How long ago was the Seattle Seahawks’ season-opening win against the Green Bay Packers?
Well, back then long-since-gone Percy Harvin was Seattle’s leading receiver and second-leading rusher.
Still, the Packers clearly remember the disappointment of the NFL season-opening 36-16 loss they suffered at CenturyLink Field way back on Sept. 4. And they believe what they went through that night can be useful in their NFC Championship Game rematch Sunday.
“Anytime you have an experience to draw from, you have to do that,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “The opportunity to play in Seattle on Week One brought a lot of experience, a number of different things. The video will show you some of the same matchups that will occur come Sunday. The opportunity to play in that stadium for the first time — particularly your young players — the surface, all those things are important.”
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McCarthy spoke Monday afternoon, one day after his Packers advanced with a 26-21 home win over the Dallas Cowboys. And the coach said he spent Monday morning watching film of that previous game with the Seahawks.
“There were some really good things that we did in that game,” he said. “I think there were some pivotal plays early that you wish you had a different result or things that we could have controlled ourselves that we could have done better.”
McCarthy targeted a sequence late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. The Packers were trailing 20-10, but felt competitive and had possession at their own 10-yard line. Aaron Rodgers was in the shotgun when Seattle’s Michael Bennett broke through and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Packers tackle Derek Sherrod in the end zone for a safety. Down an additional two points, Green Bay punted, the Seahawks scored again, and suddenly the margin was 29-10.
“I think that’s when the game got away from us,” McCarthy said.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards with two touchdowns. Harvin led Seattle with seven catches for 59 yards while also carrying four times for 41 yards.
Harvin was traded to the New York Jets in mid-October. That move admittedly pleases Green Bay special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. But the Packers also note that Wilson, Lynch and plenty of other weapons remain in Seattle.
“Percy is a dynamic player,” McCarthy said. “We’ve seen a lot of Harvin over the years. But that’s really not what we’re focused on. … They’re still a dynamic offense. I think Russell is playing outstanding, and Marshawn is still running the ball like he always has. This will be a big challenge for our defense.”
So, citing no indication that Seattle has regressed, the Packers believe they have gotten better.
They followed that opening loss with a win over the Jets and a loss at Detroit. But after losing two of their first three, the Packers went on to lose only two of their next 14. One of those losses came Dec. 14 at Buffalo, but they haven’t lost since.
The Packers especially point to rookie wide receiver Davante Adams and rookie tight end Richard Rodgers as players who have grown since their professional debuts in Seattle. Each had touchdown catches Sunday against the Cowboys.
“I think this team from Week 1 has grown up,” tight end Andrew Quarless said. “I don’t think it’s the same team. But probably (the Seahawks) too: I’m sure they’ve gotten better. But to see the growth and the resilience of this team throughout the whole season is a positive. “
The Packers also seem to like the idea of reversing an earlier result, and the challenge of dethroning a reigning champion.
“There wouldn’t be a better way to go,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who had a game-high nine catches in the opener at Seattle. “Obviously, it would be great to have home field. But to go and play the defending Super Bowl champions at their place, and to have that opportunity to knock them off: It’s a great opportunity. If we’re able to go do that and head to (Super Bowl XLIX in) Arizona, you can’t ask for a better way.”
The Packers returned to practice in good health. No new injuries were reported after the Dallas game, and McCarthy said quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) felt better at the start of this week than he had at the start of the previous week. … The Packers have decided to change their usual travel schedule and fly into Seattle on Friday, a day earlier than usual. Then they will practice at the Seahawks facility in Renton on Saturday. “We evaluate every schedule, every practice,” McCarthy said. “We’re always looking to try to get better.”