Top takeaways from Green Bay Packers’ Week 10 win over Seattle Seahawks

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Of the 149 games played in this NFL season, I would wager not a single one has said more, about more significant things, than Green Bay 17, Seattle 0 in a Wisconsin snow squall Sunday, the first wintry day of the season. What it said:

1) The Packers can win without vintage Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay won by 17 with Rodgers throwing a Red Zone pick, looking out of sorts after his 10-day Covid sabbatical, not throwing a touchdown pass, and playing like a game the Lombardi Packers might have played. In fact, 56 years ago Sunday, Green Bay beat the Rams 6-3 with Bart Starr having an invisible day and Jim Taylor bulling out 117 yards from scrimmage. Sound familiar? What I’m saying is Sunday’s game, with Rodgers showing the effects of being drained from his 10 days away, was a very good thing for a team that might have to win a variety of ways in January and February.

2) Brian Gutekunst is not a lummox. With the world screaming for the Packers to get a wideout in the 2020 draft, Gutekunst, the embattled Green Bay GM, bypassed trading up for a receiver in the second round and picked a 247-pound fire hydrant of a back, A.J. Dillon, with the 62nd overall pick. Dillon won this game. He carried likely Hall of Fame linebacker Bobby Wagner into the end zone on one TD to make it 10-0 early in the fourth quarter, nimbly caught-and-ran a 50-yard pass from Rodgers a few minutes later, and bulled for an insurance TD at the two-minute warning. So maybe Gutekunst should have traded up for a Van Jefferson type midway through round two, but this Dillon is a winter back who could be vital this postseason. Gutekunst’s first-round corner from Georgia, Eric Stokes, didn’t allow a completion Sunday, while one of the smartest free-agent finds of the year, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (cap number: $1.19 million) led the team in tackles.

3) I wonder if we’re seeing the end of the Russell Wilson era in Seattle. It’s dumb to make any long-term judgments about a great player on such a rotten day, when Wilson returned after finger surgery and looked inaccurate and ineffective, getting shut out for the first time in 166 Seattle starts. His receivers didn’t help him, rarely getting free enough for him to have a chance at a long gain. But as I watched the futility of this game, I just started thinking it might be time for the Seahawks to think of alternatives to Wilson, particularly if he gets mopey again next offseason. For now, with Seattle 3-6, Arizona looming next week, and San Francisco and the Rams on the horizon after that, making the playoffs will be tough. Sabers were rattled last year by Wilson and his agent, and I just wonder if an 8-9 season might make Seattle GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll wonder if rewriting the script and getting three first-round picks and maybe one top player from a Carolina or Denver or Pittsburgh or Miami or Philadelphia is smarter than trying to keep Wilson happy. Schneider is a confident man. He convinced Carroll that a short quarterback would be a star back in 2012, and Wilson in the third round followed. I doubt he’d be afraid of doing it again.

4) The Green Bay defense, even without its two best players, is a top five NFL unit. In fact, the Pack should be third, surrendering 309.9 yards per game, when this week’s stats are finalized after Rams-Niners tonight. This was the masterpiece, particularly without Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, the D’s top two players, likely not back from injuries till December.

Green Bay is the NFC’s top seed this morning. The Pack was last year too, but home-field didn’t help when Tampa Bay came to town for the championship game. Something feels different this year. That something different is Green Bay has a good defense and a war-horse running back, and maybe Rodgers doesn’t have to score in the thirties every week to win big ones. We didn’t see that coming.


Dillon heard all the chatter after he was drafted. Stupid Packers. They don’t need a back! Where’s the receiver?! “I saw it,” Dillon told me post-game. “I heard it. I just kind of put that with bulletin board material. I really always wanted to be an all-purpose back. APB. I knew I could be.”

Then he got into practice, and Aaron Rodgers treated him well—“Like a real teammate,” he said—and Aaron Jones treated him “like a brother.” Though Dillon didn’t get a lot of chances last year, he was sure he’d do well when called. In camp this summer, he was honored to be kidded by Rodgers, who he watched as a fan growing up in Connecticut. “Your legs get smaller this offseason?” Rodgers said to Dillon, an ice-breaker after the Rodgers drama of the offseason. Smaller? Dillon had the biggest legs of any back in the league. Dillon wasn’t sure if his QB was kidding, but he told him no, he put some strength and pounds on each of them.

