SEATTLE — The NFL has shown time and again that it has no sense of humor. But the No Fun League isn’t diabolical, either.

Instead, the NFL is money-driven, which is why it sent the Green Bay Packers back to the scene of the crime — CenturyLink Field — Thursday night for the opening game of the 2014 regular season.

Controversy equals television ratings, and there was no more controversial ending in NFL history than the infamous “Fail Mary” pass in the third game of the 2012 season. That game ended with a stunning 14-12 Seattle victory that served as a coming-out party for the Seahawks and cost the Packers dearly in terms of playoff positioning.

The teams that met in the rematch Thursday night were dramatically different from the ones that went at it two years ago.

That first game was notable for two things: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times in the first half and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, then a rookie, lobbed a disputed — to this day — last-second pass to Golden Tate that the Packers appeared to intercept but instead was ruled a touchdown by a replacement official who was in over his head.

Since then, the Packers have added a viable running game and altered their defense in both approach and personnel, all built around the signing of free agent pass rusher Julius Peppers. Coach Mike McCarthy abandoned the run in the first half two years ago, but since then has made such a commitment to the run that the Packers might have the NFL’s most balanced offense.

The Seahawks took flight after that gift victory and didn’t land until they embarrassed Denver in the Super Bowl last season, a stunning two-year rise that has made them a strong favorite to become the first NFL champion to repeat since New England in 2003 and 2004. Seattle built the NFL’s most suffocating defense, added premier playmaker Percy Harvin and grew on offense as Wilson, the former University of Wisconsin star, developed into an elite quarterback.

So which team advanced the most in two years?

The answer was loud and clear Thursday night. This time, the Seahawks didn’t need any last-minute help from the officials as they schooled the confident Packers en route to a 36-16 victory.

The Packers supposedly have their most talented team since the 2011 team that went 15-1, but the Seahawks physically dominated them on both sides of the ball. Including playoffs, Seattle is now 18-1 at home over the past two seasons and the gap between it and the teams chasing it appears to be growing.

“As far as coming in here and playing the style of football game that we (sought), we did not accomplish that by any means,” McCarthy said. “Really starting with running the football, we weren’t quite where we needed to be there, and we definitely did not stop the run.”

Green Bay’s offense had looked masterful during the preseason, blending Rodgers’ passing, Eddie Lacy’s running and an up-tempo, no-huddle offense into a unit that was unstoppable. That offense hadn’t faced Seattle’s physical defense, however.

If the new NFL rules limiting defensive contact were a problem for Seattle, it didn’t show. Lacy had some success early, but the Seahawks quickly shut him down and at the same time prevented Rodgers from throwing the ball downfield.

“This is the Seattle Seahawks,” Rodgers said. “They’re a great defense. You don’t expect to be able to move the ball effectively every down and every drive. But you’ve got to make the most of your opportunities.”

The only thing more disappointing than the Packers offense was the Packers defense. Seattle’s offensive performance in exhibition games had been even better than the Packers’ showing, with Wilson making quicker decisions and Harvin becoming an explosive factor in an expanded playbook. Once halfback Marshawn Lynch got rolling, Green Bay’s defense looked much like it did last year, with the line getting moved off the ball consistently and the linebackers and defensive backs missing tackles.

The Packers came out in a 4-3 defense they had practiced only behind closed doors but, like the no-huddle offense, it didn’t fool the Seahawks. And while McCarthy had talked about grit in his first training camp address to the team and defensive end Mike Daniels had stated emphatically that the defense needed to get meaner, the Packers were not a match for the physical Seahawks. Especially Lynch, who rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries.

“They broke a lot of tackles; we broke some, probably not enough,” McCarthy said. “I just didn’t like the way we started the game. I didn’t like our substitution patterns, burning of the timeouts on special teams and defense. You come up into this environment and you have to carry your preparation forward.”

This time, there was no fuming over having a game stolen from them. The Packers didn’t get robbed by the Seahawks, they got rolled.

