During a speakerphone-call interview Sunday with reporters in anticipation of the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers season opener, Pack quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked what he remembered about the last game he played in Seattle.
“I remember,” said Rodgers, “the final score was in their favor.”
Rodgers can be forgiven for not wanting to dwell on Sept. 24, 2012, a night that proved pivotal on two fronts: Russell Wilson’s disputed touchdown throw to Golden Tate effectively not only ended the league’s labor stalemate with veteran officials, it gave early momentum to Pete Carroll’s first winning season in Seattle.
The rematch Thursday night finds both teams with altered identities. Stellar running back Eddie Lacy, who was playing for the University of Alabama in 2012, has replaced the long-forgotten Cedric Benson in the Green Bay backfield, giving Rodgers a sure-handed option unavailable to him two years ago.
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Lacy, by the way, has developed the blocking skills necessary to pick up a blitz. Obscured by the controversial finish of one of the wildest games ever seen by a Monday Night Football television audience were the Seahawks’ eight sacks of Rodgers … before halftime.
The Hawks, meanwhile, are quite more explosive behind Wilson, whose passing numbers that night — 10-for-21, for 130 yards — suggest Carroll’s inclination to minimize the role of a rookie quarterback making his third career start.
“We’re a totally different football team,” Hawks tight end Zach Miller said Sunday. “Russell Wilson obviously is a heck of a different player than he was then. So much more experience. So much more growth.
“The victory over the Packers was one of the stops along the way,” continued Miller. “But I think later in that season was our turning point, when Russell took command of the offense late in that game at Chicago.”
The Seahawks’ evolution into a quick-strike offense built to utilize Percy Harvin’s transcendent talent can be appreciated by the receivers Wilson targeted against the Packers: Aside from Tate and Sidney Rice, the Hawks were slogging along with the likes of Ben Obomanu, Charly Martin, Evan Moore and tight end Anthony McCoy.
Of the five players who caught a pass from Wilson on Sept. 24, 2011, only Miller remains on the roster. His recollections of the touchdown to Tate begin with the fact he didn’t see it.
“I was on the sideline,” Miller said. “It was a play we practiced a lot, designed to go to the back of the end zone and become a kind of jump-ball for the receiver. As the ball was in the air, a lot of people stepped onto the field and blocked my vision. Everybody was rubber-necking out there to check out what happened. I didn’t get a good look at the play until later that night, when I got home.”
The touchdown call, upheld in the replay booth, begat pandemonium and then chaos after both teams cleared the field, presuming the Seahawks had won 13-12, making the extra point moot.
It wasn’t. The extra-point, converted by Steven Hauschka, had significance as a potential playoff-fomula tiebreaker.
“I remember the confusion about the extra point,” said Miller. “Our guys went into the locker room after Green Bay ran off, and the officials brought everybody back just to kick the extra point.
“The night ended up working out because it was the replacement officials’ last week, and they got the real guys back real quick. So it was good for football that way.”
Rodgers seconded that emotion.
“Some of the refs thanked me for my comments after the game,” said Rodgers, who’d called the awarding of the simultaneous-possession catch to the Seahawks “awful.”
“But if that was the impetus for getting the official refs back on the job — if that had to happen for our refs to get paid the way the deserve to be paid — so be it,” he concluded.
As for Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, he’s busy preparing the Packers for the opener. Reflecting on the touchdown that accelerated a solution to a lockout, and helped propel the Seahawks toward the Super Bowl title they’d win the following season, is a waste of his time.
“It seems like it’s been a couple of years now,” McCarthy said. “We’re past it.”
Actually, Mike, it’s been 707 days since Wilson’s Holy Mary touchdown pass made CenturyLink Field wholly merry.
Not that anybody’s counting.