“All of it, to me, is so cool,” Dillon said Sunday night. “The day after the draft, I watched like a three-hour documentary on the Packers and what Green Bay was. Being on this team is an indescribable feeling, really. Sometimes I still gotta like pinch myself before I get into practice. Or I’m driving over to practice and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, this is real, I’m a Packer’ when I’m pulling up and see Lambeau. I’ve walked into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame like three times now, just to see it. Now I know the history, and I’m so honored to be a part of the family here.”

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers
Packer running back A.J. Dillon. (Getty Images)

But then the games get played, and it’s not time for gee-whiz stuff anymore. The fourth quarter of this game was huge for Dillon, and for the Packers. Four minutes into the fourth quarter, this was a 3-0 game, and Green Bay had a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line. The play-call was a pile-mover, Dillon up the gut trying for the three yards to give the Packers a cushion. In his way: Wagner and the surprisingly stout Seattle D. “I felt a lot of trust from the coaches when I heard the call,” Dillon said. He blasted up the middle, and Wagner got hold of him, and Dillon used his powerful calf muscles to almost back his way into the end zone, Wagner holding on for dear life.

“You’re a legend,” Dillon the fan told Wagner after the game. But fan beat legend on this play, and Green Bay went up 10-0.

On the next Packer series, Dillon took a swing pass to the left and showed his nimble side. It’s not often a 247-pound back keeps his balance athletically on the sideline, making sure he stays in while bouncing off tacklers. “I’ve been working all off-season on my receiving, all the time on the JUGS machine and running after the catch,” he said. “Good to see it’s paying off. It makes me really happy.” That set up the insurance score, a two-yard Dillon TD at the two-minute warning.

Dillon, for the game, had 23 touches for 128 yards and two TDs. Now, with Jones (MCL) expected to miss time, Dillon hopes to be as productive in two big games the next two Sundays: Vikings on the road, Rams at home.

With this win, Green Bay goes to 8-2, with a tiebreaker lead over Arizona for the top spot in the NFC with seven games left. Next week, Green Bay will be indoors at the arch-rival Vikes. The Packers have won seven of 11 in Minneapolis since 2010, and Rodgers has a 50-7 touchdown-to-interception margin against Minnesota in his career. It’s also one of the first times in a while the Packers enter a big division game knowing Rodgers doesn’t have to carry them for Green Bay to win. Newbies like Dillon are seeing to that.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Conference Championship week awards: Reddick wrecks SF

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Offensive player of the week

Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City. Dealing with a high ankle sprain and missing multiple receivers, Mahomes did what he’s done over and over again in his remarkable NFL career: He excelled, innovated and propelled Kansas City to the win. Mahomes went 29 for 43 for 326 yards and two touchdowns and showed poise and mobility despite the injury, as on his perfectly-placed 19-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the third and his end-of-game scramble for the first down that positioned the Chiefs for the winning field goal (with the help of some unnecessary roughness). In Mahomes’ career as the starter, Kansas City has never exited the playoffs before the Conference Championships, and now they’re headed to their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four seasons.

Defensive players of the week

Haason Reddick, linebacker, Philadelphia. In the first 11 minutes of the NFC game, Reddick wrecked it. Eight minutes in, Reddick steamed in on Brock Purdy and hit his arm just as he began the act of throwing; it was ruled an incomplete pass and changed to a sack, forced fumble and turnover upon review. That play knocked Purdy from the game with what appeared to be an elbow injury. On the second play of the next series, with backup Josh Johnson in the game, an unblocked Reddick smothered Johnson for a nine-yard loss, and the Niners had to punt two plays later. So, early on, Reddick, the Temple product playing on his home college field, spoiled the first two 49er drives and drove the starting quarterback from the game. That’s one heck of an impact game for the first-year Eagle.

