GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A marquee season opener between two NFC heavyweights turned into a defensive slugfest.
The Green Bay Packers — not the menacing Seattle Seahawks — landed the momentum-swinging punch.
Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels’ strip sack of Russell Wilson deep in Seattle territory in the third quarter set up Ty Montgomery’s 6-yard touchdown run on the next play to spark the Packers’ 17-9 win on Sunday.
“This really started with our defense,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “It starts on the line of scrimmage. We were in the backfield a bunch.”
The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was 28 of 42 for 311 yards and added a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it an eight-point game late in the third quarter. The Packers went deep to his favorite receiver on a free play that was extended after Seattle was flagged for having too many men on the field.
Rodgers’ regular-season streak of passes without an interception ended at a career-high 251. The Seahawks defense reinforced by the return of safety Earl Thomas bottled up receivers from making many big plays and put plenty of pressure on Rodgers.
But the Packers started denting Seattle with runs or quick passes to Nelson, Randall Cobb and Montgomery in the second half, chewing up clock in the process. A 12-play, 53-yard drive that took up more than five minutes ended with Mason Crosby’s 40-yard field goal with 8:01 left to make it a two-score game.
Green Bay’s defense had an even better debut, especially considering how maligned the Packers were against the pass last season.
Seattle managed just three field goals. Wilson was held to 14 of 27 for 158 yards. The Packers held decisive edges in total yardage (370-225) and first downs (26-12). Green Bay held the ball for 39 minutes.
Falcons 23, Bears 17
CHICAGO (AP) — Matt Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and led two fourth-quarter scoring drives, and the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Chicago Bears 23-17 in the season opener on Sunday.
The butt of jokes following their epic Super Bowl collapse against New England, the Falcons survived as the Bears missed several chances to score a touchdown in the final seconds.
The Bears had a first down at the Atlanta 5 in the closing minute. Glennon’s pass to a lunging Josh Bellamy on first down hit off the receiver’s hands, and Jordan Howard then dropped a simple catch at the 1.
After another incompletion on third down, Glennon got sacked by Brooks Reed to end the drive.
Atlanta was clinging to a 13-10 lead early in the fourth when a scrambling Ryan fired to a wide-open Hooper near midfield.
The second-year tight end from Stanfordraced up the right side and stiff-armed Quintin Demps on the way to the end zone to make it a 10-point game.
The Bears then went 75 yards, with Glennon hitting rookie Tarik Cohen for a 19-yard TD midway through the fourth to cut it to 20-17. Atlanta’s Matt Bryant answered with a 37-yard field goal, making it 23-17 with 3:24 left.
Cowboys 19, Giants 3
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jason Witten scored the only touchdown while breaking the franchise record for yards receiving and the Dallas defense shackled a New York offense missing Odell Beckham Jr. in the Cowboys’ 19-3 season-opening victory over the Giants on Sunday night.
Ezekiel Elliott had a rugged 104 yards rushing and another 36 receiving two days after a judge halted his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case, although last year’s NFL rushing leader had already been cleared to play the opener.
Dak Prescott was turnover-free while throwing for 268 yards as the Cowboys dominated the NFC East rival that swept them during a 13-3 season that topped the NFC and was fueled by the sensational rookie years for the quarterback-running back duo. Dan Bailey kicked four field goals.
Eli Manning didn’t have Beckham in his 200th straight start after his dynamic top target sprained his ankle in a preseason game.
The Giants were outgained in the first half 265-49 while falling behind 16-0.
Manning was 28-of-37 for 211 yards with an interception and connected with new receiver Brandon Marshall just once, late on a desperation drive with the outcome already settled.
Witten scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown on a 12-yard catch and finished with seven catches for 59, breaking Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s club record of 11,904 yards. Witten, already the franchise leader in catches, now has 1,096 receptions for 11,947 yards.