This time, no Hail Mary was required.
Seven months after winning their first Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks picked up where they left off with a 36-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFL's Kickoff Opener at CenturyLink Field.
The matchup was a reprise of the so-called Fail Mary game in 2012, when the Seahawks beat the visiting Packers with a hotly disputed touchdown pass at the end — a play that was ruled a catch by replacement officials but looked far more like a Packers interception. So controversial was that call, it proved to be the final straw that ended the officiating lockout.
This time, the Seahawks put the game out of reach in the second half and demonstrated that their 12th Man — their boisterous crowd — trumped Green Bay's No. 12, All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“The loudness of the stadium made him a little queasy out there,” said Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, who was as unrestrained with his opinions after the game as he was unfazed by blockers during it.
Although Seahawks running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch was in least mode this summer, missing part of training camp because he was unhappy with his contract money, it didn't take him long to return to form. He rushed for 110 yards in 20 carries and touchdowns of nine and three yards, upstaging second-year Packers back Eddie Lacy, widely considered a rising star.
“Lacy? He had 12 carries for 34 yards, I could do that,” Bennett said. “It was just another offensive player. We kept Aaron Rodgers to probably his worst quarterback rating [81.5, his lowest since a 64.5 in a loss to Cincinnati in Week 3 last season], one touchdown,  yards passing, and he's used to getting 400.”
Lacy went to the locker room in the fourth quarter with a possible concussion. As a rookie last season, he sustained a concussion in a Week 2 game against Washington and sat out the next game.
The Seahawks moved Percy Harvin all over the field on offense, using him as a receiver and running back, and scored on Russell Wilson touchdown passes of 33 yards to Ricardo Lockette and 15 yards to fullback Derrick Coleman. They also collected a safety when Bennett stripped Rodgers on a sack and Packers tackle Derek Sherrod recovered the fumble in the end zone.
“I just got off the ball and I wanted to get to Aaron Rodgers so bad,” Bennett said. “He's one of those guys who just talks so much, you just want to get to him. And we did, man.”
Though it lost some prowess up front in free agency, Seattle's defense looked nearly as swarming and potent as it did in February when it shut down the record-breaking offense of the Denver Broncos.
Not once all night did Rodgers throw in the direction of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who struggled to recall another game when he didn't see a pass come his way. Sherman said the only time the Packers quarterback looked as if he might throw his direction was on a corner route in the third quarter, the same play Bennett got the strip sack.
“I stayed locked in, stayed diligent,” Sherman said. “I kept playing a mental game with myself, telling myself the ball's coming my way on every play… If you're not paying attention it can lull you into complacency, and if an offense sees that they can attack you. They'll lull you for two quarters and then bam, bam, five balls come your way quick.”
Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell made a huge play on Green Bay's first possession of the second half, picking off Rodgers deep in Packers territory and returning it eight yards to the 21. That led to one of Steven Hauschka's two field goals, and not a touchdown, but it got the crowd even more into the game.
Although there were indications the game could be a flag-fest because of Seattle's hands-on defense, the Seahawks drew just four penalties to Green Bay's eight.
“Not getting penalized like we have in years past, that's a tremendous improvement for us,” Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said. “Our guys played great in that regard. I hope we're making a move and getting smarter and making good decisions that aren't getting us in trouble.”
The Seahawks have lost one game on their home field in two-plus seasons, falling to Arizona last December.
The victory was the first step in a marathon for the Seahawks, who face the daunting challenge of repeating as Super Bowl champions, something no franchise has done since the New England Patriots in 2003 and '04.
Since 2004, the NFL has staged its season-opening game in the city of the defending Super Bowl champion. With the Seattle win, the returning champs improved to 9-2 in Kickoff Openers. This was just the second such game held west of the Mississippi River, with the first taking place in Denver last year — a game that was supposed to be held at the home of the champion Ravens but was moved because of a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles.
Not surprisingly, the city of Seattle flipped over hosting its first kickoff opener, with thousands of fans making the pilgrimage through Pioneer Square to watch a free, pregame concert featuring Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden.
The game was relatively low-scoring for most of the first half, with Seattle breaking a 10-10 tie late in the second quarter with a nine-yard touchdown run by Lynch. The bruising tailback reminded the Packers he has both moves and muscle, juking defenders with a slight cutback move to shoot into the end zone.
