Packers won't doubt Thomas-less Seahawks defense
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The loss of safety Earl Thomas to a season-ending injury left a gaping hole in the Seattle Seahawks' formidable defense.
The Green Bay Packers are more concerned about the considerable talent still left with the Seahawks.
Life without Thomas begins Sunday when Seattle travels to Lambeau Field in an important game in the NFC playoff picture. The Packers (6-6) need a win to keep pace with first-place Detroit in the NFC North. The Seahawks (8-3-1) have two avenues to clinch the NFC West on Sunday, the easiest being a win over Green Bay along with an Arizona loss or tie.
Whatever happens, coach Pete Carroll's club must play the rest of the season without Thomas, the former All-Pro safety who broke his lower left leg in last week's 40-7 win over Carolina.
"You can't really replace him. All you can do is try to find somebody that can fit in in a role that's similar, that can do 80 percent or even 60 percent of what he does and can help us win the game," defensive end Michael Bennett said.
Thomas' job will be filled by Steven Terrell , who was mostly a special teams contributor until a few weeks ago when Thomas suffered a hamstring injury. He's ready to be tested by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I'm prepared for that, you always think teams are going to take shots deep," Terrell said.
But what the Packers have done best of late is attack defenses with quick passes on short-to-medium routes, with Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb giving Rodgers a trio of reliable receivers. Minus a consistent running game with Eddie Lacy (ankle) out for the year, coach Mike McCarthy has had to get creative to keep defenses guessing.
"But we're not going to drop back and throw 50-yard post routes all day because they've got a new free safety," McCarthy said. "I don't think that's practical. I mean, you just see how the new guy fits in."
Other notes and things to watch ahead of Sunday's game:
COOKING THINGS UP: The return of tight end Jared Cook from a foot injury three games ago gave Rodgers a big receiving target. The 6-foot-5 Cook, who could test the Seahawks over the middle with Thomas out, has experienced some success against Seattle while he played for the Rams.
He has also experienced bone-crunching hits from Seattle's other tough safety, Kam Chancellor.
"You just can't worry about it," Cook said. "You're going to get hit, you're going to have defenders in the middle of the field, so you've just got to catch and secure the ball."
RUN IT OUT: Seattle's run game is starting to find some traction, and that could help if it snows again in Green Bay.
The Seahawks have rushed for at least 125 yards as a team in three straight games. Last week against Carolina was the peak, with the Seahawks running for 240 yards. Thomas Rawls rushed for 103 yards in the first half against the Panthers, becoming the second Seattle player this season to have a 100-yard game.
ACHES AND PAINS: The injury bug on the Packers' defense has now hit the linebacker position. Nick Perry (eight sacks) has been ruled out for Sunday with a left hand injury. He was also a solid run defender on the edge.
Clay Matthews is working through a painful left shoulder injury. Starting inside linebackers Jake Ryan (ankle) and Blake Martinez (knee) also have been limited this week. The injuries in part have affected a run defense that has slackened since the opening month of the season.
RUN IT OUT, PART 2: James Starks hasn't had much production on the ground for the Packers, but he has had his moments on screens and in the short passing game, and that might come in handy against Seattle's effective pass rush. Christine Michael, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle a few weeks ago, has slowly been getting more carries as he gets up to speed in Green Bay. He had 19 yards on nine carries last week against Houston .
WHAT WEATHER? Whatever the weather Sunday, it shouldn't be a problem for Seattle. A little snow, or a little cold seem easy to deal with after last January's NFC wild-card game in Minnesota, played in negative temperatures. "You can't get any worse than we had in Minnesota," Seattle's Richard Sherman said. "Everything else is an oven compared to that."
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Renton, Washington contributed to this story.