The Green Bay Packers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 17-9, at Lambeau Field in a season-opening slugfest between two heavyweights with Super Bowl aspirations.
Aaron Rodgers overcame a slow start to finish 28-of-42 for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also chipped in 21 rushing yards on seven carries.
Sunday marked the fifth meeting between the Seahawks and Packers since 2014. The two teams split the previous four games, with each winning on their home field. That trend continued Sunday.
At least one of these teams has played in the NFC Championship Game in three of the past four seasons, making Sunday's result particularly crucial in the season-long battle for home-field advantage.
After starting the second half with a punt, the Packers finally got a legitimate scoring chance when Mike Daniels sacked Wilson and forced a fumble that Kyler Fackrell recovered at Seattle's 6-yard line.
Ty Montgomery got into the end zone on Green Bay's first play after the turnover for a 7-3 lead.
We have Lambeau Leaps! @TyMontgomery2 scores the FIRST TD of #SEAvsGB. #GoPackGo https://t.co/ga3B7rluCR2017-9-10 22:18:55
The Packers struggled to find a consistent running game last season after Eddie Lacy got hurt, but against Seattle, Montgomery offered a glimpse of what he can become. While he tallied only 54 yards on 19 carries, Michael Lombardi of The Ringer praised him for his running style:
Michael Lombardi @mlombardiNFL
I wish Ty Montgomery would change his number cause he is too good of a RB to wear 88.2017-9-10 23:08:58
Seattle's adjustments paid off after the turnover. Wilson and rookie running back Chris Carson guided the offense 71 yards before the drive stalled at Green Bay's 3-yard line. The Seahawks settled for a field goal to make it a one-point game.
Rodgers found his groove on the ensuing drive. He accounted for 69 of the team's 75 total yards, finishing it off with a beautifully placed pass to Jordy Nelson in the middle of the field for a 32-yard touchdown.
.@AaronRodgers12 to @JordyRNelson... Got 'Em! Touchdown, @Packers! #SEAvsGB #GoPackGo https://t.co/ktgAD0NBAP2017-9-10 22:50:00
The Seahawks suffered a blow on Green Bay's first possession of the game, as cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected for appearing to throw a punch at Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
Mike Pereira of Fox Sports criticized the referees for their handling of the situation that led to Lane's ejection:
Mike Pereira @MikePereira
In #SEAvsGB they missed the initial foul on Adams. And that was a block in the back on Rodgers? I don't think the play was well-officiated.2017-9-10 20:46:09
That came on a play during which Seahawks defensive lineman Nazair Jones intercepted a pass from Rodgers and ran it back into the end zone. However, a block in the back penalty negated the touchdown.
It was Rodgers' first interception since Nov. 13, 2016, against the Tennessee Titans, a span of 252 attempts in the regular season.
For all the talk about Seattle's defense, Green Bay didn't give up a first down until five minutes into the second quarter. The two teams traded punts on nine of the first 10 possessions of the game.
The Seahawks did have an opportunity for a big play early in the second quarter when Russell Wilson missed Tyler Lockett deep down the right side of the field.
ESPN's Brock Huard thought that particular play was a huge error on Wilson's part:
Brock Huard @BrockESPN
That is the throw Russell Wilson has to hit. On the road, against elite teams, you cannot miss TD's. Put air on the ball. Not a hard throw2017-9-10 21:17:53
Seattle's offensive line couldn't stop Green Bay from harassing Wilson, which contributed to the team's offensive ineptitude. The Packers sacked Wilson three times, but he was on the move constantly and struggled to find time to make plays down the field.
Seattle's inability to protect its star quarterback drew its share of reactions from around social media:
Sean Wagner-McGough @seanjwagner
Live look at Russell Wilson against the Packers. https://t.co/8fecqPfaVG2017-9-10 22:20:09
Bill Simmons @BillSimmons
Hey @DannyBKelly you told me the Seahawks didn't have a left tackle but you didn't tell me they didn't HAVE a left tackle.2017-9-10 21:27:11
Aaron Schatz 🏈 @FO_ASchatz
@DannyBKelly @BillSimmons If the Seahawks defense played the Seahawks OL in an actual game, someone would die.2017-9-10 21:30:04
Despite the O-line's glaring problems, the Seahawks took a 3-0 lead at halftime with a terrific 74-yard drive in the last 53 seconds of the second quarter that included a 34-yard completion from Wilson to Doug Baldwin.
Even with that drive, the Packers outgained the Seahawks 152-99, had a 12-to-4 advantage in first downs, went 5-of-9 on third downs and held the ball for 20 minutes and 16 seconds in the first half.
Vincent Verhei @FO_VVerhei
I have watched every snap of this game and I have no idea how Seattle is ahead at halftime.2017-9-10 21:49:48
The Packers were left with a lot of questions about that first half, but Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith did provide a note of optimism in response to a question about the last time Green Bay was shut out at halftime in a home game:
Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith
It was Week 17 of the 2010 season against the Bears. Five weeks later the Packers won the Super Bowl. https://t.co/XboBSlstNX2017-9-10 21:59:54
That hope led to big things in the second half. Seattle's defensive struggles down the stretch can be attributed to being on the field for 74 plays, compared to 48 plays for Green Bay's defense. This unit is still one of the best in the NFL, but it's hard to stay in peak condition when you're not getting time to catch your breath.
The Seahawks have the potential to be a Super Bowl team, especially with a loaded defense. Their biggest problem from last season—their offensive line—remains an issue that could hold them back, just as it did last year while Wilson was always on the run.
The Packers are known for having a high-powered offense, but this was the kind of game that can serve as a sign of bigger things to come. They stood toe-to-toe on both sides of the ball with one of the most physical teams in the NFL, and they eventually wore the Seahawks down.