By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — On a night that began with the Seattle Seahawks and their fans celebrating last season’s Super Bowl championship, the team started its quest for a repeat NFL title in convincing fashion on Thursday, defeating the Green Bay Packers 36-16 before a national television audience and a record regular-season crowd of 68,424 at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks overcame an early 7-3 deficit with some offensive fireworks over the final three quarters, getting two rushing touchdowns from running back Marshawn Lynch, two TD passes from quarterback Russell Wilson, and the second of two field goals from kicker Steven Hauschka. The defense also chipped in with safety.
“It’s like we’re picking up right where we left off,” said Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who tied a regular-season career high with 14 tackles. At the start of a new season, he went on, “everybody is coming together as a team and we’re just trying to get into a good rhythm.”
“We came back to our formula (from a year ago),” agreed tight end Zach Miller, who had three receptions for 42 yards. “And as long as we stick to that all year, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
The game was preceded with an afternoon of festivities, including a pregame concert in the stadium’s north parking lot and the unveiling of celebratory banners honoring last February’s Super Bowl victory over Denver. The game itself was played on a picture-perfect summer evening, and before a crowd that was overflowing with Seahawks fervor.
And the Seahawks did not disappoint.
Against a good Packers team — Green Bay is the defending NFC North champion and a contender to win the division again this year — Seattle dominated over the final three quarters, outscoring the visitors 33-9. For the game, Lynch had 110 of Seattle’s 207 rushing yards and Wilson completed 19 of 28 passing attempts for 191 yards.
The Seahawks finished with a 398-255 edge in total offense yardage.
Yes, there were mistakes. Punt returner Earl Thomas, stepping in for the departed Golden Tate, tried for a catch in traffic instead of a more prudent fair catch, and his fumble led to Green Bay’s first touchdown. Minutes later, linebacker Bobby Wagner committed pass interference on a deep pass coverage, giving the Packers a first-and-goal, and they tacked on a field goal moments later.
But as first games go, Seattle’s 2014 debut showed the Seahawks are on stride to bid for another league championship.
“We played a great game,” Wilson said. “Defensively, we played lights out. And our offense was so physical. … As I told the guys on the sideline, we just need to keep getting better. And that’s our goal. This was just one game and we’ve got a lot more to do.”
After an early Hauschka field goal, the Seahawks finally reached the end zone early in the second quarter, with Wilson capping a six-play, 80-yard drive by linking with wide receiver Ricardo Lockette up the left sideline. With a nifty sidestep, Lockette made the last defender miss and raced untouched the rest of the way.
Lynch, who missed the early part of Seattle’s training camp in a contract dispute, showed why he is such a vital part of the offense by churning for tough yardage, including not-to-be-denied TD runs of 9 and 3 yards.
Seattle’s defense, while giving up two touchdowns and a field goal _ two of the scoring drives were of 75 yards or more _ still had a safety and set up a field goal with a interception by cornerback Byron Maxwell.
With the game already in hand, the Seahawks added a final touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Wilson to fullback Derrick Coleman.
“It feels great to get that first (victory),” said safety Earl Thomas. “I’m very excited for the way everybody played. … All these guys are doing a great job and it just feels great to be a part of it.”
Despite the thrill of winning the opener, “we can’t look too far down the road,” Wilson cautioned. “It’s just one game at a time, and I think that’s the mindset you have to have. … We just believe every game is a championship game, and if we continue to do that we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“We have a very good football team,” he added. “We have so many guys that can make plays. … At the end of the day we just wanted to get the win, and we definitely did that tonight.”
The Seahawks will get a few extra days off before their next game, a Sept. 14 game at San Diego.
The Packers “are a really good team and we’re really happy to get this one,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “But now we have to get ready to crank it up again and get ready for another championship matchup in San Diego.”