The Sports Change
GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett had an eventful day, and most of his action didn’t even involve pass-catching.
First, Bennett raised his fist during the national anthem. Why exactly, he was asked?
“That’s a sign of unity with my brother,” Bennett said, referring to his brother Michael, a defensive end who plays for Seattle. “That’s something I’ve done in the past, when I was with the Patriots last year. For me, it’s a sign of unity to let the world know that I see what’s going on and it’s not going unnoticed.
“I’m doing what I can to help too, just letting people know that hey, I’m behind you, I’m behind my brother. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world and the community and that I do support and I am working things to make it better. Not much more than that, just a statement to say, hey I’m with you.”
Late in the game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers scrambled for a first down, dived head first, and Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright went low and hit Rodgers in the back on the tackle attempt.
Bennett didn’t like how Wright tried hitting his quarterback, and shoved an unsuspecting Wright to the ground. Bennett was then given a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
“I think this early in the season, it kind of sets the tone,” Bennett said of the penalty. “It lets guys know this is what we’ve got, this is who we are. Other people around the league will see it and we’ve got to set the tone.
“You take shots on my quarterback, we’ll take shots on you. It’s the same thing if someone takes a shot on Ty (Montgomery) or Tae (Davante Adams) or Randall (Cobb). All those guys are my boys, my brothers. A lot of my teammates came and said we’ll take that one every single time. That made me feel good.”
The Packers’ defense was sieve-like in 2016 and the biggest reason the Packers didn’t reach the Super Bowl. On Sunday, though, Green Bay’s defense looked like a strength, not a weakness.
Sunday marked the first time since Oct. 4, 2015, that Green Bay held a team without a touchdown. The last time that happened came during a 17-3 win over San Francisco.
And Sunday was the fewest number of points Green Bay allowed in a season opener since 2001, when they defeated Detroit, 20-6.
“Everybody from the D-line to the ‘backers to the secondary, I think we collectively put a full game together from start to finish,” Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry said. “Obviously, there’s things we need to improve on, but at the end of the day, I think we had a good first step today and we’re going to continue to stack our successes off of this one.”
Green Bay finished 22nd in total defense last year and No. 31 against the pass. The Packers also allowed 44 points in their loss to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.
But the 2017 Packers look much different — at least after one game.
“Personally, I don’t pay any attention to outside noise outside of this locker room,” Packers safety Morgan Burnett said. “Each year, you’ve got to find a way to come in and get better. That’s our job.
“At the end of the day, nobody goes out there individually. We go out there together, so we have each other’s back. This is the first game for the 2017 Packers to show everybody what we have in front of our home crowd. We’re off to a good start, but it’s just one game. There’s some things we can clean up and we’re going to do that.”
Bulaga’s bad ankle
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed the game against Seattle with a sprained ankle that’s lingered for nearly three weeks. That marked the 33rd game Bulaga has missed in a career that started in 2010.
In his stead, the Packers turned to second-year man Kyle Murphy, who was active just three games a year ago. And while Murphy had his share of trouble against the elite Seahawks’ defense, he held up well in Green Bay’s huge early-season win.
“It’s his first start, but he doesn’t blink,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said of Murphy. “His personality is perfect for this situation. So, we went five-man protection a bunch. So, it isn’t like we parked someone behind him all day in there. He had to play and he played big today.”
Murphy was at least partially responsible for two of the four first-half sacks allowed to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But Murphy, a former sixth-round draft choice, seemed to get better as the game went on and helped the Packers’ offense get rolling after a scoreless first half.
“I thought Kyle did a really nice job at right tackle,” Rodgers said. “This is a good building block for us moving forward.”
—OLB Ahmad Brooks, signed on Aug. 30, left the game with a concussion. Brooks will enter the concussion protocol and his availability for the Packers’ game at Atlanta Sunday won’t be known until later this week.
—QB Aaron Rodgers appeared to be limping at times against Seattle. It was nothing serious, though, as Rodgers had both feet stepped on and was kicked in the shins.
“The adult soccer players who don’t wear shin guards can probably relate,” Rodgers said. “It’s very painful. You kind of forget about those things when you don’t play a whole lot in preseason. But, yeah, it was mostly that - just kicked a couple times, stepped on a couple times.”
—WR Jordy Nelson eclipsed 500 career receptions, becoming just the fourth Packers player in team history to do so. Nelson, who now has 504 career catches, joined Donald Driver, Sterling Sharpe and James Lofton in that exclusive club.
Report card vs. Seahawks
PASSING OFFENSE: C — Aaron Rodgers threw for 311 yards and a touchdown against arguably the best passing defense in the NFL. Rodgers did have his streak of consecutive passing attempts without an interception snapped at 251. That was the second-longest streak in franchise history, behind Bart Starr’s 294 in 1964-65. Rodgers was also just 1-for-8 with a 40.6 passer rating when under duress.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — Ty Montgomery’s 2.8 yards per carry certainly won’t wow anybody. But Montgomery ran extremely hard against the Seahawks’ sensational defensive front. And Montgomery’s 6-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter gave Green Bay a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
PASS DEFENSE: A — Green Bay ranked 31st in the NFL a year ago in pass defense. But the Packers held Seattle’s Russell Wilson to just 158 passing yards and a passer rating of 69.7.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus — The Seahawks missed running back Thomas Rawls (ankle) and the drop to backups Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson was noticeable. Seattle had 90 rushing yards, but Wilson accounted for 40 of those on two scrambles. The running backs combined for just 50 yards on 16 carries (3.1).
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Seattle has one of the NFL’s most dangerous return men in Tyler Lockett. But aside from one 43-yard kickoff return, the Packers largely held Lockett in check. Packers rookie punter Justin Vogel had a solid debut, with a net average of 42.4.
COACHING: B — Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was the star of this game, outdueling Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy found a play-calling rhythm in the second half. But McCarthy’s decision to use timeouts late in the first half was a boost for Seattle’s offense and led to a Seahawks field goal.