It was only the opener, so there’s no reason to panic. However, the Packers will have to get much better if they want to win a Super Bowl this season because, if they make the playoffs, the NFL is probably going to send them right back to CenturyLink Field.

Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com or 608-252-6172.

Tom Oates has been a staff member of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department for 30 years and its editorial voice for more than 15, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.

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(21) comments

twiddlemylobes
twiddlemylobes

I can name a dozen teams that started pathetically and turned it on when it mattered most.. but the one I will always remember best are the 2007 New York Giants.. They Never ever gave up
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_New_York_Giants_season

twiddlemylobes
twiddlemylobes

Listen.That was 1 frustrating game for us GB fans, I concede at this point Seattle is clearly better. with that being said and as ugly as we played here's the meat of it going forward.. The fluidity of execution for GB was a D+ compared to Seattle was a A- grade. 1.As the season progresses GB will have an opportunity to close that gap and they will. 2.The games going forward have us traveling downhill..I 100% believe this will be our toughest opponent and venue. and I also think it is a real possibility we play them again..over 4 months from now. that's a great deal of football and many changes to both personnel and schemes on both sides.3. This was week one and very few teams are mid-season form like Seattle. GB is relatively a young D overall with limited playing time in live action as a unit. 4. We historically respond well to adversity 5. We have some of the most experienced coaches with the knowledge to make adjustments to respond to adversity 5. We have several Pro-bowl quality D talent standouts.. but more importantly we have a lot of young guys that with moderate seasoning will rise to the occasion and be above average at atheir respesctive positions. Last but not least.. We are the GB Packers. We have been doubted before if I recall? How did that work out.. that 10-6 team that didnt even win a division? Point.. Case

threx
threx

I agree with dead center- where is the offensive line. I cringe every time we play Seattle as TT should knowing that he passed on Marshawn Lynch TT&MM its getting real old watching every decent player you select out with injuries I'm not sure ifits bad luck or just bad sewlecting . Seem every time I see NE or Den or even NO their QBs are sitting back with all the time inthe world to throw the ball

graefental
graefental

An exhibition game I'd pay big bucks to see right about now:

Green Bay @ Monona Grove.

Anybody else like MG in that one?

shoelessjoe
shoelessjoe

There are a number of issues with the Packers defense starting with a lack of intensity from a team perspective. The one that needs addressing immediately is the complete lack of production from Brad Jones. At this point anything would be an upgrade over him.
Oh wait, that can"t happen. TT has to make sure he gets his playing time to justify the ridiculous contract he was signed to.

Harvey
Harvey

Did Dante Jones play?

itsacrapshoot
itsacrapshoot

If the Pack is intent on allowing their quarterback to be killed on every passing play, perhaps they should consider starting (at the bottom) by killing off Tolzien, then Flynn and then Rodgers, who by the way didn't look like either all the hype or his stratospheric salary. Oates gave everything a D - that was way too generous. TT and Mikey looked like they had no clue about what was happening. Titletown should be embarrassed. It's going to be a long season.

DeadCenter
DeadCenter

This isn't a "oh crap we lost, the sky is falling" rant. This is my assessment of the last 9-10 years of facts with Teddy and Mikey ... Ted fails to address the O-Line and depth. Every year. With a $127M golden boy behind center, Teddy is resolved to have him killed by failure to protect him. Teddy is complacent with mediocre WR's as long as they are cheap. Mikey has never had a disciplined team. They make mistakes when we should be getting the ball back, i.e. running into the kicker (what?) and a stupid penalty during a sack. Both mistakes led to points. Discipline on the field, stems from the mindset of the head coach on down. Fail. Fans want to erect statues to these two "heroes" yet, nothing changes from year to year. Weak O-Line and D-Line; WR wih less than 3 years experience. No playmakers to compliment one of the best QB's (or should be/could be) in the NFL. Dom Capers' "bag-o-tricks" results in the worst D in the league. These two are pretenders, living on mediocrity. We are the Chargers of the NFC North. Good season, no playoff wins, except one year in 10. Buh-bye Ted and Mike.

