Mission accomplished with Seattle, Packers gird for another showdown


Gary Seymour, Leader Columnist

It could be said that the Green Bay Packers’ opening day win over Seattle was a case of the home team having the better guy behind center.

Not surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers outplayed the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson in the 17-9 victory, but when you hold the NFC preseason favorite to nine points and 225 yards, it is your defense taking the bows.

With the win, the Packers kept pace with Detroit and Minnesota and own the home-field playoff tiebreaker edge over Seattle, which is no small deal in the rivalry. The home team has won in each of the last six meetings.

The Packers next opponent, Atlanta, which torched the Packers for 77 points in two wins last year, were sluggish in their 23-17 opening-day squeaker over Chicago.
Atlanta beat the Packers at the Georgia Dome last October in the sort of shootout also expected to unfold this Sunday night, scoring in the final half-minute for a 33-32 victory.

That win ensured that a postseason rematch would be played in Atlanta, where the Falcons’ huge early lead over the Pack in the NFC title game paved the road to a 44-21 win and eventual Super Bowl infamy.

The Packers’ offense was good when it had to be Sunday, despite an early interception thrown by the most accurate passer in league history.

Rodgers’ short toss over the middle was picked off by Seattle defensive tackle Nazair Jones, who rumbled 60 yards to the end zone for an apparent touchdown — and only the second pick-six thrown by Rodgers in 4,699 career pass attempts. (For perspective, Brett Favre threw 35 career pick-sixes, Peyton Manning had 31 and Dan Marino 29).

“Didn’t see (Jones),” Rodgers said, “and then he made me look really slow. I had visions of Don Beebe and Leon Lett in my mind. I was gaining on him a little bit. … ”

He didn’t catch Jones, but the Seahawks were called for clipping Rodgers on the play, and the Seahawks also lost defensive back Jeremy Lane to ejection for a punch he didn’t appear to throw.

The atmosphere was exhilarating, even though at times the fans were at their most boisterous when the Packers had the ball. Check-offs are harder to communicate as the noise level rises, and the supportive crowd sometimes unwittingly hampered the Packers’ rhythm-driven offense.

“I love our fans, love their passion,” Rodgers said. “That wave is pretty awesome. … Just hold it till we’re on defense.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was also bewildered but diplomatic addressing the untimely noise.

“The energy at Lambeau was awesome,” he said. “They even cheered when we had the ball. It showed we all have some work to do. We appreciate their enthusiasm, but … what an atmosphere today.”

It was a reminder to the valued fans to kindly put a sock in it when the Packers line up on offense.

Seattle may squawk about the questionable ejection, or other calls that didn’t go its way — in the same vein that the Packers could gripe about the schedule-makers handing them the Seahawks and Falcons in the first two weeks.

Either way, it’s one game down and 15 to go.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.