A Test of Similar Styles

A Test of Similar Styles

When the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers meet on Saturday in their divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field, who wins will be greatly determined by which team is able to run the West Coast offense more effectively.

After Seattle's running game stalled week after week, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren all but ignored the running game and went to the pass-first offense that featured Matt Hasselbeck and his ability to find a strong cadre of wide receivers.

And Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, who has trained under Holmgren, convinced Brett Favre to stop making daring downfield throws, and instead hit any one of his five receivers on short routes, allowing them to make something happen after they catch the ball.

Seattle's is a more possession-type offense. Green Bay's relies on its big, strong and fast receivers to make big plays. But both are disciples of the same paradigm, built and perfected by Bill Walsh.

Green Bay sometimes goes to a five-receiver set, which features Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and former Seahawk Koren Robinson. They will overload Seattle's secondary and hope both that Favre can get the ball off early and that the ensuing confusion will allow a receiver to make a big play.

Almost half of Favre's 4,055 yards passing this season have come after the catch, a testament to his receivers' escapability.

"We just have to make sure we cut off their routes," Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said. "We have to make sure we keep guys in there."

"We have to make sure that we tackle them after they catch the ball," defensive coordinator John Marshall said.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are going to have their four-receiver set for only the third time this season, with starting flanker Deion Branch coming back opposite split end D.J. Hackett, augmented by slot receiver Bobby Engram, the team's leading receiver, and Nate Burleson, who has nine touchdown catches this season.

With Green Bay using a version of the Cover 2, its corner pressing the receivers, Seattle should be able to take advantage of underneath passing routes, which is Engram's specialty. Also, running backs out of the backfield should have room to run if Hasselbeck checks down to them.

"Their cover guys are really good," Seattle offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said, "but when you start adding Deion Branch to the mix, it gives them something really difficult to deal with."

SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting. Packers lead series, 7-5, though the Seahawks captured a 34-24 decision in 2006. The only time the teams met in the postseason, Green Bay won a 33-27 overtime game when Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception to Al Harris that was returned 52 yards for the score.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck said he used to commiserate with Packers QB Brett Favre about how to deal with coach Mike Holmgren. "Early on, when I was at the lowest point here, I can remember talking to Brett on the phone, saying something like, 'You have no idea how bad it is here,'" Hasselbeck said. "He'd laugh and say, 'No, you have no idea how bad it was here.' Then he'd tell me a story and I would say to myself, 'Ok, he's right, his version is way worse than mine.'"

--When the Seahawks played the Packers in the last playoff game in 2004, Hasselbeck came out on the field without sleeves, despite the cold weather, prompting Holmgren to approach him. "I think he said something like, 'Hey John Wayne, put some sleeves on.'"

--WR Nate Burleson has had some of his best games at Lambeau Field. In three games during the 2003 season, Burleson had a combined 17 receptions for 300 yards and three TDs. He even caught a score in one of only two playoff games the Packers have lost at Lambeau Field, the same game where Randy Moss fake-mooned the crowd. "I kept my pants on," Burleson said.

--When the Seahawks played the Packers in the preseason, backup FB Leonard Weaver got thrown aside by linebacker A.J. Hawk and gave up a sack, then was leaped over by Atari Bigby and gave up another sack. "It was a rough game," said Weaver, who starts because Mack Strong retired after a neck injury.

--Seahawks WR coach Nolan Cromwell is going to leave the team. Cromwell, who has been with Holmgren for more than a decade, will be the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

--The team that hosts a divisional playoff game wins 81 percent of the time. "That's what you fight all season for, to get the first-round bye," Holmgren said.

--DT Craig Terrill signed a three-year contract extension just before the end of the season. Terrill has played a key role this season, with Chuck Darby and Marcus Tubbs suffering season-ending injuries.

--DE Patrick Kerney, LB Lofa Tatupu and OT Walter Jones all were named to the All-Pro team.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Number of games the Packers had a sack in their last five games of the regular season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Starting holder, that'd probably be my claim to fame there. We had a couple of fake field goals, screwed up the end-zone celebration on one of them. I'm not in their league at all." -- Matt Hasselbeck, on his "Q" rating in returning to Lambeau Field compared to that of Mike Holmgren.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

WR Deion Branch is expected to return to the starting lineup this week, which means that Bobby Engram, the team's leading receiver, will return to the slot as the third receiver. Nate Burleson, who has nine TDs, will be the team's fourth receiver. If Branch plays, it will be only the third time this season that Matt Hasselbeck has had all four of his options available at wide receiver.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--DE Patrick Kerney did not practice on Wednesday. It was his second straight day of not practicing. He was not made available to the media. He is expected to play Saturday.
--OT Walter Jones did not practice on Wednesday because of sore shoulders. He will play against the Packers.
--DT Rocky Bernard did not practice because of a sore groin. He will play against Green Bay.
--WR Deion Branch had limited participation in practice because of a calf injury but he said after practice that he is definitely playing Saturday.
--LB Niko Koutouvides did not practice because of a knee injury but will play against the Packers on special teams.
--S Mike Green did not practice because of a knee injury but is expected to play against the Packers.

GAME PLAN: The Seahawks' four-receiver sets need to take advantage of Green Bay's young safeties, Atari Bigby and Nick Collins. Green Bay's cover corners have experience and strength, but their safeties are vulnerable to Matt Hasselbeck's arm if he overloads a particular area. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense, while not expecting to shut down Brett Favre and the Packers offense, must limit their production by making clean tackles after the catch.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks FB Leonard Weaver, who was abused in the team's preseason meeting, vs. Packers LB A.J. Hawk, who tossed Weaver aside in that game for a sack. Weaver will be a key part of Hasselbeck's protection, which will go a long way in determining his success.

Seahawks WR Deion Branch, who should play for the first time in two weeks, vs. Packers CB Al Harris, who had an interception return for a TD in the team's last postseason meeting. Hasselbeck may naturally want to pick on Harris for revenge given the way the last game ended.

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