Countdown to a MNF kickoff

Greetings from CenturyLink Field, which takes on an even more festive atmosphere for tonight’s game between the Seahawks and Packers because the whole football world will be watching on “Monday Night Football.”

This will be the Seahawks’ only MNF appearance this season, and just their second in the past five seasons. But the Seahawks are 17-8 in the primetime showcase games, including a five-game winning streak – and that includes a 34-24 victory over the Packers during a snowstorm in 2006, which ranks No. 8 in the ongoing countdown of the Top 10 memories from the first 10 seasons of this stadium.

Tonight’s game features so many storylines, but the one that stands out is the ability of the Seahawks’ fast, aggressive defense to deal with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers after it has forced him to ditch the play that was called either in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage. The league’s reigning MVP is making a career of buying extra time by moving and then finding a receiver downfield for a big play.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and his players talked all week about “plastering,” which is staying with their receivers after the play seemingly breaks down. One step toward Rodgers when it appears he might be scrambling and the next thing that can happen is the ball whistling past your helmet and into the hands of the receiver you were just covering.

But that big-play element of the Packers’ passing game has been missing in their first two games. James Jones has a 49-yard reception, but the Packers’ longest TD pass is a 27-yarder that was thrown not by Rodgers but punter/holder Tim Masthay on a fake field in last week’s victory over the Bears.

Last season, when Rodgers’ threw a franchise-record 45 TD passes, he had 70-yard plus scoring throws in three consecutive games – joining the Cowboys’ Craig Morton (1970) and the Saints’ Drew Brees (2004) as the only players since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to turn that trick. Rodgers’ 10 completions of 70-plus yards since taking over as the starter in 2008 also lead the NFL.

On offense, the Seahawks have to be able to run the ball against a Packers defense that is allowing averages of 5.1 yards per carry and 140 rushing yards per game. They have just the back to do it in Marshawn Lynch, who had 100 rushing yards in the second half of last week’s upset victory against the Cowboys and is the league’s leading rusher since Week 9 of last season. Quarterback Russell Wilson also should be able to take advantage of the Packers’ aggressive pass rush by running up the gut on those plays when they over pursue.

But do not overlook the other third of this matchup – special teams. We covered just how good these units are for both teams during the week. The Seahawks’ special teams ranked second in the league after two games, the Cowboys’ fifth.

Speaking of special, this one should be. So enjoy the game. Kickoff is set for 5:30, with televised coverage on ESPN and the radio broadcast on 710 ESPN and 97.3 FM.

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