SEATTLE -- 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, (189) yards passing, and he's used to getting 400."
Lacy went to the locker room in the fourth quarter after sustaining a 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."
Although 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."
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