Green Bay scored the first touchdown of the game with a two-yard plunge by fullback John Kuhn, capping a drive that started with a miscue by the Seahawks. Seattle safety Earl Thomas, pressed into duty as a returner, tried to field a punt but fumbled when he, Sherman and the Packers' Davon House crashed. Green Bay recovered the ball at the Seattle 34 and quickly moved into point-blank range with key catches by Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
“It wasn't dominant at all for us,” Sherman said of Seattle's defensive performance. “We've got a lot of things to clean up. We missed some opportunities on some turnovers, we missed some tackles on key drives, we had some crucial penalties. These are all things we need to clean up. We have a really high standard.”
Here's a recap of how the game unfolded:
Seahawks 36, Packers 16 (2:37 left in the fourth quarter)
For the third time in the game, Seattle answered a Green Bay score with one of its own. On a fourth-and-one play at the Packers' 15-yard line, Russell Wilson faked a handoff and found running back Derrick Coleman along in the left flat for an easy score.
Which means the reigning Super Bowl champions have finished off their challengers, who figure to be in the playoff mix by season's end.
Seahawks 29, Packers 16 (9:31 left in fourth quarter)
Green Bay marches down the field with a mix of runs and passes to threaten to make a game of it. Aaron Rodgers completed the 10-play, 84-yard drive with a three-yard pass to Randall Cobb on a play-action rollout.
The Packers attempted a two-point conversion but the pass was incomplete.
Green Bay featured Eddie Lacy early in the drive as he picked up 12 yards on a catch and three on a run. James Starks then rushed for 23 yards in three carries.
Seahawks 29, Packers 10 (start of fourth quarter)
If not for a couple of mistakes in the first half, Seattle might be wiping out Green Bay. As it is, the Seahawks are on the verge of a blowout after following a safety with a nine-play, 53-yard scoring drive that was capped by Marshawn Lynch's three-yard run.
Seattle began the drive with five consecutive positive plays that netted a combined 34 yards. After an incomplete pass and Lynch's run for zero yards, Russell Wilson completed a 10-yard pass to Percy Harvin for a first down. Wilson then scrambled up the middle on the next play for a 13-yard gain to the Packers' three-yard line.
Seahawks 22, Packers 10 (4:53 left in third quarter)
Seattle's defense is continuing to do damage, with defensive end Michael Bennett sacking Aaron Rodgers at the five-yard line and forcing him to fumble. Green Bay tackle Derek Sherrod falls on the ball in the end zone for a safety.
The Seahawks will get the ball back in excellent field position after the Packers are penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and will have to kick from their 10-yard line.
Seahawks 20, Packers 10 (7:06 left in third quarter)
Green Bay's gamble at midfield does not pay off when quarterback Aaron Rodgers is sacked on a fourth-and-five play.
The Packers had moved to the Seahawks' 41-yard line thanks to a nine-yard completion to Jordy Nelson and a 23-yard completion to Randall Cobb.
After a five-yard completion to Nelson, Rodgers had two incompletions from the shotgun formation to set up the fourth-down play.
Seahawks 20, Packers 10 (10:28 left in third quarter)
Seattle can't muster a touchdown after a turnover, but takes a 10-point lead on a 20-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.
Green Bay, which has taken advantage of two Seahawks mistakes to generate 10 points, will now try to mount a drive from its own 20-yard line.
Seahawks 17, Packers 10 (12:06 left third quarter)
Green Bay promptly turns the ball over when Seattle safety Byron Maxwell intercepts Aaron Rodgers' pass intended for Jordy Nelson.
Seahawks 17, Packers 10 (12:13 left in third quarter)
Seattle picks up two quick first downs to move to its 41-yard line to open the second half but its drive soon stalls.
Seahawks punter Jon Ryan hangs a 39-yard punt that is not returned, giving the Packers possession at their 14-yard line.
Seahawks 17, Packers 10 (halftime)
Neither team can muster a drive on its final possession of the second quarter, leaving host Seattle with a seven-point halftime lead.
The Seahawks, despite a costly fumbled punt that led to the Packers' only touchdown drive, have controlled play for a majority of the game. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has been effecient, completing 10 of 14 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Marshawn Lynch (59 yards rushing, nine-yard touchdown run) and Percy Harvin (48 yards receiving, 22 yards rushing) have complemented Wilson's play.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been no slouch against the vaunted Seattle defense, completing 14 of 18 passes for 86 yards, but he's had less success than his counterpart. The Packers have tried to pick up yards on the ground, with Eddie Lacy gaining 29 yards in eight carries and James Stark picking up 14 yards in four carries.
