Mark Twain once wrote, “Comparison is the death of joy.” I think he may have been talking about NFL preseason football.
The Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks are set to face off for the penultimate preseason game — the most important preseason contest on the whole blankety-blanking exhibition schedule tonight. At the risk of committing wanton acts of homicide against joy, this meeting between the two teams offers a few interesting comparisons — particularly since the final score is of little importance in such exhibitions.
Both teams have experienced some headline-grabbing injuries. Seattle has been forced to endure the ignominy of watching its $67 million man, Percy Harvin, be placed on the shelf for most, if not all, of the 2013 season. The Seahawks’ other preferred lead receiver, Sidney Rice, jetted off to Switzerland a few weeks ago for treatment of chronic tendinitis. He is back and practicing again, but it’s a condition that bears watching.
The Packers are suffering through a rough patch of health problems among their recent top draft picks. Of their nine first- and second-round picks since 2010, they can expect to see only three players in uniform on Friday night: 2013 second-round pick running back Eddie Lacy, 2012 first-round pick linebacker Nick Perry and 2010 second-round pick defensive lineman / linebacker Mike Neal. Lacy just returned to action from a hamstring injury and both Perry and Neal are returning from 2012 season-ending injuries.
Top young talent on the Packers sideline that will miss the “Fail Mary” rematch include receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, defensive back Casey Hayward, defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, tackles Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod and 2013 first-round defensive end Datone Jones. The Seahawks will be without the aforementioned Harvin and Rice, and also top tight end Zach Miller, fullback Michael Robinson, guard James Carpenter and both rookie defensive tackles Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill.
(Almost) twin brothers from a different mother
The Packers and the Seahawks share a common enemy: the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks, for all the drama of their remarkable 2012 campaign, were forced to enter the playoffs via the Wild Card route, due to having fallen short of the NFC West division-winning 49ers by half a game. The two evenly talented and tough, athletic rivals split their season series. The antipathy between Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh is well-known and long-running — dating back to their college head coaching rivalry.
Although not division rivals with the 49ers, the Packers might despise the Bay Area team even more than the Seahawks. Over the past decade-plus, the Packers enjoyed a nice run of victories over the 49ers. That streak ended abruptly in 2012. The 49ers opened the 2012 season with a decisive road victory against the favored Packers.
To top it off, the Super Bowl-bound 49ers even more emphatically ended the Packers’ 2012 season in the divisional round of the playoffs, bouncing them back to Wisconsin by a score of 45 – 31. The Packers, because the scheduling gods have a sense of humor, are again facing the 49ers in the first week of the 2013 season.
The Packers are painfully aware of the size, shape, odor and flavor of why they lost so badly to the 49ers twice in one season. The offseason was dedicated to overcoming those shortcomings, including sending the defensive coaching staff to Texas A&M for lessons on how to defend the read-option offense and drafting Datone Jones. Jones’ size, athleticism and length are the ideal specifications the Packers sought to shore up their defensive perimeter against spread out and read-option offenses.
Enter the Seahawks on Friday night. The Seahawks offer the closest match to the type of offense the Packers will face in week one in San Francisco. How much gamesmanship will be engaged is another matter, but the look for the Packers to place great emphasis on corralling Russell Wilson — even without Jones.
Fail Mary keep on burnin’
This is only a preseason game — albeit the one where the first string offenses and defenses traditionally play the entire first half and often start the second half. This is not a Fail Mary rematch. The two teams will forever be linked together for that singular moment on Monday Night Football that effectively ended the officials’ lock-out via the highly controversial final call that awarded the touchdown and victory to Seattle.
But please do not think that Friday night’s game will be a reckoning for the Fail Mary. The players and the fans are over it — really. It’s a curiosity for the media at this point, but it’s the past. Don’t bother to ask Golden Tate about it either. He doesn’t know what you’re talking about.