The Sports Xchange
GREEN BAY — When the Green Bay Packers win, usually it is because of prolific quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
When they beat the Seattle Seahawks in a key season-opening showdown on Sunday, it was because of their defense.
The Packers kept Seattle out of the end zone and limited quarterback Russell Wilson to 158 passing yards on 14-of-27 accuracy to earn a 17-9 victory.
That staunch defensive effort was just enough for the Packers, who got 311 passing yards and one touchdown from Rodgers and 54 rushing yards and one touchdown from running back Ty Montgomery.
The Packers limited Seattle to 12 first downs and 225 total yards, and Green Bay had an 18:26 edge in time of possession.
“I thought our defense played at an extremely high level,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You hold an offense to nine points in today’s NFL and that speaks volumes. I thought they were playing at a real high level coming out of the preseason, so very impressed with our defense. Started at the line of scrimmage. We were in the backfield a bunch and got the big plays.”
Seattle went just 3-of-12 on third down, which bothered head coach Pete Carroll.
“That’s not good and that’s not us,” he said. “We’re so much better than that. The third downs really haunt you. You don’t get to start the next sequence and keep rolling, and it’s always been an issue when it goes that way. Give them credit for doing a good job. We have to do way better and we’re better than that. And we will be.”
Green Bay’s offense, bogged down by horrendous field position in trailing 3-0 at halftime, took possession at Seattle’s 6 for its opening touchdown following a turnover. On third-and-long for Seattle, Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels beat guard Luke Joeckel for a strip-sack, with outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell recovering. On the first play, Montgomery ran through a pair of tacklers near the goal line for the touchdown.
“The key of the game was our defense,” Rodgers said. “If our defense plays like that, we’re going to be tough to beat. They were fantastic. A big turnover that got us seven points when the offense was stalling. That kind of got everybody going.”
Seattle answered with a chip-shot field goal, with rookie running back Chris Carson’s 30-yard run being the big play. The Seahawks had three plays from the 3, but couldn’t get it in, with Daniels’ hit on Wilson forcing a third-down incompletion. Blair Walsh’s 21-yard field goal cut the margin to 7-6.
The Packers extended the lead to 14-6 just before the end of the third quarter. Rodgers caught the Seahawks substituting before a third-and-2, and he rushed to the line and got the snap. With a flag thrown for 12 men on the field, Rodgers took advantage of the free play by hitting receiver Jordy Nelson for a 32-yard touchdown pass past safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Green Bay tacked on Mason Crosby’s 40-yard field goal before Wilson quickly drove the Seahawks into scoring position. On first down from the 23, he connected deep with receiver Amara Darboh against rookie cornerback Kevin King, but safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix quickly converged and got Darboh out of bounds before he could get his feet down.
The drive stalled, and Walsh’s third field goal of the game, a 41-yarder, made it 17-9 with 6:17 to play.
Green Bay, however, ran out the clock to defeat Seattle for the third consecutive year — all at Lambeau Field.
“I don’t worry about the games before,” Wilson said. “Today, they made one or two more plays more than us. That’s really what it was tonight, if you think about it. They had the one offsides touchdown and they got that fumble and they scored on the next play. I mean, really, two plays that really changed the game.”
Next week, Seattle hosts San Francisco (0-1) while Green Bay has an NFC Championship Game rematch at Atlanta (1-0).
Seattle’s offense, which did almost nothing for the first 29 minutes of the half, struck for back-to-back big plays to take a 3-0 halftime lead.
Time-management decisions by both coaches were huge factors.
With the Seahawks starting at their 11 with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, McCarthy burned his last two timeouts, thinking he had a chance to get one last possession.
McCarthy’s final timeout came with 43 seconds left. Even if the Seahawks hadn’t converted a third-and-3, the clock would have run out. When running back C.J. Prosise gained 4 yards to move the chains, Carroll called a timeout with 30 seconds left — and it worked.
Wilson found receiver Doug Baldwin streaking across the field for a gain of 34 to the Packers’ 44 with 22 seconds left. Wilson then found a huge void in the middle of the field and ran for 29 yards. Wilson threw two incompletions into the end zone, and Walsh kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Those two big plays accounted for 63.6 percent of Seattle’s 99 yards.
On Green Bay’s opening possession, Rodgers’ interception-free streak was snapped at 251 attempts. With the Packers driving into Seattle territory, Rodgers threw a screen that went right into the hands of defensive lineman Nazair Jones. Jones returned it for a touchdown, but there were two flags — one for an illegal block in the back against defensive end Cliff Avril on Rodgers and one for cornerback Jeremy Lane getting into a scuffle with Packers receiver Davante Adams.
Lane, the starter opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman, was ejected, but the Packers couldn’t take advantage during the first half.
NOTES: Packers WR Jordy Nelson became the fourth player in franchise history with 500 receptions. ... Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’ interception-free streak was the second-longest in team history behind Bart Starr’s 294 passes in 1964. ... Seattle starting RB Thomas Rawls was inactive, so former Packer RB Eddie Lacy got the start. He carried five times for 3 yards. ... Seahawks DE Michael Bennett kneeled for the national anthem and his brother, Packers TE Martellus Bennett, raised his fist. Meanwhile, Packers WR Randall Cobb helped hold the giant flag.