The Seattle Seahawks got their Super Bowl defense off to a great start with a commanding 36-16 win over the Green Bay Packers at home on Thursday night.
Seattle's running success was the story of the game. The Packers simply had no answer for Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Seahawks had 207 yards on the ground.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times had Michael Bennett's thoughts on Lynch after the game:
Seattle's Michael Bennett: "I saw some of the best players in the league, supposedly, not wanting to tackle Marshawn Lynch."— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) September 5, 2014
They gained yards almost at will:
Percy Harvin also stepped up in a big way, contributing in both the passing and running games. His performance earned some praise from his quarterback, per NFL on ESPN:
"Lord have mercy, we have Percy. That's what I always say." Russell Wilson on point. Harvin: 11 touches, 100 yards.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 5, 2014
As a team, Seattle nearly cracked 400 yards of total offense, finishing at 398, while it held Green Bay to 255 on the other end. Few foresaw the comprehensive nature of the Seahawks' win. They dominated the game almost from start to finish and looked miles better than a very talented Packers team.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette had Randall Cobb's thoughts:
Randall Cobb: "We got outmanned across the board" http://t.co/fvR3YC363j— Packers News (@PGPackersNews) September 5, 2014
Seattle did need a little time to kick it into high gear.
Steven Hauschka nailed a 35-yard field goal to give the Seahawks an early 3-0 lead with a little over six minutes left in the first quarter.
After the Packers went three and out on their next drive, they received a gift in the form of an Earl Thomas muffed punt. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix recovered the ball at the Seattle 34-yard line.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report questioned why Thomas was returning the punt in the first place:
Earl Thomas returning punts terrifies me. Don't let the best safety in the game get hurt returning a freaking punt.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 5, 2014
Earl Thomas - best safety in the game. Not a punt returner.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 5, 2014
Working with a short field, Green Bay found the end zone with a two-yard touchdown run by John Kuhn.
The first quarter ended with the Packers holding a 7-3 lead.
They didn't enjoy the advantage for long, as a 33-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Ricardo Lockette put Seattle ahead 10-7 with 13 minutes left in the half.
Mason Crosby tied the game at 10-10 with a 23-yard field goal. That would be the last positive development for Green Bay for a while, as Seattle took control of the game.
Lynch punched it in from nine yards out with 3:41 remaining in the second quarter to put the Seahawks back on top, 17-10. They carried that seven-point lead into the half.
As if entering halftime down on the road to the reigning Super Bowl champions wasn't bad enough, the Packers also lost offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga. He suffered what looked to be a knee injury, and the team announced he's miss the entire second half:
As ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde pointed out, the 25-year-old right tackle waited patiently to get back on the field, and his night was over in the second quarter:
Bryan Bulaga waited 669 days to play in another regular-season game. Over before halftime. Hard not to feel bad for him. Wonder how severe.— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) September 5, 2014
Without Bulaga on Thursday night, Rodgers didn't have as much time in the pocket, which in turn meant he was forced to make quicker decisions against what is one of the best secondaries in the league.
That likely played a role in the Packers' first turnover of the night—a Byron Maxwell interception about three minutes into the half.
After shutting down the Seahawks offense on the first drive of the third quarter, Green Bay had a great chance to tie the game or at least close the gap on Seattle. Instead, it gave the Seahawks great field position, which they used to get a 20-yard field goal from Hauschka to go up two scores, 20-10.
Bulaga's absence was also felt a few drives later when the Packers were backed up to their goal line. Derek Sherrod, deputized as Bulaga's replacement, watched helplessly as Michael Bennett blew by on the edge, sacked Rodgers and dislodged the football. Sherrod recovered for the safety, helping to keep five more points off the board.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell was less than impressed with Sherrod's attempted block on Bennett:
Forget blown blocks. Derek Sherrod barely touched Michael Bennett on that sack.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 5, 2014
ESPN's Todd McShay broke down the mechanical flaws that were limiting his effectiveness:
Sherrod is getting worked. Waist bending, off balance... No chance. Can't leave him alone on island vs Bennett— Todd McShay (@McShay13) September 5, 2014
After the free kick, Seattle started off with the ball on its own 47-yard line. It needed 4:47 to go 53 yards, with Lynch getting his second rushing touchdown of the night. That score all but ended the game. Overcoming a 19-point deficit with 14:55 remaining in the game against the Seahawks in Seattle is a steep mountain to climb.
The Packers closed the gap slightly, after Randall Cobb's three-yard touchdown reception. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that was Rodgers' first completed pass to the right side of the field, which is normally prowled by Richard Sherman:
Aaron Rodgers' TD pass to Randall Cobb was his 1st completion to a WR on the right side of the field. Richard Sherman was not covering Cobb.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 5, 2014
Green Bay's two-point conversion attempt failed, and from there, Seattle used the running game to drain the clock and eliminate any chance for a Packers comeback.
The Seahawks rubbed some salt in the wound with a late touchdown.
The Packers will look to pick up their first win of the season when they welcome in the New York Jets next Sunday. Green Bay should win that game, but the larger concern will be Bulaga's health. If he's out for a prolonged period of time, the Packers offensive line could be in trouble.
The Seahawks hit the road for what could be a tricky game against the San Diego Chargers. Any talk of a repeat is still a bit premature, but Seattle looked great on Thursday night. The hangover that's affected some past Super Bowl winners looks nonexistent with this team thus far.