Rested & ready, the playoff rivalry renews

The Big Game

No shortage of storylines going into Packers v Seahawks

SEATTLE, WA – JANUARY 18: Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks catches a 35 yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on January 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Long before the “Fail Mary” in 2012, or that colossal collapse in the 2014 championship game, the Packers and Seahawks had already built some solid roots in their rivalry, and it wasn’t because of animosity on the football field.

Normally an NFC team doesn’t generate a lot of animosity with another squad from the AFC, but that’s exactly what happened when Mike Holmgren left Green Bay for the greener pastures of the Pacific Northwest.

Following six straight trips to the postseason, the 1998 Packers campaign was the beginning of the end when it came to the dominance by Green Bay. And as flawed as the current replay system can be nowadays, if it was in play back then the history of football might’ve changed forever.

In a ’98 game against the 49ers, Jerry Rice clearly fumbled with under a minute to go in the divisional round of the playoffs, and when Bernardo Harris pounced on the football it appeared that Green Bay would be moving on the playoffs. Instead, the green and gold were one and done. San Francisco kept their drive alive and the game ended with a Terrell Owens walk-off touchdown catch in the end zone. Holmgren had been rumored to already have been talking to other teams about a more lucrative head-coaching position, and shortly after that pivotal moment, he signed with Seattle.

That move left a bitter taste with many loyal Cheeseheads, which was evident the next time the Seahawks came to Lambeau Field. The former Titletown coach was roundly booed just three years after helping deliver the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since the Lombardi era.

 Seattle moved from the AFC to the NFC in 2002 and that would ratchet up the rivalry in a hurry.  

The two foes met in 2013 during the regular season and the Packers dominated the second half of that game en route to a 35-13 victory.  They would square off again in the wildcard round battling it out to a 27-27 tie after four quarters of play.  Following an overtime coin flip, Seahawks QB and former Packers backup to Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, famously proclaimed, “We want the ball and we’re gonna score.”  

On the second Seattle drive, Al Harris’s pick-six was another walk-off winner, only this time it was in the Packers favor.  

16 years later it lives on not only in Packers history, but NFL lore.  It also put Green Bay in the divisional round where they faced Philadelphia, and that, of course, gave us all another iconic moment for all the wrong reasons with “4th and 26”. 

The two teams would battle it out during the regular season twice before facing each other for the second time in the postseason in 2007.  Mike McCarthy had resurrected the franchise in his second season as head coach. It was the first game of the divisional round and the game kicked off just after 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.  Packers RB Ryan Grant fumbled twice in the first four minutes of the contest.  Both of those turnovers ended up in touchdowns for Seattle and the Packers were down 14-0.  Then the snow started falling and with 72,000 plus fans on hand, Lambeau Field turned into a virtual snow globe.  Mike Sherman stuck with Grant and he responded in a big way running roughshod over the Seahawks.  When the final buzzer sounded, Grant ended up with 201 yards and 3 touchdowns, both franchise records for the Packers in the postseason.

Adding to the intrigue, De Pere native John Schneider interviewed for the open Seahawks’ general manager job in January of 2010.  From 1993-2009, Schneider had worked in the Packers organization in all but five seasons over that time span.  Pete Carroll was also brought in at the same time and the two built Seattle into a perennial power in the NFC winning a Super Bowl.  

In 2012, the personnel tandem made their biggest and most prosperous move by drafting Russell Wilson.  Schneider saw first-hand in Green Bay with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers how having a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback was vital to long-term success in the NFL.  At the time, the Seahawks already had both Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson on the roster, but the former Wisconsin Badger QB beat them both out for the starting job, and the rest is history.

Which brings us to the game that this 2019 team did not want to talk about: the 2014 season’s NFC Championship game. The Pack was coming off the heels of beating the Cowboys 26-21. You know the one…it was where Dez Bryant came down with the football near Green Bay’s goal line. Originally ruled a catch but overturned following a challenge from Mike McCarthy, the play more or less led to Green Bay making its second trip to Seattle that season…but with far more on the line.

It was Green Bay’s third NFC Championship Game appearance in eight years and the Packers marched deep into Seahawks territory but on 3rd down, Aaron Rodgers threw an ill-fated pass to the end zone that was picked off by Richard Sherman.  The Packers defense returned the favor but McCarthy’s team settled for three FG’s in the first half while building a 16-0 lead at the break.  The two teams traded haymakers and Seattle got on the board with a fake FG for a TD.

Green Bay was up 19-7 with 5:13 minutes left.  And then a sequence of events that will live in Packers infamy:

  • Morgan Burnett picks off Russell Wilson, but slides to the turf at the advice of Julius Peppers, instead of getting extra yards.
  • Three plays and out by the Packers offense.
  • Awful punt by Tim Masthay.
  • 69-yard drive capped off by a Wilson TD run. 19-14.
  • Onside kick. Brandon Bostick. Seahawks recover.
  • Marshawn Lynch TD. 20-19
  • Ridiculously athletic play by Wilson on the 2-point conversion pass to Luke Willson. 22-19
  • Rodgers and company deliver and set up Mason Crosby for a 48-yard field game-tying FG to force overtime.
  • Seattle wins the toss and the Packers never touch the football when Wilson finds Jermaine Kearse for walk-off game-winner 28-22.

There are plenty of great storylines going into the Packers’ matchup with the Seahawks. From the oldest head coach in the NFL Pete Carroll, to one of the youngest in Matt LaFleur. Two of the greatest QB’s in the game and the only ones with Super Bowl rings that are still playing football. The emergence of Aaron Jones versus the return of Marshawn Lynch. Green Bay’s secondary matching up with one of the most physically impressive WR’s in the NFL with D.K. Metcalf. The Smith brothers getting pressure and corraling Russell Wilson. And just who will emerge from the Packers WR group not named Davante Adams?

After a two year hiatus from the post-season, Green Bay will play their first playoff game Sunday since they walked off the field in Atlanta following the 2016 NFC Championship game.

The Packers were soundly beaten by the Falcons in a game they were down 31-0 just two minutes into the 3rd quarter.  This years club has a pair of losses against teams from the west coast that were more than lopsided, especially in San Franciso.

If the Packers want to get their 5th NFC title game since 2007, the road back to Northern California starts with beating Seattle on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

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