The Seattle Seahawks have in the previous two Super Bowl seasons had the complete team to win — despite bushels of penalties and periodic losses of poise.
This, however, is far from a complete team.
Seattle’s flags directly contributed to 17 of Green Bay’s first 24 points, including those that put the Seahawks in a 10-point hole almost as quickly as one can say “Kam Chancellor holdout.”
And Russell Wilson’s decisive interception, while trying to throw a screen pass to Marshawn Lynch in Seattle territory with seven minutes left, gifted the Packers their final points in the Seahawks’ 27-17 loss Sunday night at roaring Lambeau Field.
Coach Pete Carroll said the mental side of the game is what his Seahawks had to improve following their overtime loss last week at St. Louis.
Instead, it in many ways got worse.
The Seahawks committed six penalties for 92 yards — with boneheaded ones such as Michael Bennett being offsides three times. Green Bay declined four other Seattle fouls on what were essentially free plays.
That and Wilson’s second interception of the season after he had rallied them with his running into a 17-13 lead in the third quarter are why the Seahawks will enter next week’s game against Chicago (0-2) at 0-2 for the third time in a dozen seasons and for the first time since 2011.
Wilson was 19 for 30 for 206 yards passing, with two touchdowns, an interception and two sacks. He had 10 runs for another 78 yards, 65 of which came after halftime.
With Seattle trailing 24-17, Wilson was trying to look off Green Bay’s defense to his left to throw a screen pass to Lynch to the right. But Green Bay’s Jayrone Elliott peeled back upfield off a block and intercepted the ball with one arm at the Seattle 42.
Seattle unraveled some at that point, with linebacker K.J. Wright getting ejected following the next play for throwing a Packers player to the ground by his face mask. On third down following a timeout, Aaron Rodgers completed a pass to the Seattle 8 to Ty Montgomery, crossing ahead of nickel back Marcus Burley, with 4 minutes to go.
Wilson rushed for the first time this season on a read-option keeper, but ran hardly at all otherwise in the first half. But in the third quarter, Wilson kept the ball on his exchanges with Lynch (41 yards on 15 rushes), and began gaining yards on bootleg runs and passes on the move. That changed Seattle’s offense — and the game.
Behind Wilson’s legs, the Seahawks scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 17-13 lead. Wilson looked at new tight end Jimmy Graham, running a decoy route into the right flat, to deflect the Packers’ attention from Fred Jackson. The running back, signed after Buffalo released him last month, caught the 5-yard pass for his first Seattle touchdown.
As the Seahawks defense began resembling their top-rated form of the previous two, Super Bowl seasons for the first time this season — especially $43 million, All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner — the offense seized the lead with Wilson’s 13-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, who behaved himself in the back of the end zone after his first score of this season.
Seattle led 17-13 with 7 minutes left in the third quarter, and Lambeau Field’s regular-season record crowd of 78,433 was suddenly so quiet one could hear a cheese curd drop.
The Seahawks trailed 13-3 at halftime — with all of Green Bay’s points the direct result of Seattle’s penalties.
Even the “12th Man” haunted the Seahawks.
On the game’s opening drive, the Seahawks thought they had a three-and-out after Rodgers threw incomplete deep on third-and-1. But the Packers challenged after coaches in the press box noticed Frank Clark was the extra 12th Seahawks’ defender illegally on the field. Upon video review referee Gene Steratore concurred and assessed a 5-yard penalty. That extended Green Bay’s drive.
On the next play, Bennett jumped offsides. That flag gave Rodgers (25 for 33 for 249 yards passing and two touchdowns) a free play and emboldened him to throw deep over the middle to Randall Cobb without fear of an interception, since the penalty on Bennett would negate one. Cobb made the catch for 22 yards to the Seattle 44 in front of DeShawn Shead, who was replacing Dion Bailey as the starter filling in for holdout Chancellor at strong safety.
With Rodgers using enticing, voice-inflected snap counts, Bennett jumped offsides again on Green Bay’s second down at the Seahawks 29. Rodgers turned that free play into his first test of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. It worked for a 29-yard touchdown pass to James Jones.
The Seahawks set up Green Bay for its 10-0 lead when Kevin Pierre-Louis got caught holding on the return of the ensuing kickoff by rookie Tyler Lockett to the Seattle 20. The drive started at the 10, and a three-and-out on Seattle’s first offensive drive forced Jon Ryan to punt from his own end zone. The Packers started their second drive at the Seahawks 45 and needed just a 7-yard drive for Mason Crosby’s 54-yard field goal.
The Seahawks settled the game somewhat with Wilson’s 32-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on third down to midfield. That drive ended with Wilson ignoring tight end Jimmy Graham, open on an out route to the line, on third-and-3. Wilson looked only to the opposite, right side and threw incomplete to a covered Luke Willson in the slot. Steven Hauschka kicked the consolation field goal to cut Green Bay’s lead to 10-3.
Graham had no catches and just one, overthrown target in the first 33 minutes. The Seahawks’ early scheme Sunday, after St. Louis ransacked them with pressure the previous week, asked Graham to stay in more to “chip” pass rushers before he released late on routes.
Graham finished with one catch in two targets for 11 yards.