GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — 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 6-yard touchdown run on the next play to spark the Packers’ 17-9 win on Sunday.
“This really started with our defense,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “It starts on the line of scrimmage. We were in the backfield a bunch.”
The Packers’ 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. The Packers went deep to his favorite 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 defense 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 defense that we went against. They’re going to keep everybody kind of in front, they’re going to make us go the long way,” Nelson said.
Green Bay’s defense had an even better debut, especially considering how maligned the Packers were against the pass last season.
Seattle managed just three field goals. 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 held the ball for 39 minutes.
“I was disappointed they were able to be as aggressive up front as they were with their defense,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
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. I’m disappointed the play would have such magnitude on the game,” Carroll said. “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 intercepted Rodgers at 9:26 of the first quarter. It was Rodgers’ first interception since Nov. 13, 2016, at Tennessee.
Tensions were already high between the teams early in the game. Rodgers was picking on Lane in the secondary, with Cobb whistled for taunting following a 14-yard gain while being defended by Lane.
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat on the bench again during the national anthem. On the other sideline at about the 30, his younger brother Martellus Bennett, a tight end for the Packers, stood at the end of the line next to his teammates, but raised his right fist in the air during the anthem.
Michael Bennett last week released a statement alleging racially motivated excessive force by Las Vegas police.
Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt stood next to Bennett again during his anthem protest. Defensive linemen Frank Clark and Cliff Avril each went back to shake hands with Bennett during the anthem and then joined him on the bench.
The Bennett brothers talked for about a minute after the game at midfield.