The Green Bay Packers have had eight months to think about a bitter loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
They’ve waited even longer to get the defending conference champs on their home turf.
The scene now shifts to Lambeau Field as the two powerhouses resume their budding rivalry with a prime-time Sunday night showdown that highlights Week 2.
Green Bay appeared well on its way to Super Bowl XLIX after owning a 19-7 lead over the Seahawks with under three minutes remaining in last season’s NFC title game. But Seattle scored two late touchdowns, the last spurred by an onside kick that slipped through the hands of the Packers’ Brandon Bostick, to force overtime and ultimately rallied for a thrilling 28-22 win on Russell Wilson’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.
It was the third straight painful defeat for the Packers at CenturyLink Field, the first a 14-12 loss in 2012 on Wilson’s controversial "Fail Mary" heave to Golden Tate in the final seconds that prompted the NFL to settle its labor dispute with its regular game officials.
Green Bay is banking on a different outcome at Lambeau Field, where it went 9-0 including the playoffs last season and has beaten the Seahawks five straight times, the most recent a 48-10 rout in 2009.
The Packers, coming off a 31-23 season-opening win at Chicago behind reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers’ three touchdown passes, insist Sunday’s rematch isn’t about revenge.
"We’re focusing on going 2-0, winning our first home game," coach Mike McCarthy stated. "Everything we’re doing, we’re focusing on winning this football game."
"It’s pretty much past us," defensive back Micah Hyde added of the playoff loss. "It’s a different team that we have (this season)."
Seattle won’t be caught up in the hype either, as it has more pressing matters after its 34-31 overtime loss at St. Louis in Week 1. Among those concerns is shoring up a usually airtight pass defense that permitted a league-high eight plays of 20 or more yards to the Rams, including Lance Kendricks’ 37-yard touchdown catch that forged a 31-all tie with 53 seconds left in regulation.
”It was a little bit of everything,” coach Pete Carroll said. ”They didn’t get after us outside and deep on deep balls. They didn’t get behind (safety) Earl (Thomas). They just got in-between us and around us and did a nice job with it. It’s just how it happens."
Nick Foles threw for 297 yards against a secondary that won’t have Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor for a second straight week due to his ongoing holdout.
The task won’t be any easier this week, as Rodgers wasn’t intercepted at home last season and averaged 294.4 yards with 28 TDs in the nine victories.
Rodgers did throw three interceptions and averaged a pedestrian 5.6 yards per attempt in two 2014 meetings with Seattle, the first a 36-16 Week 1 loss. Seattle also held Eddie Lacy to 3.2 yards per carry and won’t have to deal with Jordy Nelson with the big-play wide receiver out with a torn ACL.
Nelson’s absence wasn’t felt against the Bears, though, with the re-acquired James Jones recording four catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
Green Bay will be without veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga, however, after he injured his left knee in practice on Thursday. Bulaga, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, sat out the entire 2013 season because of a torn ACL in the same left knee.
Another big issue for the Packers resides with a defense that was gashed for 189 rushing yards by Chicago and lost signal-caller Sam Barrington to a season-ending foot injury.
”We were in double-digits missed tackles. That does not cut it,” McCarthy said.
Green Bay is expected to have safety Morgan Burnett, last season’s leading tackler, back after missing last week with a calf injury. His addition will be welcomed as the Packers try to slow down Marshawn Lynch, who followed up a 110-yard, two-touchdown effort in last year’s opener by rushing for 157 yards on 25 carries in the NFC Championship.
Wilson was able to overcome four interceptions in the conference title game but had another uneven performance last week, completing 32 of 41 throws for 251 yards with a touchdown and an interception while sacked six times. The offensive line also was beat on a game-ending 4th-and-1 play in which Lynch was stuffed for a loss.
"They won the line of scrimmage on that play and did a nice job attacking us,” Carroll said. "We just weren’t able to get the crease that we needed."
Jimmy Graham finished with six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in his Seahawks debut and has been a matchup problem for Green Bay in the past, averaging 63.7 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns in three meetings with New Orleans.