Haason Reddick celebrates after recovering a fumble against the 49ers in the second quarter. (Getty Images/Tim Nwachukwu)

Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Kansas City. In his seven-season career, Chris Jones had never tallied a postseason sack entering Sunday night’s game. In the electric atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium, he took down Burrow not once but twice, including a sack on third and eight in the final minute of the fourth quarter that ended the Bengals’ shot at a go-ahead scoring drive and got the Chiefs the ball back for the game-winning field goal. Jones was a powerhouse all night, a difference-maker in a close game. Not hard to argue that KC isn’t headed to the Super Bowl without him.

 

Special teams player of the week

Harrison Butker, kicker, Kansas City. His 45-yard field goal, fighting through the Arrowhead Stadium wind, made it by four or five yards and dropped on the ground with three seconds left, giving Kansas City a 23-20 win over the Bengals. Kick of his career. 

 

Coach of the week

Nick Sirianni, head coach, Philadelphia. His decision to go for it twice on fourth down in the first half helped the Eagles score touchdowns on each. On fourth-and-three from the Niners’ 35-yard line, with the Eagles in long field-goal range, Sirianni called a pass play and Jalen Hurts hit DeVonta Smith for 29 yards (although a closer look might have found the pass incomplete); the Eagles scored their first TD two plays later. On fourth-and-one from the Philly 34 with the game tied at 7, Sirianni chose to go for it, and Hurts sneaked for two … and five minutes later, the Eagles scored to go up 14-0. A good day at the controls for the coach in his first conference title game.

 

Goats of the week

Joseph Ossai, defensive end, Cincinnati. His clear late hit on Patrick Mahomes out of bounds with eight seconds left in a 20-20 tie merited a 15-yard flag and advanced the ball from the Bengals’ 42-yard line to the 27-yard line and turned a 60-yard field-goal try for Harrison Butker into a 45-yarder. Just a terrible mistake at the worst time for Cincinnati.

Replay assist, Replay official/New York officiating command center, NFC Championship Game. “Replay assist” is in its second season of use in the NFL. The replay official in the stadium—Jamie Nicholson in this case—or NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson, working from New York, can see an error on the field and call down to the ear of ref John Hussey and tell him the call on the field is wrong. Twice in the first quarter, replay assist likely had enough evidence to fix plays without a coach throwing a challenge flag. The first one was huge—a fourth-and-three pass play from Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith for 29 yards that, on further review, appeared clearly to be a trapped or compromised catch by Smith. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t challenge it; it very likely would have been overturned, and the NFL’s sophisticated Hawkeye replay system would have caught it quickly. Same with the second call, an Eagles-challenged incomplete pass by Brock Purdy that turned into a strip-sack instead. The system installed is only as good as the people using it, and it’s clear that at least the Smith play could have been seen and fixed in real time by the replay assist system.

 

Hidden person of the week

Isaac Seumalo, right guard, Philadelphia. On the Eagles’ first series of the NFC title game, Seumalo sealed off 319-pound San Francisco tackle Javon Kinlaw (with help from center Jason Kelce), opening a wide hole for Miles Sanders to sprint six yards in the space formerly occupied by Kinlaw. Just another example of why the Eagles’ offensive line is the NFL’s best: On the first drive of the biggest game of the year, the line helped pave the way for an 11-play, 66-yard TD drive, ending in a display of power that bruising games like this one require.

 

The Jason Jenkins Award

Jeff Kamis, former director of media relations, Tampa Bay. Kamis was one of my favorite PR people in the time I’ve covered the NFL. Thorough, professional, and helpful, he was the PR chief when the Gruden Bucs won their first Super Bowl. But now, tragedy has entered his life. Kamis’ 16-year-old son Jacob, a star student and aspiring pilot, took his own life seven months ago. He suffered from severe depression. In the midst of their grief, Jeff Kamis and Jacob’s mother Katherine turned their attention to helping other young people suffering from the debilitating disease, as described in this piece done by the Tampa ABC affiliate:

Jeff helped organize a three-day event in Tampa last week called “Lifting the Cloud: A focus on teen mental health.” And in the TV story, he talked about his son nobly: “He didn’t let the illness define who he was as a person. He fought it. He did everything he could to do everything he could to find out why it was happening and to figure out how to get better. I mean, he was sick. I’ll always be so proud of him for being a fighter.”

