The Pack is returning to Seattle for a berth in the Super Bowl.
And the chips on the shoulders of both teams’ players sound as big as the stakes.
Green Bay’s rally from 21-13 down in the third quarter at home to beat Dallas 26-21 on Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game means the Seahawks will host the Packers for the NFC Championship game this coming Sunday at noon.
“We’re going to crank it up,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in the wake of Seattle beating Carolina 31-17 on Saturday night, ensuring the second conference title game at CenturyLink Field the past two seasons.
“It’s going to be one for the ages,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “And I definitely look forward to playing at home.”
It’s a rematch of the first game of the NFL season, Sept. 4, in Seattle. The Seahawks had a 17-10 lead at halftime and won 36-16 in what was the Seahawks’ most complete game until December. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Wilson completed 19 of 28 passes for 191 yards and touchdowns to Ricardo Lockette and fullback Derrick Coleman, who is now on injured reserve.
Seattle won’t have its No. 3 wide receiver for this one. The Seahawks confirmed Sunday night rookie Paul Richardson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee Saturday. He will be out at least well into 2015. Fox Sports reported it’s the same knee on which the second-round draft pick had surgery while playing collegiately at Colorado.
“I’ll be back again! #DontBlink!” Richardson tweeted Sunday.
That was about the time the Packers were already focusing on the Seahawks.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Packers tight end Andrew Quarless said at Lambeau Field following his first career postseason touchdown. “It’s definitely going to be great to get a second chance at them.”
Seattle has won seven consecutive games. Green Bay has won eight of its past nine.
“Little different now (than opening night),” Packers receiver Davante Adams, who scored a touchdown in the third quarter to help beat Dallas, said after the game. “We’ve got a head of steam. We’re going to go out there to take care of business.”
The Seahawks took care of theirs Saturday against Carolina. Specifically, Seattle’s oft-criticized wide receivers did.
Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Richardson and Ricardo Lockette combined for eight of Seattle’s 15 catches for 194 of Wilson’s 268 yards passing and two of his three touchdown throws. Kearse, a Lakes High and University of Washington grad, set a career high with 129 yards receiving. That included a 63-yard reception for a score — the longest touchdown pass in Seahawks’ postseason history.
Baldwin hasn’t forgotten national commentators such as ESPN’s Cris Carter saying before this past season’s Super Bowl that the Seahawks’ receivers are “pedestrian” and mere “appetizers” compared to the prime entrees other teams have.
“We don’t really care what our critics say,” Baldwin said. “We just enjoy proving them wrong — and also proving ourselves right. We may go out to Applebee’s tonight and get us some ‘appetizers’ on the menu, you know.”
The health and mobility of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be a storyline all this week. He was limping noticeably throughout Sunday’s game with a calf injury that will take two months to fully heal.
Whatever Rodgers did at halftime worked; he looked like a different quarterback from first half to second. Rodgers was 9 for 15 passing for 90 yards in the first half, after which Green Bay trailed Dallas 14-10. He was 15 for 20 for 226 yards in the second half, with two his three touchdown throws.
“I think I have 120 more minutes left in me,” Rodgers said — meaning not only Sunday’s rematch in Seattle, but the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1.
Rodgers did not target Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman once in 36 drop backs in that meeting on Sept. 4. He finished that game 23 of 33 for 189 yards, a touchdown pass and an interception. His passer rating of 81.5 on that night is the second-lowest for him this season. Rodgers was sacked once by defensive end Cliff Avril and twice by defensive end Michael Bennett.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy later said he made a mistake in having an offensive game plan that wasn’t more aggressive with Sherman and the Seahawks’ defense.
“You’ve got to be efficient because (the Seahawks) take away just about everything you’d like to do,” Rodgers said Sunday. “It’s a great defense. They’ve got Pro-Bowlers all over the place. They’re well coached. Not an intricate scheme, but it doesn’t have to be when you’ve got those kinds of weapons.”
Seattle is 25-2 in its past 27 home games. Wilson is 17-3 in his career in December, January and February, including going 5-1 with nine touchdown throws and just one interception in the playoffs.
Rodgers is 6-4 in his postseason career, with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
“We’ve got guys who are capable of playing at a high level, and we’re going to go out there fully believing that we’re going to go out there and win,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Obviously it’s been a tough deal with guys going into Seattle and winning, but we’re not buying into that. We gotta go out there and play.”
Richardson was hurt in the third quarter on Saturday. One play after he had a 21-yard catch, he got tangled with Carolina cornerback Bene Benwikere trying to catch a pass near the goal line. Richardson had 29 catches on 43 targets during the regular season with one touchdown. Rookie receiver Kevin Norwood was inactive against Carolina but is likely to be active against Green Bay, with Lockette moving up in the receiving rotation. ... The News Tribune’s Don Ruiz is in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and will be filing from the Packers’ perspective all this week.