to expect.

The guys that lost that game will do whatever it takes to win, but really it won't be much different than any other week. The only game of the season that's more important than the rest is the Super Bowl. The others you just circle on your calendar as ones you need, but in reality you need them all the same.

This game is going to be very interesting to watch, especially for me because I played for all three of those coaches.

Each of those guys has his own style and strength.

Holmgren's biggest skill is that he gets the most out of every player he coaches. He can coach all 22 positions on the field equally well and he makes average football players play over their heads and turns them into great football players.

Rhodes is the best of the bunch at putting the nastiness back in the game, making guys get after it and play aggressive. He could teach a poodle to attack. That's just his demeanor. After being around him, all you can think about is flying around and hitting.

Sherman is the best of the bunch at finding weaknesses in his opponents. If you took him to an armored ship, he'd find the soft spot in 10 minutes and know how to sink it. He's methodical and patient, looking for his chance.

In a way it reminds me of the way Muhammad Ali used to fight, sitting back and waiting for that one knockout punch. He'll take hits and take hits and then, bam, the next thing you know Sherman and the Packers are on top of you.

We'll see if that wins out Sunday.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to Monday, Packers fans will be able to submit questions to LeRoy for his Tuesday column.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.