adamman
adamman

Between the two of them, TT and MM have one more Superbowl win than the Vikings have in their entire history. Put that into perspective. Granted, TT often looks like a stroke victim with mouth agape. (Like last night on national TV). And TT should get some credit for the Farve years, as he gave a positive evaluation to Ron Wolf. (See SI.com)

I still expect the Packers will win the division again. But they won't get past the Hawks, if they even see them again. The Hawks will probably put everybody else in their rear view mirrors this season.

adamman
adamman

Well, the Pack did better against the Hawks than Denver did. At least there's that. The Hawks look like a steamroller again this season.
Packers have a lot of pedestrian players. (Did Peppers even play? Seemed to be MIA)
Brad Jones, terrible
AJ Hawk, terrible
Sherrod, terrible
Defensive line, terrible

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

Hey, at least the packies don't play anyone else this year with a decent running back, do they?
Re Peppers: (from another story) --Peppers had three tackles, twice the runner tripped over him as he laid on the ground.

adamman
adamman

@Crow Bare,

You'll be eating Crow by the end of the season. But you're right about Peppers, so far.

Crow Barr
Crow Barr

Doesn't take much, but could Pep's be "Da Bear's has-been!"

I know I will eat Crow down the line*, but Ha-Ha Clinton-Dixing today!

* Unless the packies fail to find a run defense.

Harvey
Harvey

Did better than the supposed 2nd best team in the NFC north which trailed the Hawks by 31 at the half.

gobi
gobi

The good news is that there are other things to do on Sundays. Read, enjoy nature , ride a bike. No worries- it's entertainment ( and not good entertainment last night)

adamman
adamman

Is there any self help group for recovering Packerholics? Like a PA club?

squirrel
squirrel

Ha Ha better learn to tackle quickly, and defense doesn't look capable against a first rate team.

Farmdog
Farmdog

The Packers generalized meltdown has more to do with Ted Thompson and his failure to get quality personnel on the offensive and defensive lines. He has done little in the draft to address such needs and his efforts to improve the team in this area have been an afterthought. Occasionally he has picked up an offensive lineman in the later rounds by pure luck, but otherwise has poorly drafted on the line of scrimmage. When a team has broad based problems in a game, the best place to look for solutions is in that area, for everyone looks better or worse depending on line play on either side of the ball. In that regard TT has miserably failed--he was the one who was clueless in Seattle last night.

palmda
palmda

The Dom Capers defense is back in full force. Players with no talent that are not disciplined. Ends that can't block. Line backers that can't make tackles. Weak players that get hurt easily. The Packers have not improved and may have gone down hill since their poor performances last year. Special teams are still poor and field position had they really performed would still be a problem. Rodgers and McCarthy both looked like a deer in the head lights. This team my win more than they loose in the division but that is as far as it goes.

rockemred
rockemred

The defense could not stop Marshawn Lynch. Lynch's ability to make the first guy miss, then run over the next, looked like Adrian Peterson whenever he plays the Packers. Brad Jones has never been productive in his time with Green Bay, Jones looked terrible last night and unfortunately for Green Bay fans, he never seems to have a solid game, time to make a change and give Lattimore or anyone else a chance. Green Bay's offensive line is thin, Sherrod isn't the answer, Bulaga is tough but often injured. Ha Ha C-dix had some whiffs, but I like his aggressiveness, he will continue to improve. D-Line was not stout, time to turn it up.

freddiebell
freddiebell

The Packers looked like they weren't ready to play big-time football. Sloppy mistakes, lack of execution, out of sync, just not a pretty picture all around. Coaching didn't look up to par. Somebody needs to set an alarm clock to ring and wake them up. Seattle looked ready to start the regular season, while the Packers still seem stuck in exhibition mode. Not a good sign.

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