GREEN BAY—Sunday’s game in Baltimore is about many things to the Packers – facing the defending champions, trying to get above .500 for the first time this year, and starting the right way for what might be a month or more without defensive star Clay Matthews.
But one thing may rank above all of that – simply getting a win on the road.
“It’s been awhile,” veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “It’s been too long.”
Yes, it has. The Packers have lost four straight on the road since clinching the NFC North title at Chicago last December. They lost a chance at a first-round bye with a last-second defeat in Minnesota, saw their season end in the playoffs at San Francisco, lost the return trip to the Bay Area to open 2013 and then blew a 16-point, second-half lead in Cincinnati.
Mike McCarthy built a reputation early in his head-coaching career for having success on the road, and his Packers have had only one previous road losing streak this long. Green Bay lost five straight on the road in 2008 in finishing 6-10, McCarthy’s only sub-.500 campaign.
Interestingly, the only other time McCarthy’s Packers lost even three straight on the road came in 2010, right before the team promptly became road warriors in the playoffs with three straight wins to reach the Super Bowl.
The current rough road stretch actually dates back to the loss in Kansas City in Week 15 of 2011 that ended the Packers’ attempt at a perfect season.
Beginning with the playoff run the previous year, the road winning streak had reached 10 before visiting the Chiefs, but then the magic wore off. That trip began a dismal stretch during which Green Bay is just 4-8 in its last 12 road games. The frustrations have included the “Fail Mary” in Seattle and second-half meltdowns in Indianapolis, in the playoffs at San Francisco and three weeks ago in Cincy.
On the flip side, since that infamous Kansas City game, the Packers have gone 12-2 at home and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak at Lambeau Field.
“We’ve been winning, but not on the road,” Pickett said. “We have to get this win and we’ve got to get it going. We’ve been a good road team in the past, and we have to get that back.”
McCarthy said this week he doesn’t care where any given game is played, but he also acknowledged how uplifting a significant road win can be. Last year, the Packers used a big road win at previously unbeaten Houston in Week 6 – following consecutive road losses at Seattle and Indy – to jump start their run to the division title.
With all three NFC North road trips remaining on this year’s schedule, the time to turn around the road woes is now.
There’s some history to overcome in this particular matchup with the Ravens, however.
First and foremost, Baltimore under John Harbaugh is a perfect 10-0 at home against NFC opponents. The streak actually pre-dates Harbaugh and is at 13 straight, with Carolina the last NFC team to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, back in 2006.
Second, the Packers don’t have the most impressive track record when facing the defending Super Bowl champions the year after their title.
McCarthy is 0-2, having lost to Pittsburgh in 2009 and the New York Giants last year, and the franchise as a whole is just 6-15 in the regular season (7-17 including playoff matchups).
Some of those wins are among the most memorable in team history. There was the 48-47 Monday night shootout over Washington in 1983 at Lambeau and the 27-17 road upset of the 49ers in the 1995 playoffs.
Just a decade ago, the Packers also finished a three-year streak of knocking off the defending champions when they beat Tampa Bay in 2003. That followed wins over the Patriots in 2002 and the, ahem, Ravens in 2001.
“We need to go get a road win,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “It’ll be a tough stadium to play in. It’ll be a good team to go against, and we need to get a good win on the road and keep the momentum.”
For all of your Packers-Ravens preview headlines, go to the Game Center.