Seahawks 17, Packers 10 (3:41 left in second quarter)
Seattle reclaims the lead rather quickly for a second time, marching 70 yards in six plays. Marshawn Lynch, who had a 21-yard run during the series, scores on a nine-yard run.
The Seahawks continue to mix a variety of plays, one featuring receiver Percy Harvin rushing from the backfield for a nine-yard gain. Russell Wilson opened the drive with a 24-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller.
Wilson has completed nine of 11 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, Lynch has rushed for 59 yards in seven carries while Harvin has gained 48 yards on five catches and 22 yards in two carries.
Packers 10, Seahawks 10 (6:08 left in second quarter)
Seattle relinquishes the lead when Green Bay picks up a chunk of real estate on a pass-interference penalty on a deep pass. Although the Seahawks' defense holds from there, the Packers tie the score on Mason Crosby's 23-yard field goal.
The Packers had picked up a pair of first downs to move to midfield when quarterback Aaron Rodgers extended a pass play by rolling to his right. Tight end Richard Rodgers was streaking down the middle of the field with linebacker Bobby Wagner giving chase.
Wagner, though, collided with the intended receiver as he tried to turn toward the ball. The penalty gave Green Bay possession at Seattle's seven-yard line.
Seahawks 10, Packers 7 (13:00 left in second quarter)
Russell Wilson and Seattle respond quickly to losing the lead. After marching into Packers territory with a mixture of runs and passes, Wilson eventually finds Ricardo Lockette isolated on the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Lockette broke a tackle near the 15-yard line by celebrated rookie safety HaHa Clinton-Dix after Wilson faked a read-option play that froze the Packers defense.
The drive covered 80 yards in six plays. Marshawn Lynch picked up seven yards for a third-down conversion while Wilson found Percy Harvin for a 33-yard gain on another play.
Packers 7, Seahawks 3 (1:30 left in first quarter)
Green Bay takes advantage of the first turnover of the game to score on a 34-yard drive. Fantasy football owners will not be happy to learn that fullback John Kuhn scored the touchdown on a two-yard run, though.
After Seattle's Earl Thomas III fumbled a punt, the Packers went to work primarily through the air, with back-to-back passes to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson gaining eight and 16 yards, respectively, to set up first and goal at Seattle's eight-yard line.
A six-yard pass to Nelson set up Kuhn's touchdown run.
Seahawks 3, Packers 0 (4:32 left in first quarter)
Seattle stops Green Bay on its second drive, but gives the ball right back to the Packers when safety Earl Thomas III fumbles the punt. It wasn't all his fault as a teammate blocked a Packer into him.
Green Bay resumes play with the ball at the Seahawks' 34-yard line
Seahawks 3, Packers 0 (6:03 left in first quarter)
The Seahawks get the first two breaks of the game when the Packers are called for running into the kicker on a punt moments after a third-down pass was batted into the air and almost intercepted.
Seattle, which picked up one first down on a short pass from Russell Wilson to Percy Harvin for four yards on a third-and-one play, has moved into Packers territory with the penalty.
A 13-yard gain on a pass to Harvin and a five-yard run by Marshawn Lynch help set up a 35-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.
The Green Bay Packers received the opening kickoff and tried to establish the running game with second-yard running back Eddie Lacy, who carried twice for 21 yards. His 15-yard gain gave Green Bay a first down at their 39-yard line.
But James Starks was held to a two-yard gain on the next play before Aaron Rodgers connected with a quick pass to Jordy Nelson that lost two yards. The Seahawks' vaunted defense then gave no quarter on a third-and-10 play, with O'Brien Schofield eventually sacking Rodgers as he tried to scramble.
The Seahawks get their first possession of the game at their 35-yard line.
The NFL’s loudest stadium was more raucous than ever Thursday night as the Seattle Seahawks prepared to host the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s Kickoff Opener.
In the hours before kickoff, Pharrell Williams and Seattle’s own Soundgarden performed on a stage constructed just outside the north end of CenturyLink Field, a free concert that drew thousands of fans, whether they had tickets to the game or not.
Since 2004, the winner of the previous Super Bowl has hosted the first game of the season. This is just the second time the Kickoff Opener has taken place west of the Mississippi River, with the first time being last year in Denver -- a game that was supposed to be held in Baltimore but was moved because of a scheduling conflict with the Orioles.
This is the fifth time since 2000 that the Seahawks have opened their season at home. Seattle has won 10 of its last 11 home openers, with the only defeat coming to San Francisco in 2008 when the 49ers pulled off a 33-30 victory in overtime.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times