GREEN BAY, Wis.—A marquee season-opener between two NFC heavyweights turned into a defensive slugfest.
The Green Bay Packers—not the menacing Seattle Seahawks—landed the momentum-swinging punch.
Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels' strip sack of Russell Wilson deep in Seattle territory in the third quarter set up Ty Montgomery's six-yard touchdown run on the next play to spark the Packers' 17-9 win yesterday afternoon.
“This really started with our defence,” said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy.
“It starts on the line of scrimmage," he noted. "We were in the backfield a bunch.”
Aaron Rodgers was 28-of-42 for 311 yards and added a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it an eight-point game late in the third quarter.
He went deep to his favourite receiver on a free play that was extended after Seattle was flagged for having too many men on the field.
Rodgers' regular-season streak of passes without an interception ended at a career-high 251.
The Seahawks' defence, reinforced by the return of safety Earl Thomas, bottled up receivers from making many big plays and put plenty of pressure on Rodgers.
But the Packers started denting Seattle with runs or quick passes to Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Montgomery in the second half, chewing up clock in the process.
A 12-play, 53-yard drive that took up more than five minutes ended with Mason Crosby's 40-yard field goal with 8:01 left to make it a two-score game.
“That was a great defence that we went against,” Nelson stressed.
“They're going to keep everybody kind of in front; they're going to make us go the long way,” he noted.
But Green Bay's defence had an even better debut, especially considering how maligned the Packers were against the pass last season.
Seattle managed just three field goals as Wilson was held to 14-of-27 for 158 yards.
The Packers held decisive edges in total yardage (370-225) and first downs (26-12). Green Bay also held the ball for 39 minutes.
“I was disappointed they were able to be as aggressive up front as they were with their defence,” said Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected after referee John Parry said he threw a punch during a scrum with Packers' receiver Davante Adams.
Carroll disagreed with the call.
“I have seen it and I didn't see the punch at all,” he said.
“I'm disappointed the play would have such magnitude on the game," Carroll added. ”One [official] saw it and that's what they went with.
“I'm anxious to hear how the league tells us how that went.”
The tussle occurred around the Packers' 30 during a play in which Nazair Jones had intercepted Rodgers at 9:26 of the first quarter.
It was Rodgers' first interception since Nov. 13, 2016 at Tennessee.
Elsewhere in the NFL, Dallas beat the N.Y. Giants 19-3, Buffalo downed the N.Y. Jets 21-12, Atlanta downed Chicago 23-17, Baltimore blanked Cincinnati 20-0, Pittsburgh shaded Cleveland 21-18, Oakland upended Tennessee 26-16, and Jacksonville dumped Houston 29-7.
Philadelphia beat Washington 30-17, Detroit topped Arizona 35-23, the L.A. Rams routed Indianapolis 46-9, and Carolina dumped San Francisco 23-3.
Tampa Bay at Miami was postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
Minnesota hosts New Orleans and the L.A. Chargers visit Denver tonight.