I spoke to Jeff Kamis Sunday morning, sending along my sympathy for this impossible situation. He said, “Every morning when I wake up, I think, ‘What would Jacob tell me to do?’“

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Eagles dominate both sides of the ball in NFC Championship

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What a lead balloon of a football game. The most important player in it, Brock Purdy, got hurt in the first quarter, and it was only a matter of a time before the better team began the rout. (Not saying Purdy is better than Jalen Hurts. He isn’t. But the drop-off from Purdy to backup Josh Johnson is like an Acapulco cliff-dive. The drop-off from Hurts to Gardner Minshew is not nearly as steep—Minshew can play.)

So the Eagles go into the Super Bowl on one of the best runs in recent history: 16-3 overall, with two of the losses coming in games Hurts didn’t start because of a bum shoulder. The Eagles are 16-1 with Hurts playing—including 38-7 and 31-7 playoff steamrolling’s of the Giants and 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field in the last two weekends. Make no mistake: These Eagles are deep and dangerous, and it will take the best game of their season by the Kansas City Chiefs to beat them in Super Bowl LVII in 13 days.

What was most interesting Sunday—echoing the rout of the Giants—was the dominance of Philadelphia on both sides of the ball. Remember last week, after the win over the Giants, when I witnessed this in the post-game scrum inside the Eagles’ inner sanctum:

“My dad’s here tonight,” Sirianni said after the game, nodding in the direction of his father, “and the first thing he told me when I got into coaching was, ‘It’s always about the O-line and the D-line.’”

Just then, the architect of the two lines and the rest of the roster, GM Howie Roseman, walked by to congratulate Sirianni.

“Howie!” Sirianni yelled. “All about the O-line, D-line, baby!”

“All about the O-line, D-line!” Roseman said.


Think of all the big plays in this game, and the big players, for the newly crowned NFC champions. The GM, Roseman, is linked to most of them. Namely:

1. Jalen Hurts. The quarterback who was widely derided when selected 53rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft proved what a smart pick it was by leading the Eagles’ drive to their second Super Bowl in five years. Hurts didn’t turn it over, bulled for an insurance TD, and extended a first-quarter drive with a deep throw to DeVonta Smith. Seems so long ago that picking Hurts immediately wounded the psyche of shaky incumbent Carson Wentz. But remember the truth. Roseman didn’t pick Hurts to replace Wentz; he picked him because Wentz was hurt a lot and the Eagles didn’t want to pay the backup QB $7 million, and because Hurts was a fascinating prospect. One more point: Roseman did due diligence on Deshaun Watson when he was a free agent a year ago, but wisely, for many reasons, chose to stick with Hurts.

Jalen Hurts runs the ball in the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

2. Haason Reddick. Great value signing in free agency for the former Cards and Panthers linebacker (three years, $45 million, cap numbers of $3.9 million and 7.0 million in the first two years), with production far beyond his contract. After finishing second in the NFL with 16 sacks in the regular season and first with five forced fumbles, he was the most important defensive player on the field Sunday. He strip-sacked Purdy and forced him from the game, then sacked Johnson on a drive-crippling play, and then recovered a Johnson fumble late in the half, prompting a late first-half TD. Huge producer when it’s counted for Philadelphia.

3. The corners. Roseman traded third- and fifth-round picks in 2020 to Detroit for Darius Slay, and signed James Bradberry as a salary-cap casualty from the Giants last offseason. Slay and Bradberry have keyed a secondary that—understanding the quality of the passing games the Eagles have faced in the playoffs has been weak—gave up 192 net yards passing and zero TD passes in eight quarters. Slay and Bradberry erased the opposition.

4. DeVonta Smith. Picked 10th overall by Roseman in the ’21 draft, Smith has been the deep threat the Eagles hoped for. He was credited with the most important offensive play for the Eagles Sunday, the 29-yard completion on fourth-and-three that led to the opening Philly touchdown.

