Extra Points: On second thought, Packers are no contender

Published 09/05 2014 11:10AM

Updated 09/05 2014 11:10AM

(SportsNetwork.com) - It's time for the Green Bay Packers to reevaluate their goals.

The NFC North certainly remains in play but any talk of the Packers being legitimate Super Bowl contenders with a healthy Aaron Rodgers under center is just lip service.

You never want to get too high after a win or too low following a setback but the early returns on the Pack were hardly promising. Green Bay was systematically taken apart by the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, 36-16, in the kick off to the 2014 NFL season on Thursday night.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns for the defending champions and the battle in the trenches heavily favored the Seahawks, who gained 207 yards on the ground to Green Bay's 80.

"I'm mostly fired up that we ran the ball for over 200 yards," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said.

Percy Harvin was a focal point of Seattle's offense, catching seven passes for 59 yards and running four times for 41 yards, while Russell Wilson passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Rodgers took very few chances downfield and tossed for just 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

"They're a great defense," Rodgers said. "You've got to make the most of your opportunities. Got to score more points."

Adding injury to insult, running back and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy underwent evaluation for a concussion following the game. Lacy was limited to 34 yards on 12 carries.

So where do we start?

It was a logical loss for the Packers so that wasn't the issue. After all, no one wins at CenturyLink Field but the way the Green Bay played was more than troubling and highlighted some familiar problems, along with some fresh ones that were perhaps even more troubling because they came from areas of perceived strength.

The fact that the Pack's defense resembled a hot mess should have been no surprise to anyone. Green Bay has been trending the wrong way on that side of the ball for a number of years now with veteran defensive coordinator Dom Capers looking like a coach behind the innovation curve in recent seasons.

The two big offseason moves to bolster things were bringing in veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers to complement Clay Matthews on the edge, and drafting rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who should eventually end up being a significant upgrade on the back end once he learns to tackle at the NFL level.

The Peppers signing was downright illogical and borderline desperate. Expecting a player in his mid-30s who has always played with his hand in the dirt to excel in space is the very definition of pounding the square peg in the round hole.

Meanwhile, the fact that Clinton-Dix has been behind a pedestrian player like Micah Hyde throughout the preseason tells you just how steep the learning curve has been for him thus far.

The overmatched Green Bay defensive front was on skates most of the night against the Seahawks, turning James Carpenter into a reasonable facsimile of John Hannah.

In fact, it's becoming very clear just how much this team will be missing its only plus-player on the defensive line, nose tackle B.J. Raji. The Packers play Minnesota twice a year so they should've understood Letroy Guion is barely serviceable as a three-technique but on the nose, he's a disaster, meaning rookie free agent Mike Pennel, who didn't even dress on Thursday, better catch on quick.

Heck, even Matthews was a concern, looking as spry and disruptive as ever when going straight ahead on the pass rush but again flashing a frustrating, undisciplined style of play in which he runs himself out of the action at times.

That's usually not an issue when Matthews is playing against a stationary target at the quarterback position but when Russell Wilson or Colin Kaeperncik show up, the Packers' lone star on defense turns into a major liability.

The offensive line was no better and general manager Ted Thompson's inability to draft upper echelon blockers was on display again as his painfully thin unit was exposed badly after right tackle Bryan Bulaga reinjured his left knee early in the second quarter.

Derek Sherrod, playing in just his second regular-season since 2011, replaced Bulaga, who is no great shakes himself, and gave up two sacks and countless hurries.

"It changed a couple things," coach Mike McCarthy admitted. "We flipped our plan based on what they were doing. We got caught a couple times in some uphill situations as how the protection was set. Hey, that's football."

That cavalier attitude might have been acceptable from McCarthy but changing things to protect an awful player like Sherrod, a former first-round pick by the way, hardly explained why the highly-regarded Green Bay coach treated Richard Sherman, admittedly the best cornerback in football, like he was some kind of advanced cyborg incapable of flawed play.

McCarthy's insistence on staying away from Sherman made his offense predictable by the second quarter after it was painfully obvious the coach had no interest in targeting the All-Pro and Rodgers was going to acquiesce.

It was not only an example of too much respect, it offered a glimpse into the Packers' psyche.

This team doesn't believe it belongs.

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