PLAY OF THE GAME
Coach Mike McCarthy rolled the dice because, well, he had to.
The Packers were trailing 20-10 midway through the third quarter but were on the move against the vaunted Seattle defense. A first-down completion from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson made it second-and-5 from Seattle’s 41. On second down, Kevin Williams batted down a pass intended for James Starks; there wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of Starks. On third down, Rodgers escaped to his right and threw a bomb across the field to Nelson that was underthrown and broken up.
That made it fourth-and-5. With 15 seconds left on the play clock, McCarthy — upset that the ball wasn’t spotted quickly enough — starts gesturing for the play clock to be reset. His plea falls on deaf ears. The linemen get to the line of scrimmage with 10 seconds left, and Rodgers quickly gets everything organized.
“I had a conversation with (referee John Parry) on the sideline — he still disagrees with me. I thought the clock should have been reset there and we kind of got up against it,” McCarthy said. “In hindsight, I thought about calling a timeout and rethinking that situation, but I thought we had a good play. Hey, you go for it on fourth down, that’s the gamble you take.”
If given more time, perhaps the play goes off without a hitch. As it was, Starks went straight ahead and into his pass route. Right tackle Derek Sherrod, according to Rodgers, was expecting Starks to provide some help, which probably explains why by Cliff Avril beat Sherrod so easily to the outside for a killer sack.
"I thought Cliff’s (Avril) sack on fourth down was the one that really kind of put us in command of that game," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
The Seahawks’ offense didn’t capitalize on the outstanding field position but the big swing in field position led to Seattle scoring nine points with a safety and a touchdown following the free kick.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Yes, Marshawn Lynch ran wild. Yes, Russell Wilson made the key passes. Richard Sherman, on the other hand, shows up in exactly one place in the NFL’s postgame “Gamebook.” That’s the starting lineup. Sherman, the All-Pro cornerback, recorded exactly zero tackles. The NFL’s leader in interceptions over the past three seasons, Sherman didn’t even touch the football. Still, Sherman dominated the game by his mere presence. Rodgers didn’t even bother throwing in his direction. It’s pretty easy to play pass defense when one player is so good that half of the field is off-limits to even one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks.
“That’s obviously a real statement,” Carroll said. “I talked to Richard about it in the locker room, and he was kind of disappointed that he wasn’t able to help us more. He helped us immensely, by the fact that they are cutting the field in half. That was their choice, and that’s just the way they went with it. If that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is. I’ll help him through it. We talked about it, and he’ll be good about it. They certainly did put the ball on the other side of the field.”
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
If you’re looking for a silver lining, here are a few from the previous 11 seasons: The 2011 Giants won the Super Bowl despite losing to Washington 28-14 in Week 1. The 2007 Giants won the Super Bowl despite starting 0-2 with a 45-35 loss to Dallas and a 35-13 loss to Green Bay. And the 2003 Patriots won the Super Bowl despite getting crushed 31-0 at Buffalo in Week 1. So, it’s just one loss. An ugly and troublesome loss, for sure, but teams have risen from the supposed ashes before.
While Green Bay searches for answers, Seattle is chasing perfection. It’s not unlike Vince Lombardi’s mantra of chasing perfection but catching excellence. Seattle’s defense dominated Green Bay’s high-powered offense. And not even that was good enough.
“I don’t know if we shut it down — they scored 16 points,” Sherman said. (Rodgers) threw for 180 (yards) and we don’t like to give up those kind of numbers. They made it downfield a little bit — we made some mistakes, we made some penalties so we got to clean that up and stop missing tackles, we’ll have a good year.”
Added Carroll: “They really have a great mentality about them. They’re very tough and very determined to be a really good group again. (Green Bay) is a good football team. Their running back is good, the receivers are good, the quarterback is fantastic, the coach knows what he’s doing, a great offensive guy. So, we take a lot out of that, to be able to hold them down.”
NUMBERS WORTH NOTING
0: Of the 12 teams to lose in the NFL’s Kickoff Game, none have reached the conference championship game and only three have reached the postseason.
0: False-start penalties by the Packers. They didn’t have any in the 2012 game, either.
0: Penalties called against Seattle’s secondary. One of the leads items in our World’s Best Preview focused on the NFL’s officiating emphasis to limit illegal contact by defensive backs on how it might impact Thursday’s game. Seattle’s starting defensive backs weren’t flagged in the preseason, either.
.909: Seattle’s winning percentage in prime-time games under Carroll. They’re 10-1, with their six-game winning streak coming by an average of 19.8 points.
1: Play of 20-plus yards by Green Bay’s offense.
2: Touchdown runs by Lynch. He led the NFL with 39 total touchdowns over the past three seasons.
3: Three consecutive season-opening losses by the Packers. They rebounded to beat Chicago in 2012 and Washington in 2013.
5: Plays of 20-plus yards by Seattle’s offense.
5.72: Yards per passing attempt for Rodgers. He entered the night ranked third in NFL history with 8.19 yards per attempt.
18: Unofficially based on our review of the game, the Packers’ defense missed 18 tackles, including 11 on Lynch.
57: Plays run by Green Bay’s up-tempo offense; the goal is 75 plays.
143.5: The lead item in our World’s Best Preview was Seattle’s play-action game. Wilson completed 6-of-9 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns with play action. That’s a passer rating of 143.5.
255: Total yards by Green Bay’s offense. Other than a 126-yard output at Detroit on Thanksgiving last year, the Packers had at least 312 yards in every game last season. It’s Green Bay’s worst offensive performance with Rodgers at quarterback since gaining 238 against Jacksonville on Oct. 28, 2012.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.