5. Nick Sirianni. An offensive coach in Frank Reich’s shadow, and a coach who wasn’t going to call offensive plays because he wanted to be the coach of the whole team still got the nod over the more experienced Josh McDaniels. Remember Sirianni’s disastrous opening press conference? Yikes. But the Eagles do marathon interviews with their coaching candidates, and Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie were convinced they saw an underrated leader who wouldn’t be cowed by the local fans or press in tough times, and who would build an excellent offense and coach a complete team. It’s all come true.

“We’re only as good as the staff we have,” Lurie said after the game. “In a way, that’s the secret sauce—the culture and the staff.”

And the personnel staff, led by Roseman. After the last Super Bowl team dissolved into mayhem in less than three years, the fans wanted Roseman out too. But Lurie knew he had a strong GM who deserved a chance to rebuild a team in the dumps. He did—and that’s one of the things that led Roseman to Reddick.


The legacy of Andy Reid in Philadelphia, in part, is what Sirianni and Roseman exulted about last week. Always concentrate on the lines. Philadelphia rotates eight defensive linemen; each plays a dozen snaps or more per game. Keeping them fresh has allowed Reddick the freedom to be a pass-rush marauder, moving inside and outside at will with the offensive line so concerned with the defensive front.

Against the Niners, he was matched against tight end Tyler Kroft on the first series of the game. Later, Reddick was asked what he was thinking when he saw only Kroft between him and Brock Purdy. “Oh man,” Reddick said. “Really bad things.” Reddick beat Kroft easily and steamed toward Purdy, ripping into his right arm—and the ball—just as Purdy tried to throw.

This was the turning point of the game. “I was yelling to coach Nick, ‘Throw the flag!’” Reddick said. The challenge flag, he meant. “I knew that was a sack fumble, cuz I got my hand on the ball.”

Sirianni threw the flag. Meanwhile, Purdy felt a bad sensation. “Shocks all over, from my elbow down to my wrist,” Purdy said. Whatever the replay decided, Purdy was done, at least for a while. And the replay confirmed Reddick’s gut feeling: the fumble, Purdy’s first in the last nine games, gave the Eagles the ball at their own 44. They couldn’t do anything with it, but then Reddick ruined the next drive by sacking Josh Johnson for a loss of 10 on the second play.

As crazy as it sounds, just watching the game, it seemed impossible that the 49ers would be able to stay with Philadelphia. Even though the Niners tied it at 7 on a ridiculously wonderful 23-yard TD run by Christian McCaffrey midway through the second quarter, keeping up with the Eagles would be out of the question with Johnson playing. And it got worse when he had to leave with concussion symptoms early in the third quarter. Purdy re-entered a 21-7 game, but with an apparent elbow injury preventing him from being able to throw, this game became an exercise in just-get-it-over-with, not a true contest of the two best teams in the NFC. “I couldn’t throw more than five, 10 yards,” Purdy said.

As tight end George Kittle said with stark realism after the game: “You’re down to two quarterbacks and neither one of them can throw and neither one of them is really available. It kind of limits what you can do as an offense, kind of limits our playbook to, like, 15 plays.”

So now the Eagles move on. They have many strengths, as winning 16 of 17 with the starting quarterback in the lineup would illustrate. But now, fortunately for them, the Eagles will face one of the game’s best passers—maybe THE best in Arizona with a scary pass-rush. Philadelphia had but 29 sacks last year, and Reddick’s addition blasted that up to 69 this year. Reddick, with 19.5 sacks in 19 games, can win with speed on the outside, and he has enough strength in inside rushes to power through inside gaps.

Amazing to think this, after the Eagles won their first Super Bowl five years ago with an explosive performance against the best team of the era, New England. But this Philadelphia team has fewer weaknesses than the one that beat Brady and Belichick. Thanks to Roseman filling so many holes with high-quality players—and one smart coach—the Eagles won’t be satisfied with anything short of a second Lombardi.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column