The Seahawks won a championship with defense.
But their offense showed enough signs Thursday night that they’re going to be able to carry more of the load this season as teams try to adjust.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was his efficient best, as the Seahawks beat the Packers 36-16 to open the season.
But it was the variety of plays and playmakers that stood out, rather than any individual performance.
Their first touchdown was a work of art, a read-option pass for a touchdown that seemed cribbed straight out of Gus Malzahn’s Auburn playbook.
With Wilson going read-option, a look toward Marshawn Lynch is a dangerous thing, and when the Packers reacted to the fake, Ricardo Lockette was standing all alone for an easy score.
They’re also deploying Percy Harvin in multiple roles (get to know the words “jet sweep,” you’re going to hear them a lot), and his home run threat creates multiple problems. They only got one catch for 17 yards from him in the regular season a year ago, but he had 11 touches for 100 yards from scrimmage Thursday.
All that makes it easy to overlook tight end Zach Miller, who stood out as both a blocker and a frisbee-catching dog (with a one-handed grab downfield which might have been the play of the night).
With Wilson running the offense smartly, and Lynch running the ball so physically (ho-hum, 20 carries for 110 yards), and Harvin running just so fast, they might prove hard to stop.
They haven’t had to do so much because of the dominance of their defense, but they’re showing they can do more than just manage.
Here are five more things we learned during the Thursday night kickoff edition of Sunday Night Football:
1. Aaron Rodgers already has his Super Bowl ring and an MVP trophy.
But if he didn’t, he’d be getting a lot more scrutiny for some of his outbursts.
Barking at rookie center Corey Linsley in front of the world when he had to burn a timeout in the first half was a bad look for the Packers quarterback. Linsley, bless his heart, was thrown into a tough spot in his first game, unable to hear or imagine what was coming next. That doesn’t make his error excusable, but the reaction seemed over the top.
It’s not that the yelling was out of the ordinary, but it’s a great example of context in the NFL.
When Rodgers or Tom Brady does it, it’s competitiveness. When Jay Cutler does it, it’s a sign of immaturity. God forbid Cam Newton took the towel off his head and did the same.
If Rodgers really wanted to bark at someone, he might have chosen the folks who put together the game plan. He was throwing almost nothing but dump-offs (18 passes for 86 yards in the first half) when the game was competitive, and the circus that was a fourth-down attempt in the second half will be dissected for days.
2. Richard Sherman is going to get bored.
He stayed put on the left, and the Packers responded by just ignoring that side of the ball.
Eventually, that’s going to lead to plays like the interception Byron Maxwell made, but at some point, Sherman is going to have to do something, if only for fun.
3. Bobbling a first-half punt was a bad look for Seahawks safety/punt returner Earl Thomas. But there were other little signs that their approach to special teams might not be a prudent one.
Thomas apparently failed to make the “peter call” on a bouncing punt later, and it nearly bounced into one of his teammates for what was dangerously close to a Packers score.
Coupled with Harvin returning kickoffs (and not getting much out of them), and Sherman blocking a guy into Thomas on the fumble, it’s easy to question Pete Carroll’s allocation of resources.
Sure, the Seahawks were dealing with some injuries in the secondary (and those backups make up a big part of special teams everywhere). But they’re taking a big risk rolling so many stars out there, stars who don’t always get as many practice reps in the kicking game as you need to be good at it.
4. Packers Bryan Bulaga left the game in the first half to get his left knee looked at, and didn’t return.
That’s concerning because Bulaga blew the ACL in his left knee last year, but also because of what it leaves them with.
Derek Sherrod replaced him at right tackle, and struggled with speed rushes all night (most obviously on a strip-sack for a fumble in the third quarter which resulted in a safety).
The Packers are dealing with injuries up front, but Bulaga’s a consistent player, who won’t be easy to replace if his injury is serious.
5. The Packers appear to have found a competent pass-rush duo in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers (at least once Peppers learns to play on his feet).
But it’s all the other parts of their defense that should be a concern.
The Packers were routinely pushed around up front, and the early returns on that smaller, quicker defensive line were not good.
The Packers also rotated safeties Micah Hyde and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, and the first-rounder from Alabama had a rough night. He was left to suffer the highlight reels alone on the first Seahawks touchdown (thanks to Sam Shields biting hard on a run fake). He covers plenty of ground, but didn’t appear the sure tackler he was billed to be at Alabama.
The Seahawks gashed them for 221 yards in the first half alone, and when you couple a Matthews sack wiped out by a penalty and a few dropped interceptions, there were plenty of opportunities to make that number smaller.