All offseason, the Packers were committed to improving the safety position. It was the glaring wart in Green Bay's 2013 defense, something that had to be fixed if the Packers were to make a deep playoff run.
Young safeties Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – playing opposite veteran safety Morgan Burnett – weren't flawless Thursday night. Clinton-Dix, especially, whiffed on an open-field tackle attempt against Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette during a second-quarter touchdown.
Still, Hyde and Clinton-Dix made plays early that indicate the position is not only much improved from last season, but could be a possible bright spot in the future. Hyde jumped a pass route in the first quarter, almost forcing an interception. Clinton-Dix had tracked down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the open field for no gain, officially a 0-yard sack.
There were a startling lack of plays made on the back end of the Packers' defense last fall. Already, that's begun to change. It wasn't enough Thursday night, but it could be an important development moving forward.
The first game is often wrought with mistakes. It's an annual process, teams playing cleaner and cleaner each week until they reach midseason form.
Still, the Packers' mental errors Thursday were especially brutal. There was defensive lineman Mike Daniels, running into the punter to extend Seattle's opening drive that would eventually end with three points. There was Green Bay's defense, with only 10 men on the field during Marshawn Lynch's second-quarter touchdown. There was Brad Jones' illegal contact penalty wiping out the first sack of the Julius Peppers era.
Over and over. Ugly after ugly. Eight penalties. Three sacks. Sloppy.
The Packers have a lot to clean up before hosting the New York Jets in Week 2. Luckily, they have an extra weekend to get ready for their home opener.
Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell didn't have much luck against Jordy Nelson in the first half. With teammate Richard Sherman lined up exclusively on the left side, the Packers kept their No. 1 recover on the right side. They liked the matchup. Nelson caught four passes for 31 yards on Maxwell in the first quarter alone. On the Packers' first second-half possession, Maxwell got the last laugh. With the Packers trailing 7 point and backed up deep in their territory, Maxwell intercepted a pass that bounced off Nelson's hands. The Seahawks stretched their lead to 20-10 after the interception, and the score was never within one possession again.
The Big Picture
In the end, it was only one game. No matter how bad things looked when Aaron Rodgers was getting harassed by the Seahawks' pass rush every play, and the Packers defense was whiffing on tackles against Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, it isn't the end of the world. Green Bay was not expected to leave CenturyLink Field with a win, for good reason. The Link, as it's affectionately known locally, is arguably the most intimidating setting in the NFL. The only thing as suffocating as the crowd noise was the Seahawks defense, which looked exactly like the unit that paved the path to a Super Bowl XLVIII title in February. It's never fun to begin the season with the loss, especially in a game that has months of buildup. Ultimately, there's no reason the Packers should let it have much of a negative impact – if any – on the season.
Eddie Lacy looked strong on the Packers opening drive, including a 15-yard run where he shimmied and shook tacklers. That was it for his production. Outside that run, Lacy finished with 19 rushing yards on 11 carries. Lacy finished the game early and was being evaluated for a concussion.
The Packers' run defense didn't look like it improved at all from last season. Green Bay allowed 5.6 yards per rush. With whiffed tackles more common than positive plays, that number was well above 7 yards per rush before the game got out of hand. Seahawks tailback Marshawn Lynch has 110 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
There were few silver linings, but here's a stab at a couple more. Seattle didn't have any rain the two days the Packers visited the city, and Lance Easley didn't make a controversial call at the end.
Aaron Rodgers had a frustrating night, but one bright spot was his rhythm with starting receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Rodgers completed 15-of-23 passes for 141 yards to Nelson and Cobb, with one touchdown and one interception. That provides the Packers passing attack something to build on.
Did You Notice?
• All those offseason stories about Julius Peppers transitioning to outside linebacker were a bit overblown. Turns out, Peppers will still play plenty of defensive end in a three-point stance. The Packers showed a lot of 4-3 defense with Packers as a fourth defensive lineman.
• DuJuan Harris returned two kickoffs from deep in the end zone in the first half and was tackled well short of the 20-yard line both times. After the second, safety Micah Hyde was inserted as kick returner.
• If the NFL's new points of emphases were targeted toward the Seahawks secondary, it was tough to tell Thursday. Once again, Seattle played a mostly clean game, continuing where they left off in the preseason. The Seahawks were called for four penalties, half the Packers' total.