Packers know Seattle’s ’12th man’ all too well
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s been almost nine years since Julius Peppers played at Seattle in the 2005 season’s NFC championship game. It was a game that Peppers’ Carolina Panthers lost by 20 points, costing him a second chance at playing in the Super Bowl early in his career. But it’s not the missed opportunity that has stuck with Peppers for nearly the past decade.
"The main thing I remember from that game was that it was around the time when the 12th man thing was getting started," Peppers said. "It was already there, but the crowd was the main thing that I remember from that game. It was really loud in there."
That’s the type of benefit the Seahawks get in their home games. What happens at CenturyLink Field, which opened in 2002, has a significant impact on players when the crowd gets roaring. For it to stick with Peppers, who as a defensive player isn’t even on the field when it’s loud, speaks to the overall experience of playing there.
There was a lot that went wrong for the Green Bay Packers in their trip to Seattle in Week 1 this season. The defense gave up 207 yards rushing and Aaron Rodgers was statistically outperformed by Russell Wilson as the Seahawks won handily, 36-16.
A loss like that brings with it several lessons that can be learned and applied forward as the Packers get ready for Sunday’s rematch in the NFC championship game. But it’s the recent history of being in that stadium that might be the most important factor for Green Bay.
"I think the No. 1 thing is we know what the environment is about," Micah Hyde said. "We know what the crowd brings."
Hyde went on to mention Wilson’s intelligence as a quarterback, the toughness of Marshawn Lynch and a group of receivers that "work really hard." But it was the environment and the crowd that were first on Hyde’s mind, just like it was with Peppers.
Both as a result of having a very good roster as well as the home-field advantage created by the "12th man," the Seahawks have been almost unbeatable at home in recent years. With a record of 25-2 (playoffs included) since 2012, that’s a winning percentage of 92.6. Only the Dallas Cowboys (Week 6, 2014) and Arizona Cardinals (Week 16, 2013) have claimed road victories in Seattle since Wilson was drafted.
When the Packers last visited in early September for the regular-season opener, it was a special circumstance. The Seahawks were celebrating their Super Bowl XLVIII victory and had the traditional pregame festivities surrounding kickoff.
As right guard T.J. Lang pondered the crowd’s noise level for Sunday’s game, he said "it’s hard to imagine that crowd taking it to another level" than what it was at Week 1. While that game had plenty of excitement, hosting the NFC championship game should be enough for Seattle’s fans to at least match the intensity level from that night.
"No one likes the noise," Lang said. "They feed off the noise. We’re going to have to make sure we find ways to use that as energy for us, feed off the energy as well."
Head coach Mike McCarthy thought Green Bay handled the noise "very well" in Week 1. He brought up the three first-half timeouts that were called but described it as "boundary communication that was not very clean."
The offense has worked on non-verbal communication during the week, including for the snap count.
"As long as everyone is on the same page, we’ll be good," wide receiver Jordy Nelson said.
The Packers were not a great road team during the regular season, going 4-4 away from Lambeau Field. But it wasn’t always noise that got in the way of success. That was especially true in Green Bay’s Week 15 loss at Buffalo.
"Buffalo was our slip-up, but that wasn’t something that you would perceive as a road obstacle such as the fans or the environment or whatever," rookie center Corey Linsley said. "We had some mechanical errors in the offensive machine."
Rodgers was pretty much unstoppable in home games, throwing 25 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 133.2 passer rating. On the road, Rodgers had 13 touchdowns with five interceptions, giving him a 94.2 passer rating.
Only the Bills gave Rodgers a harder time this season than the Seahawks did. Rodgers’ 81.5 passer rating and 5.7 yards per pass attempt Week 1 in Seattle were his second-lowest outputs of 2014.
In order to achieve a different result this time at CenturyLink Field, Rodgers believes the keys are controlling the clock, converting first downs and not turning the ball over.
"All the things that you usually have to do on the road," Rodgers said. "It’s just a tad bit louder than most places."
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