The Packers dropped 38 points on the Seahawks on Sunday, the most the Seattle defense has allowed this season. The question is how much this had to do with the absence of Earl Thomas.
The Seahawks’ defense entered the day leading the NFL in scoring defense, and they hadn’t allowed more than 25 points in a game this season. But from the very beginning they struggled to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. By the end, the Packers had scored 38 points, the most they’d allowed since week 10 against the Cardinals last year.
The big question is how much all of this has to do with the loss of safety Earl Thomas. Thomas’ value has always been hard to quantify because so much of what he does is damage control and damage prevention — his presence could eliminate plays before they ever happened. It was always thought that Thomas was the most valuable piece of Pete Carroll’s defense because he allowed so many other things to happen: He gave Kam Chancellor the freedom to play close to the line and cornerbacks to engage in press coverage. His instincts and speed allowed him to cover more ground than most safeties.
Without Thomas, Rodgers and the Packers picked the Seahawks apart. But the Seahawks also didn’t get much of a pass rush, allowing Rodgers to scan the field. Rodgers completed 18 of 23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns and hardly played in the fourth quarter. The pass rush been a real concern for the Seahawks of late — when they sacked Rodgers at the end of the third quarter, it was their first sack in 10 quarters. And it’s worth noting that Rodgers also picked apart the Seahawks at home last year.
But the concern over Thomas’ absence is real because he’s so uniquely suited to make this defense run, and the Seahawks did nothing to dispel that concern against Green Bay.