Game Review: Positives Not Enough In 34-24 Loss At Seattle


SEATTLE - For everything that went right for the Packers, the outcome certainly could have been different.

Four first-half turnovers, a defensive score, and a big pass play for a touchdown to open the second half gave Green Bay a tremendous chance to knock off the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.

But missed opportunities, costly penalties, and a surprisingly porous run defense took away that chance as Seattle posted a 34-24 decision at a snowy and noisy Qwest Field.

"I feel that we let it slip away," center Scott Wells said, summing up the feeling throughout the locker room after the Packers slipped to 4-7.

Shaun Alexander's 40 carries for 201 yards and Matt Hasselbeck's three touchdown passes in the second half proved to be the difference for Seattle, which remained atop the NFC West at 7-4.

But it was early in the game when the Packers didn't build the lead they could have, the type of lead that may have forced Seattle out of its game plan to pound away with Alexander.

Hasselbeck, returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss the past four games, struggled early. He threw three interceptions in the first half and lost a fumble that rookie linebacker Abdul Hodge picked clean out of midair and returned 29 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

Cornerback Charles Woodson had two of the interceptions, the first coming on the game's opening series when defensive tackle Ryan Pickett batted the ball several feet in the air and Woodson ran under it for an easy catch.

The Packers capitalized on that, driving 36 yards in four plays and getting a 5-yard touchdown run from Ahman Green for an early 7-0 lead.

But Green Bay failed to do anything with the other two interceptions. The Packers went three-and-out after Al Harris stepped in front of Deion Branch for a pick. Then after Woodson's second interception, the Packers drove inside the Seattle 10-yard line, only to get pushed back by a false start and then have Dave Rayner's 28-yard field goal attempt blocked by Craig Terrill.

"Against a good football team, you really need to take advantage of turnovers and their mistakes, get up on them and make them play from far behind, and we didn't really do that," Wells said. "That was a huge factor."

Seattle hung tough with three field goals to take a brief 9-7 lead, and the Seahawks even responded to Hodge's defensive score with another drive for a field goal to stay within 14-12 at halftime.

But to be plus-3 in the turnover battle - Green Bay's only first-half giveaway was when Brett Favre was intercepted by Kelly Herndon on a deep ball to Bubba Franks in the end zone - and only ahead by two points on the scoreboard was a frustrating feeling at intermission.

"I think we had them on their heels early," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "With the takeaways we had a great start to the game. We really started fast, and for whatever reason we couldn't keep that momentum going."

The Packers seemed to get it back again when Favre opened the second half by hitting Donald Driver on a slant pass that the veteran receiver turned into a 48-yard touchdown for a 21-12 lead.

"You make a big play like that, and you hope the momentum shifts," Driver said. "We thought it was a turning point in the game."

Instead it turned out to be the last time the Packers found the end zone, due in part to the Packers' inability to run the ball (51 rushing yards) and Seattle's ball-control offense with Alexander.

{sportsad300}The Packers hadn't allowed a running back to surpass 100 yards against them all season, but Alexander topped that by halftime at 104. He added 97 more yards in the second half, as Seattle parlayed their dominance on the ground into a 12-minute advantage in time of possession (36:07 to 23:53).

"They came out with a good game plan, running the ball, and they stuck with it," Pickett said. "Forty-something attempts, they just kept punching away, punching away, chipping away. That's it.

"There's no way you can allow a team to rush for 200 yards and win in the NFL. Can't do it."

Alexander had 201 of Seattle's 235 rushing yards, and he compiled that total without a game-breaking play. His long run was just 21 yards.

A gifted cutback runner, Alexander often found running room by cutting back against the grain, sometimes all the way across the field in order to pick up 8, 10 or 12 yards a crack.

"It seemed like he was being patient, picking up holes, and once he picked the holes he was exploding through them," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said.

"He's a patient back, and by being like that you really have to make sure you're assignment-sound and you stay in your gaps. Because he'll wait for somebody to get out of their gaps, get out of their assignment, and take advantage of it."

In the meantime Hasselbeck (17-of-36, 157 yards) recovered from his rough start to throw second-half touchdown passes to D.J. Hackett, Darrell Jackson and Jerramy Stevens and erase the nine-point deficit.

The Seahawks benefited from two critical third-down penalties on the Packers that kept drives alive and resulted in touchdowns, the final one a 3-yard TD pass Stevens that put the Seahawks ahead 34-24 with 6:13 left.

Any chance for a comeback was stopped before it started as Seattle intercepted Favre (22-of-36, 266 yards) on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter while protecting that 10-point lead.

In the end this became a second consecutive loss for the third time this season, and thus far the Packers have offset those streaks with consecutive wins only once. The fact that this game was far more competitive than last week's shutout loss at home to New England was little consolation.

"This is another tough one," Kampman said. "To start the game they way we did, we had a great feeling and everyone was pretty excited. We just have to find a way to close these games out."

And take full advantage of the good things that coulda, shoulda, woulda added up to victory.

"We're still going to stay positive," Woodson said. "There were a lot of positive things in the game today. We came out on the losing end of it, but we have to keep plugging away.

"We've got five games left, and I don't like to lose. So from my standpoint, I'm going to go out there and continue to give everything I've got, and I think the rest of the guys will do that as well."

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