Packers happy to get ‘second chance’ vs. Seahawks
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s been more than four months since the Packers and Seahawks kicked off the NFL regular season against each other in Seattle. Since then, not only did the other 30 teams play their first games of the season, but 28 of those 30 are now in offseason mode.
On the night of Sept. 4, 2014, Green Bay couldn’t keep up with the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Seattle rushed for 207 yards, Richard Sherman took away the entire right side of the field and Russell Wilson outperformed Aaron Rodgers in nearly every statistical category as the Packers lost, 36-16.
On the flight back to Green Bay, many on the team figured it was likely going to require a trip back to Seattle in mid-January for the Packers to have a chance at representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. As both teams went 12-4 in the regular season and won their respective divisional-round matchups, the rematch at CenturyLink Field went from idea to reality.
"We had that feeling," tight end Andrew Quarless said. "We knew they’re a good team, and it was definitely a possibility that we were going to see them again. I’m glad we’re able to. A lot of times you don’t get that second chance."
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson felt back in early September there was "a strong chance" of seeing the Seahawks again in the postseason.
"You knew they’d win some games and put themselves in a situation to have home-field advantage," Nelson said. "Obviously we were in a situation to have it as well but didn’t take care of business. When you’re seeing a defending Super Bowl champ, most likely it’s going to go through them to get back to it."
After struggling offensively in Week 1, Green Bay went on to lead the league in scoring. And while Seattle had an early-to-midseason lull by losing three of its five games after beating the Packers, the Seahawks are currently on a seven-game winning streak. Seattle also proved that its strong defensive performance against Green Bay wasn’t a fluke, finishing No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed.
The Packers are just hoping that the improvements they’ve made are not only greater than the improvements the Seahawks have made, but also that there’s been significant enough change to turn a 20-point loss into an NFC Championship win.
"It’s been a lot of games, a lot of weeks that have passed," Quarless said. "I think this team from Week 1 has grown a lot. We’re definitely looking forward to it. I don’t think it’s the same team. But probably them, too. I’m sure they’ve gotten better. But just to see the growth and the resilience of this team throughout the whole season is positive."
Head coach Mike McCarthy watched the film Monday morning of the first game between these two teams. Though the final score didn’t look pretty, McCarthy wasn’t disheartened with what he saw.
"There’s some really good things that we did in that game," McCarthy said. "There were some pivotal plays early that you wish you had a different result of the things we could have controlled ourselves that we could have done better."
McCarthy specifically referenced a decision to go for it on fourth down midway through the third quarter that resulted in Rodgers getting sacked.
"I think that’s when the game got away from us," McCarthy said.
Nelson brought up the interception — one of the five Rodgers threw all season — and the safety, both of which also happened in the third quarter.
"It really snowballed on us quick," Nelson said. "It really just blew up right there in the third quarter. First half we were good, close game, made some plays. Fourth quarter we made some plays. But that third quarter really hurt us."
Maybe the outcome was simply the result of three critical plays in the third quarter, all of which went Seattle’s way. But, if Green Bay is able to go into the Seahawks’ house this time and win, it would be a significant upset.
The Packers are 7.5-point underdogs in this game, according to Bovada. It’s the most points that one of Green Bay’s opponents has been favored in a playoff game since Jan. 20, 2002. On that day, the St. Louis Rams won by a lot more than the 11 points expected, beating the Packers 45-17.
"If you’re shocked that we’re an underdog, I don’t know why you’d be that way," Nelson said. "We’re going on the road to the defending Super Bowl champs. It doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t matter if you’re underdog or favored. You have to go out and play the game."
Green Bay was the underdog in each of its past two postseason exits, both to San Francisco. But the 49ers were only three-point favorites.
Underdog or favorite, none of that enters the minds of Packers players.
"It’s the top best teams in the conference," right guard T.J. Lang said. "We expect to win, they expect to win. That’s what it comes down to. You never want to go in thinking, ‘We’re not favored, let’s just go give it our all.’ We go out there expecting to win every game we play.
"Whatever the underdog is, we don’t really play that card. We go out there (and) we have confidence in what we do. We feel like any team we play, as long as we play to our identity, we have a good chance of winning."
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