In a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game, the Packers, who beat the Seahawks at Lambeau 27-17, looked like the leaders of the NFC, while Seattle looked like a team in transition.
The Packers' last three meetings with the Seahawks have not been pleasant at all. There was the “Fail Mary” game in 2012 that ended the lockout of the real officials, there was the 2014 season opener, when Seattle trucked Green Bay to the tune of a 36-16 beatdown, and of course, there was the 2014 NFC championship, when the Packers stormed out to a 16-0 lead, intercepting Russell Wilson four times, before Wilson's team engineered a highly unlikely comeback, and returned to the Super Bowl after a 28-22 overtime win.
This time, the Packers hoped things would be different. For one thing, they had the Seahawks in the hallowed house of Lambeau Field. Additionally, they looked like the stronger team this time. The Seahawks dealt with serious offensive line issues and defensive communication problems in their Week 1 overtime loss to the Rams, while the Packers dispatched the Bears fairly easily to begin their 2015 campaign. Many painted this rematch as Green Bay's opportunity for revenge, and while Mike McCarthy's team may have felt that deep down, they knew they'd have to keep their collective eyes on the prize so that the Seahawks wouldn't pull the rug out from under them again.
This time, it worked, as the NFC North leaders beat the defending NFC champs, 27-17, and made it look relatively simple for the most part. Seattle had a brief comeback spurt in the third quarter as the defense tightened up and Seattle's coaching staff remembered that that Wilson guy is pretty dynamic when he runs the ball, but in the end, this was Green Bay's game, and they earned it.
“It's a tough place to play,” Aaron Rodgers told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the game. “We've created a home-field advantage here. We've got to keep this thing rolling—it's the second game of the year. We're not going to make a big deal about it, because we have 14 games left, and hopefully the playoffs. But it's a good win for us.”
Indeed it was, and perhaps the Packers exorcised some demons on a field where they've created plenty of problems for their opponents over the years. The Seahawks, now reeling with an 0-2 start, could certainly attest to that.
Three thoughts on why this game turned out the way it did:
1. Once again, Aaron Rodgers showed why he's the gold standard
Coming into this game, Rogers had faced the Seahawks three times since Seattle's defense really became what it's been in 2012—and he'd completed 68 of 106 passes for 590 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 73.2. But with confidence, protection and a nearly full array of receivers, Rodgers was able to shake off the past, use his mobility to juke Seattle's defenders and make several throws you just don't see from any other quarterback. He finished his night with 25 completions in 33 attempts for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
On his first touchdown pass to James Jones with 10:45 left in the first quarter, Rodgers rolled to his left away from pressure and fired a 29-yard dart between two defenders. His five-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers with 9:28 left in the game was equally nifty. Rodgers moved up in the pocket, again eluded pressure to his left, waited for his target to get free of Seahawks cornerback Cary Williams, and fired the dart that put Green Bay ahead for good. It was the play that gave them the lead again after trailing 17-16, and the Packers never looked back.
“He makes us look good a lot of the time,” guard Josh Sitton said of his quarterback. “You never know where he's going to be back there, but he always does one hell of a job of moving around. I think he's the best player in the NFL, and he could go down as the best player in the NFL ever. So, he makes our job easier a lot of the time and we definitely love it.”
Rodgers certainly looked like that player on this night.
“We mixed it up a little bit,” Rodgers said of Green Bay's late offensive explosion. He completed all nine of the passes he threw in the fourth quarter. “We brought [receiver Randall] Cobb into the backfield without a running back, James [Starks] ran the ball great all night, we protected really good. There was an extra element in the backfield, and we got some good matchups on that drive.”
2. The Seahawks couldn't get out of their own way
As it's been throughout the short season, the Seahawks alternated between showing their talent, and frustrating with their inconsistency. Seventeen of Green Bay's 27 points came about in part because Pete Carroll's team couldn't stop with the penalties, blown gap assignments, blown coverages and questionable play calling. Both teams finished the game with six penalties, but Seattle's just seemed to come at more impactful times. Richard Sherman was flagged for a 52-yard pass interference penalty near the end of the first half, Michael Bennett was called for multiple offside infractions and linebacker K.J. Wright was ejected from the game with 6:50 remaining for trying to rip Richard Rodgers' helmet off his head by the facemask.
Some will say that if holdout safety Kam Chancellor had been on hand, the Seahawks might have been better overall, but the Packers were without top running back Eddie Lacy for most of the game due to an ankle injury, and receiver Davante Adams left for a time with an ankle injury of his own. Quite simply, the team with the more directed ambition and discipline won this game, and it's time for the Seahawks to take a good, hard look at how they're doing things.
3. The Packers look like NFC leaders. The Seahawks look like a team in transition
Green Bay will certainly have its share of challenges in the next few weeks. There are games against the Chiefs, Rams, Chargers and Broncos in the next month and a half, and as Rodgers said, it's only two games. But out of the gate, the Packers have the look of a team that could go deep into the postseason.
On the other hand, the Seahawks have all kinds of issues, major and minor. The occasional lapses in focus happen to every team, but with an offense bereft of explosive plays and a defense that has struggled uncharacteristically of late, Carroll will have to turn things around pretty quickly if he wants to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. Right now, he's playing from behind.