After falling behind early, the Seattle Seahawks turned to their defense in Thursday night's game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and shut down Green Bay in the second half, limited the Packers to field goal in a 27-24 victory in Seattle.
Desperate for a win after back-to-back losses, the Seahawks (5-5) couldn't have visualized a worse start than the one they endured to open the critical matchup against Green Bay (4-5-1).
On the first play from scrimmage, Seattle running back Chris Carson fumbled after Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked the football out with his helmet, giving the visiting team incredible starting field position. Three plays later, running back Aaron Jones raced around the right edge on a pitch to give Green Bay an early 7-0 edge.
Shortly thereafter, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson airmailed a wide-open Doug Baldwin in the end zone and Seattle had to settle for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
Rodgers followed up by unloading a spectacular 54-yard touchdown throwing across his body to reserve tight end Robert Tonyan, extending the Packers' lead to 14-3 with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
"We had to turn it around ..." Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game. "We were not getting the stops that we needed early on. We were upset about that."
The resilient Seahawks clawed back from the mistake-riddled opening quarter, briefly taking a 17-14 lead courtesy of a Wilson touchdown pass to Baldwin and a 1-yard plunge by Carson. Despite the disastrous start, Seattle went into halftime trailing by only four points at 21-17.
Fortunate to be in such a promising situation given the circumstances, the Seahawks' coaching staff pushed all of the right buttons in making adjustments defensively after Rodgers carved up Seattle with 214 passing yards and two touchdowns on only 12 completions during the first 30 minutes.
Once the Seahawks emerged from the tunnel for the second half, an inspired performance from a beleaguered defensive front helped shift momentum back toward the home team's favor. Unable to get Rodgers to the ground at all in the first two quarters, the front four set up shop in the backfield during the final two quarters, sacking the All-Pro quarterback five times.
"I was really fired up about that because we know these guys are hard to sack and it's hard to get to Aaron -- he just doesn't let you have him." Carroll said about Seattle's awakened pass rush. "But it was a lot of guys working at it, a lot of four-man rushes. ... That's really good."
Leading the onslaught, defensive end Frank Clark continued his career year and increased his season total to 10 sacks after getting to Rodgers twice off the edge. Carroll was also thrilled by Jarran Reed's impressive outing, though he was baffled that the third-year tackle was only credited with a half-sack in the game.
"I don't know if that's right. We'll be fighting for whatever is right there." Carroll said when asked about Reed's impact as a pass rusher. "But he had a really good game. He was involved in a lot of those hits."
With pressure from Clark, Reed and the rest of the defensive front hitting home frequently, the Seahawks forced Rodgers and the Packers to punt on five of their six second-half possessions.
And the pass rush came through in the clutch on Green Bay's lone scoring drive in the half, as Rasheem Green's first NFL sack forced the Packers to settle for a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
By limiting Green Bay to only three second-half points, Seattle's defense created yet another opportunity for Wilson to orchestrate a game-winning drive.
After failing to finish the job the past two weeks in similar situations, Wilson capitalized by hitting tight end Ed Dickson down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown with 5:08 remaining to give his team their first lead of the second half.
Though Rodgers and the Packers would get another shot, Carroll's defense refused to be denied, forcing a quick three-and-out and paving the way for Seattle's four-minute offense to bleed out the rest of the clock for a signature win.
"It's great to see the finish take place. We talk about how we strive to finish and we live for that," Seahawks center Justin Britt said. "Finish the moment. It feels good to have the big guys up front ending with the ball and not making the defense go back out there."
Finally able to finish after struggling to close out several eventual losses this season, the Seahawks still face a long road to make the postseason. But as Carroll preached after last week's defeat to the Rams in Los Angeles, there's still plenty of time for his team to reel off a bunch of wins and the ability to seal the deal in a must-win matchup with the Packers could set a playoff run in motion.