The Green Bay Packers looked like the Packers who have been unable to beat elite competition since winning the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.
Green Bay’s defense ultimately had no answers for Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, and Green Bay’s offense had no chance after Bryan Bulaga sustained a knee injury in the second quarter. It ended up a thorough and thoroughly disappointing 36-16 loss at Seattle in the made-for-TV Thursday night opener.
Seattle overwhelmed Green Bay’s revamped defense to the tune of 398 yards, including 207 on the ground. Aaron Rodgers finished 23-of-33 but those completions gained just 189 yards as Seattle took away everything down the field. He threw one interception and fumbled.
Green Bay’s defense came up big to start the second half, though it only prolonged the inevitable. Seattle, leading 17-10 at halftime, got the ball to start the second half, but was forced to punt after Sam Shields had excellent coverage on a deep ball on second down and a key tackle on third down. The defense was back on the field moments later, though, as Jordy Nelson couldn’t haul in a slant, with the deflected ball dropping into the hands of cornerback Byron Maxwell, who returned it to Green Bay’s 8. The Packers held firm, though, with Nick Perry deflecting the third-down pass and forcing Seattle to settle for a 20-yard field goal to lead 20-10.
The Packers got close to scoring range on the next possession, with the key play being a 23-yard gain to Randall Cobb on third-and-12. Coach Mike McCarthy rolled the dice on fourth-and-5 from the Seattle 41 but Cliff Avril blew past right tackle Derek Sherrod – who was in for Bulaga – to sack Rodgers. Green Bay’s defense again did the job, though, to keep the margin at 10.
But only for a moment, because the Bulaga injury doomed the Packers again. On the first play after the punt, Michael Bennett stormed past Sherrod, sacked Rodgers and knocked the ball loose. Sherrod saved a total disaster by pouncing on the ball in the end zone for a safety that made it 22-10, though the knockout punch was delivered on the ensuing possession. Wilson converted third-and-10 with a 10-yard pass to Percy Harvin, then ran for 13 to the 3 on the final play of the quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Lynch ran through Josh Boyd’s desperation tackle attempt – his jersey tearing in the process – to make it 29-10.
Green Bay mounted its best possession of the game to answer to cut the deficit to 29-16. Rodgers completed three passes to Jordy Nelson, James Starks had a brilliant 12-yard run in which he broke four tackle attempts, and Rodgers tossed a 3-yard touchdown to Cobb on a bootleg. The two-point play to Andrew Quarless failed, though.
Seattle, though, ran out most of the clock to clinch the victory. The Packers were guilty of several self-inflicted wounds during the game, and Brad Jones’ holding penalty turned a three-and-out punt into a drive that finished the job. Not only did Seattle run out most of the final 9:30, but it scored on a fourth-and-1 touchdown pass to fullback Derrick Coleman.
The Packers trailed 17-10 at halftime, with the Seahawks scoring on their first three possessions and Green Bay kicking itself for some big miscues and blown opportunities.
Seattle struck first on a drive extended twice by Packers miscues. On the first, Shields deflected a pass to tight end Zach Miller. The ball floated into the hands of Jones, but Miller made an excellent adjustment to knock the ball away to prevent an interception. That set up fourth down, but Mike Daniels was flagged for running into the punter. That led to a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Seattle’s special teams was responsible for the next big gaffe. Earl Thomas muffed the punt when he brushed into Green Bay’s Davon House, who was engaged with a blocker. That set up the Packers at Seattle’s 34, and they capitalized with a third-down completion to Cobb, back-to-back catch-and-runs by Nelson and a 2-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn.
The Seahawks answered quickly with a 33-yard catch-and-run by Percy Harvin and a 33-yard touchdown to Ricardo Lockette to take a 10-7 lead. On the first play, Harvin got free at the line of scrimmage when Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk collided. On the scoring play, the Seahawks used a bit of deception. A read-option fake to Lynch looked like a keeper for Wilson. Instead, with Shields converging on Wilson, Wilson flipped it to Lockette. Lockette broke HaHa Clinton-Dix’s attempt at the 14 and strolled into the end zone.
Green Bay tied the game at 10, thanks to a 44-yard pass-interference penalty on linebacker Bobby Wagner, who got locked on Cobb and tackled him at the 7. The drive stalled, though. Seattle answered with another too-easy touchdown. Miller made a brilliant one-handed catch against Clay Matthews for a gain of 24, Lynch rumbled for 21 and then romped in from 9 yards.
The Packers had a promising drive going late in the half, only for Rodgers to air-mail a pass to Nelson, who was wide open on third-and-3.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.