Friday, September 5, 2014

Seahawks send Green Bay packing

On the night when the Seahawks kicked off the NFL’s 2014 season as defending Super Bowl champions, they went out and also played like defending Super Bowl champions.

By the time their 36-16 victory against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night was over, the Seahawks had:

Rushed for 207 yards, with Marshawn Lynch running for 110 and two touchdowns;

Russell Wilson had passed for two touchdowns to pair of unlikely targets – wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and fullback Derrick Coleman;

Percy Harvin had shown what was missing last season when he was limited a handful of plays in the regular season by contributing 59 yards on seven receptions and 41 yards on four rushes – yes, he averaged more yards rushing (10.3) than he did receiving (8.4) – as well as a 31-yard kickoff return;

And a defense that got a 14-tackle performance from middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, an interception to setup a field goal by cornerback Byron Maxwell and a fumble-forcing sack by defensive end Michael Bennett for a safety was not happy – despite holding Aaron Rodgers to 189 passing yards and the Packers to 80 rushing yards.

“We played a great game,” Wilson said. “Defensively, we were lights out. Offensively, we were so physical, made a lot of plays.”

And the best part for the team’s third-year quarterback who passed for 191 yards and ran for 29? The 15-yard TD pass to Coleman on a fourth-and-1 play in the fourth quarter? Lockette’s run after the catch for his 33-yard TD in the second quarter? Either of Lynch’s scoring runs, a 9-yarder in the second quarter and a 3-yarder in the fourth quarter? Maxwell’s 21-yard return of his interception to setup the second of two field goals by Steven Hauschka? Cliff Avril’s sack of Rodgers on a fourth-and-5 play in the third quarter? Bennett’s safety-producing sack in the third quarter?

None of the above. What really floated Wilson’s boat on this night before a revved-up crowd of 68,424 12s was the fourth-quarter drive to Coleman’s TD reception – a 13-play, 80-yard tour de force that consumed seven minutes as the Seahawks imposed their will on the Packers.

“The best part of the game was that six- or seven-minute drive to end the game pretty much,” Wilson said. “That’s how we have to play great football.”

By the time Coleman ran into the end zone, there were only 2½ minutes to play and the Seahawks had pushed their lead to 20 points. The drive also underlined Wilson’s line about how so many players made plays in this game. Wilson completed four passes to four different receivers – tight end Luke Wilson, Lynch, Lockette and, of course, Coleman. Lynch ran five times for 14 times and had a 14-yard reception. Robert Turbin added a 4-yard run and Wilson ran twice for 14 yards.

And the offensive line of – from left tackle to right – Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy and rookie Justin Britt – announced its presence with authority, play after play.

“That’s what we want to do, we want to end the game with the ball in our hands,” said Unger, the Pro Bowl center. “I thought we had an awesome drive there in the fourth quarter and that’s why we really play the game right there.

“We want to run the ball and be explosive in the passing game, and I think we did that tonight. This is kind of what we structured our offense to be.”

It was such a satisfying performance that even Lynch had something to say in the locker room.

“Thank you,” he offered.

Thank you, indeed.

“I’m really pleased with this night,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s a terrific night for us to get started.”

Asked to choose one big moment from his team’s big opening-game performance, Carroll said, “I thought the big sack we got on fourth down when they were getting across the 50 there. I thought that that time was when we really had a chance to let them keep going or not, and I thought that was the play that really gave us the momentum.

“I might be missing a bunch of other ones, but that’s the one I liked the most.”

Back to that defensive performance. After not having one pass thrown in his direction, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman begged to differ with Wilson’s lights-out assessment.

“I don’t know if we shut it down,” Sherman said after a reporter used that term. “They scored 16 points. (Rodgers) threw for 180 or something like that. That’s a little bit too much for our defense. We don’t like to give up those kinds of numbers.

“He was able to get the ball down the field a little bit. We made some mistakes. We had some penalties. So we’ve got to clean that up, and stop missing tackles, and we’ll have a good year.”

The Seahawks are 1-0, having taken advantage of their first opportunity to go 1-0, but not satisfied. Just the way it should be.

“It’s a one-game deal,” Carroll said. “I really don’t think it’s any more than that. They’re a really good team, and we’re really happy about this win to get it like that because we have so much respect for them. It’s just the first game. We have to come back all cranked up again and start over again and get ready for another championship matchup in San Diego.”

Because, after all, the game against Chargers in San Diego on Sept. 14 is the answer to: What’s Next?

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