THE BIG PICTURE
It’s only one game. Packers fans inclined to ascribe much meaning to Green Bay’s 17-9 win Sunday over Seattle should keep in mind that the team won its opener at Jacksonville last season but soon was staring up from a 4-6 abyss. However, there were some encouraging signs after a rocky start: a rejuvenated defense that flashed speed and savvy, and an offense that overcame early difficulties against a premier defense and delivered when it mattered. The victory could factor heavily into home-field advantage in the postseason.
The Packers were trailing 3-0 early in the third quarter, with the offense still going nowhere after a bad snap from center Corey Linsley forced them to punt on their opening drive. But then Mike Daniels and Nick Perry sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for a 10-yard loss back to the Seattle 11, and two plays later Daniels stripped the ball from Wilson, with outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell recovering the fumble on the 6. Ty Montgomery rumbled into the end zone on the next play to give the Packers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. “It was definitely the momentum-turning point,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Daniels’ play.
REPLAY: Tom Silverstein's live game blog
BOX SCORE: Packers 17, Seahawks 9
RELATED: Five takeaways from Week 1
Daniels was dominant all day against an overmatched Seahawks offensive line. Daniels consistently penetrated to cut down Eddie Lacy (five carries for 3 yards) before the former Packers running back could get going. He was credited with seven tackles, 1½ sacks and four quarterback hits, and he simply couldn’t be blocked. On the key strip of Wilson, he beat his man with an inside move and pounced before Wilson could protect the ball. Daniels also likely prevented a second-quarter touchdown when he hit Wilson just as the quarterback unloaded deep to a wide-open Tyler Lockett, forcing an overthrow. “He was in the backfield all day,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy again got burned by his penchant for using timeouts on defense with the opponent pinned deep in its territory late in the first half. Instead of getting the ball back, the Packers allowed Seattle to get a drive-extending first down that was followed by two big plays (a 34-yard catch by Doug Baldwin and a 29-yard run by Wilson) and resulted in a field goal at the end of the half.
Aaron Rodgers torched the Seahawks last season, throwing for three TDs and posting a 150.8 passer rating, but that was Seattle’s first game without injured safety Earl Thomas. The Packers’ pass attack did get a break when Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected for allegedly throwing a punch during the return of a first-quarter interception. But it wasn’t until the second half that Rodgers got into a groove, directing a more up-tempo offense featuring quick passes to Montgomery and Randall Cobb (nine catches for 85 yards). He finished 28-for-42 for 311 yards, a TD pass, an interception and an 86.5 passer rating.
Montgomery spent the entire offseason working on his transition from wide receiver to running back. But he was bottled up early, gaining only 16 yards on eight carries in the first half. In the second half, Montgomery became a force catching passes out of the backfield. On the day, Montgomery caught four passes for 39 yards and carried 19 times for 54 yards.
The Packers’ offensive line was under the microscope Sunday, particularly on the right side with tackle Bryan Bulaga (sidelined by an ankle injury) being replaced by Kyle Murphy and 34-year-old right guard Jahri Evans making his regular-season debut in place of departed free agent T.J. Lang. Facing a star-studded Seattle defensive line, the unit looked overmatched early. Rodgers was sacked four times in the first half (although some were coverage sacks), and Evans picked up a couple of holding penalties. But as the game went on, Murphy seemed to settle in and the line gained the upper hand, keeping Rodgers clean and opening up some holes for Montgomery.
Wilson’s return to Lambeau Field came less than nine months after a disastrous five-interception debacle in a 38-10 loss to the Packers last December. On Sunday, Wilson faced a Packers pass defense that was healthier and more experienced than the unit that gave him fits in 2016. It also featured more speed thanks to heavy use of the “nitro” package that moved safety Morgan Burnett to an inside linebacker role in passing situations. The Seahawks failed to gain a first down in the first quarter against a fast-moving Packers defense, and on the day, Wilson was limited to 14 completions in 27 attempts for just 158 yards and a 69.7 passer rating.
BITS AND PIECES
- The Packers were confident they made an offseason upgrade at tight end by signing free agent Martellus Bennett to replace Jared Cook as the starter, but his most notable moment Sunday might have been when he raised his fist in support of brother Michael during the national anthem. He did help the left side of the Packers’ line clear the way for Montgomery on his 6-yard TD run, taking out cornerback Richard Sherman. Bennett also was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty after getting into a fourth-quarter tussle with K.J. Wright, who had delivered a low hit to Rodgers. He atoned by taking a pass from Rodgers 26 yards for a late first down that salted the game away.
- Jordy Nelson made his 500th career reception in the second quarter, becoming only the fourth Packers player to do so (joining Donald Driver, Sterling Sharpe and James Lofton).
- Green Bay dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for 39:13 compared to Seattle’s 20:47