GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Seattle’s Richard Sherman may have more to do this time against the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers didn’t throw in the Pro Bowl cornerback’s direction when the teams met in the season opener in September, a 36-16 win for the Seahawks.
The game plan for the rematch on Sunday in the NFC title game is still in flux. Still, the offense seems better equipped this time around to face Sherman and Seattle’s swarming defense.
“I don’t think anybody’s intimidated. I mean he’s a great player,” tight end Andrew Quarless said this week. “Their secondary is definitely a great secondary. You’ve got to give them their respect. But you know the whole ‘Legion of Boom’ — we’ll see.”
More than four months have passed since that meeting. It is plenty of time for teams to shape their identities and fix flaws.
Seattle has only improved defensively since September. But the Packers have had plenty of time, too, to get their act together.
Running back Eddie Lacy’s production has increased dramatically. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are one of the top receiving tandems in the league. The offensive line is providing solid blocking.
And Aaron Rodgers has proven that he’s better than most healthy quarterbacks in the league, even when slowed by a left calf injury.
“I don’t think it’s that much different except their guys are coming through,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “They’ve grown with their season and they’re at the top of their game.”
It wasn’t quite that case on Sept. 4 in Seattle.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy watched video of the game on Monday morning. He liked some of what he saw. He pointed to a few pivotal plays during which the Packers could have played better.
“As far as not throwing at Richard Sherman, we have great respect for their defense, and they’ve earned that, and no different in Richard’s individual case,” McCarthy said. “But we’re a no-huddle offense and my thought was, and I told Jordy in the game plan, ‘Just line up on the left side.'”
The thinking was that Sherman would follow Nelson.
“OK. It didn’t happen … How the game sorted out and things like that, and the ball went where it went was just really how the game was played. There was never a ‘Don’t throw right’ in the game plan,” McCarthy added. “With that, I think we’ve played a lot differently since then, I think we’ve improved in a number of different areas.”
The Packers have succeeded in the second half of the season in part by going after an opponent’s strengths.
In a 26-21 win over New England in November, Rodgers threw for 368 yards, including a 45-yard catch-and-run to Nelson. He had been covered by top cornerback Darrelle Revis at the time.
In the regular-season finale, Green Bay ran for 152 yards in a victory against Detroit, a season-high by a Lions opponent.
In the NFC divisional round win over Dallas, the Packers got three touchdown passes from Rodgers — though none went to Nelson or Cobb. Instead, rookie receiver Davante Adams, and tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers, another rookie, had the scores in the big spots.
All three games were played at Lambeau Field. Still, the success will help boost confidence.
“I mean the more targets A-Rod has, the more I think it opens up the offense,” Quarless said. It’s about keeping them honest, really respecting everything that we do, and respecting all the playmakers on the field.”
Adams had the biggest impact of the lesser-known Packers with seven catches for 117 yards. The production was somewhat of a surprise given Adams had a combined four catches in his previous four games combined.
As it turns out, Adams doesn’t mind talking trash either, a quality that might come in handy if Sherman throws some verbal jabs.
“I like to egg it on. If you want to talk, I feel like you can use that to your advantage because guys get to talking and you make a play on them and it kind of shuts them down,” Adams said.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.
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