This time, nothing was being thrown at the old-school CRT televisions hanging above. No one was shouting profanity about being robbed or cheated. There were no long sighs of exasperation.
All there was … was silence. Stunned silence.
There was nothing controversial about the Green Bay Packers’ 36-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at raucous CenturyLink Field Thursday night. The defending Super Bowl champions didn’t need any help from a replacement official. The Packers, with an abysmal performance in the NFL’s marquee opening game, gave them plenty of help – help they probably didn’t even need. Facing the defending Super Bowl champions in the NFL’s marquee season-opening event, the visitors were thoroughly outplayed.
“Coming into the game, I think we were all pretty confident, I think we had high expectations. We expected to win,” veteran right guard T.J. Lang said. “I think we understand we’ve got a long season ahead of us. I don’t think it’s any time to panic. But it’s definitely a time to look in the mirror and try to find a way to build some confidence. We know we’ve got a lot of good players on this team, and we have higher expectations than the showing we put out tonight.”
Added wide receiver Randall Cobb: “Obviously, we got it handed to us tonight. They’re a good team, obviously. They’re coming off a Super Bowl. They have some great players. They got after us today. [But] I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s humbling. I don’t think we were ever overly arrogant about who we’d been in the preseason.”
Arrogant, no. But certainly the Packers (0-1) felt better about themselves than they had entering previous openers. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy had said precisely that. Following the team’s preseason-ending victory over Kansas City– in a game which none of his vital starters suited up – and after two years of being less than thrilled with how his team was entering regular-season play, McCarthy raved about what he’d seen
“I don’t know if I’ve felt this good coming out of the preseason as I do tonight,” McCarthy said that night, unprompted.
A week later, it was clear that there was no carryover. And while McCarthy did pump the brakes on that statement at midweek – “We haven’t played a game yet,” he cautioned – he certainly expected something more representative of his feelings than what he saw.
The new-fangled 4-3 defense, the one McCarthy had made a big-letters promise would be improved, ceded an alarming 398 yards, missed tackles by the bushel and did nothing to contain the Seahawks primary playmakers – running back Marshawn Lynch (20 carries, 110 yards), wide receiver Percy Harvin (seven receptions for 59 yards, four runs for 41 yards) and quarterback Russell Wilson (19 of 28, 191 yards, two touchdowns, 110.9 quarterback rating). Of their 398 total yards, the Seahawks (1-0) gained 207 on the ground.
“You could see it in their eyes. They just got after us,” Packers defensive end Mike Daniels said. “I want to spit on the way I played. And I can only speak for myself. It was a pitiful performance. I know I can do way better than that.”
Added inside linebacker Brad Jones: “We’ve got to figure out what we did out here tonight. Because that’s not acceptable. … We fill figure this thing out. We will right this thing. We will right it.”
But there were more problems than just defensively.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered a first-half knee injury and his replacement, Derek Sherrod, was atrocious – from whiffing on a critical fourth-down play for one sack, to being beaten for another sack that led to an Aaron Rodgers fumble and safety, to being blown up on a 2-point conversion play after the offense finally found the end zone. Whatever hope the Packers had of rallying was washed away by those three plays.
McCarthy said the initial reports on Bulaga were that he’d suffered "knee sprain. As of right now, we do not fear a major injury. So, that’s kind of where it stands.” But if Bulaga is sidelined for any extended amount of time, it could get ugly. Although Rodgers defended Sherrod as having done “a good job,” considering he hadn’t played a meaningful snap since his grotesque December 2011 leg injury, even Rodgers had to admit, “It definitely affected things initially.”
Rodgers wasn’t himself, either. He threw an interception off Jordy Nelson’s hands that Rodgers said he missed his spot on “by a foot,” and he was bailed out on another potential INT when he rolled right and threw back across his body and the field on a prayer to Nelson in the end zone. He averaged a paltry 5.7 yards per attempt – well below his career average of 8.2 and the league-leading 9.2 he averaged while winning the 2011 NFL MVP.
“This is the Seattle Seahawks. They’re a great defense. You don’t expect to be able to move the ball effectively every down on every drive,” said Rodgers, who completed 23 of 33 passes for a mere 189 yards with three sacks, one touchdown and one interception (81.5 rating). “But you need to make the most of your opportunities, especially when you get in the red zone. You’ve got to score touchdowns.
“We had some decent drives, had some opportunities. That stretch in the third quarter, the interception and the safety, kind of put us in a bad spot, put our defense in a bad spot, but you’ve got to score more points.
Asked about the limited downfield production – the Packers’ longest completion went for 23 yards – Rodgers said, “They [only] played a couple defenses. There was a lot of one-high [safety], getting that seventh guy down in the box [against the run]. There was a free guy at times in those situations, and they tackled well, so there weren’t a lot of broken tackles for us. They did a good job of making us go the distance. … If you’re not breaking a lot of tackles, you’re going to have some two-, three- and four-yard gains.”
Added McCarthy: “Trust me, my play-call sheet has way too many shot plays that weren’t called tonight. A lot of those things are about down-and-distance; we weren’t in very good down-and-distances, particularly early. We got into a rhythm and made some drives, hit a couple plays there in the second half, but a lot of those shot plays, I just didn’t get them called.”
And, as a capper to an already crummy night, running back Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion during a fourth-quarter drive – one of only three Packers possessions that ended in points – that ended his night after he’d carried 12 times for 34 yards, with 15 of those yards having come on one carry. Lacy suffered a concussion in a Week 2 game against Washington last season and missed the following week’s game against Cincinnati.
So not only did the Packers not run the ball well, but then they lost the guy who ran for 1,178 yards as a rookie a year ago.
“Playing the style of football game that we [wanted to play], we did not accomplish that by any means,” McCarthy said. “It really started with running the football. We weren’t quite where we needed to be there and definitely did not stop the run. … We felt all week coming up here playing in this environment against an excellent football team that it [would be] a game of momentum swings and you have to swing it back. And we were not able to do that tonight.
“So a hard loss, hard defeat.”
But, a familiar one. Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, and including the infamous “Fail Mary” game, the Packers have now lost a combined six in a row to the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers – the two teams that played in the NFC Championship Game last January – and this was the most lopsided one (by final score, anyway) of the bunch.
For a team that was starting the year as a trendy Super Bowl pick, things could not have started much worse.