GREEN BAY — At midweek, Aaron Rodgers went over the simple math equation again.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback has done the basic arithmetic many times, but having lost another NFC Championship Game on the road last January, he wanted to do a remedial review before Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks — arguably the Packers’ biggest conference adversary in their quest for a Super Bowl LII berth.
“Obviously we’d like to take care of business at home,” said Rodgers, who, in the wake his team’s NFC title game loss at Atlanta, repeatedly emphasized how vital it is to finally get an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field, having played all three of his away from home.
“(If you) win all eight of those games and split on the road, you go 12-4 and you’re probably a (No.) 1 or 2 seed. That’s what we’re talking about as far as get us in the playoffs and get us at least one game if not two games at home. That’s the goal. But again, we’re starting out the gate with two teams that are in the Super Bowl conversation. So we need to raise the level of play from the start and take care of business.”
That’s exactly what Rodgers & Co. did Sunday, in a more-dominant-than-the-score-indicated 17-9 season-opening victory at Lambeau Field.
The Packers (1-0) nearly doubled up the Seahawks (0-1) in time of possession (39:13 to 20:47), outgained them 370-225, and with the help of a suffocating defense that more than made up for an uncharacteristic early Rodgers interception and the offense’s unfavorable first-half field position, essentially controlled the game all day long.
“The message I gave the offense in the presentation (of) the game plan on Wednesday was I made reference to the Floyd Mayweather fight,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy explained, referring to the way Mayweather’s strategy was to wear down Connor McGregor as their Aug. 26 much-hyped fight wore on. “(Mayweather) felt that when he got above 25 minutes, that the fight was going to change. And that was kind of my outlook as far as how I wanted to play this (Seattle) defense today.
“I thought our guys offensively did a great job just keep getting after it (while) our defense controlled the (game). Really, they were the thermostat today. To hold these guys to nine points is a good day.”
And as a result, the Packers already have a leg up on their NFC rivals – even with 15 more games to play in the regular season.
In 2014, the Packers went to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field for the opener, lost, then had to return there for the NFC title game, which they lost in overtime after a gut-wrenching meltdown. While they’ve got plenty more work to do, this surely doesn’t hurt Rodgers’ mathematical plan to increase the team’s Super Bowl odds.
“Of course it does,” said Rodgers, who finished the day having completed 28 of 42 passes for 311 yards with one touchdown, one interception and four sacks (86.5 rating). “These are the kind of wins that you’re thankful for come December and January.”
The Packers also would be thankful if their defense can be as dominant then as it was on Sunday. The Seahawks converted just 3 of 12 third-down situations, came away empty-handed after Rodgers’ first-quarter interception and had a 3-0 halftime lead thanks in part to come questionable clock management by McCarthy, who may have miscalculated how much time he could save with his two remaining timeouts.
“We’re just getting started,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “I’m happy about our performance today. (But) we’ve got a lot to work on, a lot to improve on. We’re going to get better each and every week.
“We’ve just got to keep improving. We have a great defense right now. We looked good today. But there’s a lot of things we have to work and get better.”
The game turned early in the third quarter, when Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels was involved in a pair of sacks in a three-play span — and on the second sack stripped quarterback Russell Wilson, with Kyler Fackrell recovering at the Seattle 6-yard line. The next play, halfback Ty Montgomery scored on a 6-yard run to give the Packers a 7-3 lead.
“If everybody’s where they’re supposed to be and they get there with an attitude — a bad attitude at that — then good things will happen,” Daniels said.
The Seahawks’ fate was sealed in the next two possessions. After having first-and-goal at Green Bay’s 3, they settled for a field goal, trimming the lead to 7-6. When the Packers got the ball back, Rodgers scrambled for 13 yards to convert a third-and-11 to keep the drive going, then took advantage of one of his patented free plays on a delayed 12-men-on-the-field penalty and hit Jordy Nelson for a 32-yard touchdown pass and a 14-6 lead with 17 seconds left in the quarter.
It was academic thereafter.
“We were obviously not great in the beginning,” Rodgers admitted. “But this was a really good performance for us. To have that much time of possession (was huge). Our defense — which we were all interested to see how they would all fit together with the new additions and some guys in different spots — played fantastic. Again, that was the key for us.
“We’ll get better. It’s a big win for us, a really good football team we played — a playoff-caliber team. It’s good to start off the season 1-0.”