The Green Bay Packers came out hyper-amped for their Sunday Night Football matchup against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
The offense scored early and the defense was foaming at the mouth. It took a balanced attack, a commitment to stopping the run, a couple of takeaways by a little-known defensive end and the continued excellence of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay to finally beat its nemesis.
The Seahawks actually took the lead midway through the third quarter, but Rodgers was clinical in the fourth and led the Packers to their first regular-season win over Seattle since 2009, somewhat rinsing out the sour taste lingering in their mouths from the NFC Championship Game collapse last year.
Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad, the ugly and the noteworthy from the Packers’ 27-17 Week 2 win.
— So the Packers can defend the run. Clearly, coordinator Dom Capers made stopping Marshawn Lynch a priority, and his players were noticeably eager to do it. Early in the game, especially, but throughout it, the Packers got defensive penetration and ganged up on Lynch, who gashed them for more than 100 yards in both games between the teams last year. One only had to watch the way the defenders reacted and celebrated with every tackle of Lynch to see the importance that had been placed on doing so. Lynch ran 15 times for just 41 yards (2.7-yard average), with a long run of 11. The Packers showed good awareness, commitment and execution defending the run. After letting Chicago’s Matt Forte rush for 141 yards the previous week, the defense was undeniably successful in its efforts to contain Lynch.
— Speaking of defense, a national television audience learned the name Jayrone Elliott on Sunday night. The second-year linebacker, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last season, played only a handful of snaps against the Seahawks and registered just one tackle. But he also had the two biggest plays of the game on defense for the Packers. Midway through the fourth quarter, Elliott made a one-handed interception of a Russell Wilson pass while in coverage, which ultimately resulted in a Packers field goal. Then, with the Seahawks driving, Elliott ended their final possession by tomahawking the ball out of Fred Jackson’s hands, forcing the fumble Micah Hyde would recover to clinch the victory. Elliott earned a game ball for his turnovers and probably earned more playing time, as well.
— Ty Montgomery is ready to run real routes. It’s fairly well-known that Rodgers is not quick to develop trust and chemistry with young wideouts — even Randall Cobb, a former quarterback and second-round pick who is now Green Bay’s top receiver, earned callouts from the quarterback early on for not being in the right place. But on Sunday, Montgomery was exactly where he needed to be (except once, according to the signal-caller afterward) and made his opportunities matter, catching four passes on four targets for 37 yards. His biggest play wasn’t even a reception, but showed the kind of awareness Rodgers covets in receivers. After the quarterback had drawn the Seahawks offside in the second quarter he knew he had a free play. As Rodgers scrambled around looking for a deep pass, Montgomery kept extending his sideline route; he got open, prompting the quarterback to throw him the ball and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman to blast into him, which drew a 52-yard pass interference penalty. The drive would eventually lead to a field goal and, later, a few more passes Montgomery’s way.
— The Packers learned they could beat the Seahawks. That might have been the most important lesson for a team that, in its last three games against Seattle, lost two of them in unbelievable fashion (the Fail Mary game in 2012 and the NFC Championship Game meltdown last year) and another in which they were drilled 36-16. The Seahawks, however, are no longer the Packers’ Kryptonite. Without safety Kam Chancellor in the Seahawks’ depleted defensive backfield, Rodgers looked like the two-time MVP he is, while the defense finally played to and achieved a successful game plan.
— We see and remember you, James Starks. One of the heroes of the Packers’ playoff run in their Super Bowl season and an off-and-on starting running back, Starks took over for the injured Lacy in the first half and provided Green Bay a respectable ground attack that gave them much-needed offensive balance. Starks, the beneficiary of a couple of huge holes who also made a few defenders miss on his own, carried the ball 20 times for 95 yards (4.8 average), the most he’s gained in more than two years. It was especially impressive after his weak Week 1 performance, rushing twice for 2 yards against the Bears.
— OK, Tim Masthay. Perhaps his struggles, too, are behind him? The embattled punter, who survived — sort of — a training-camp position battle but still entered the season lacking confidence, had his second straight strong game. Masthay punted three times (46.3 average), including a 49-yarder, and — along with the stellar coverage team — largely mitigated dangerous Seattle returner Tyler Lockett (two punt returns for 22 yards). The Packers would prefer Masthay never has to punt, but it’s encouraging that when he does he’s back to doing it well.
— James Jones just catches touchdowns. On Sunday, quite literally. Jones, mostly covered on the outside by Sherman, had one reception but it was a huge one. After Rodgers goaded the Seahawks offside in the first quarter, he rolled to his right and fired to Jones in the middle of the end zone for a 29-yard score. The chemistry and understanding Jones, who played his first seven seasons in Green Bay before leaving as a free agent in 2014, still has with Rodgers is evident. In two games since being signed by the receiver-needy Packers a week before the season opener, Jones has five catches, three of them for touchdowns.
— Did Packers trainers use off-brand ankle tape this week? First, Lacy went down with a badly rolled ankle on the Packers’ first possession and never returned. Then, wide receiver Davante Adams hurt his ankle in the second quarter, though he came back in the second half. Finally, defensive lineman Josh Boyd suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter that kept him out the rest of the game and was considered very serious. A few years ago, it was hamstrings. Is it now ankles? Get those things taped up.
WHAT IT MEANT
The Packers finally exorcised their demons and beat Seattle. By itself, that would feel good, especially winning at home in front of a rabid crowd. But it also meant the Packers were 2-0 and solely atop the NFC North Division. After opening each of the past three seasons 1-2 and beginning this year with a difficult first three games, Green Bay can be pleased with its uncharacteristically fast start.
Just another ho-hum elite performance for Rodgers, who completed 25 of 33 throws for an efficient 249 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and a passer rating of 116.9. In the fourth quarter, Rodgers was peerless. With the Packers trailing 17-16, he was 8-for-8 for 79 yards on a drive that ended with a short touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers to give the Packers a lead they wouldn’t give back. At Lambeau Field, Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in 545 passes, a span of 1,022 days and 43 touchdowns.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Kicker Mason Crosby kept busy Sunday night. In the first quarter, Crosby was sent out to attempt a 54-yard field goal and he drilled it. He would add three more, including a 44-yarder, and those 12 points (plus two no-longer-automatic extra points) provided the crucial margin of victory against the Seahawks.
When Elliott knocked the ball out of Jackson’s hands and Hyde pounced on it, the defense reacted euphorically, the Lambeau crowd became elated and the feeling of celebratory relief throughout the stadium was unmistakable. Thanks to Elliott’s savvy play, the Packers offense was able to line up in the victory formation and kneel down an exceptionally satisfying win.
7 — as in, the number of tackles for loss the Packers had on defense. Also, as in Green Bay’s front seven, which didn’t give Lynch any room to run and disrupted numerous plays in the backfield. Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Mike Pennell, Datone Jones, Julius Peppers and Raji all had a tackle for loss, and Raji had two. The defensive line penetrated, the linebackers pursued and the Packers completely collapsed the Seahawks’ attempts to move the ball on the ground.
THEY SAID IT
"We’re 2-0. It was a great night here at Lambeau Fiel. You sleep better when you win." — Mike McCarthy
"I’ve got a bum finger, so I had to catch it with one hand." — Jayrone Elliott on his interception
"You’ve got to play your best football down the stretch, and we needed some drives there." — Aaron Rodgers on the fourth-quarter touchdown drive
The Packers have another nationally televised game next week, as they welcome the 1-1 Kansas City Chiefs to Green Bay for Monday Night Football.