GREEN BAY – Home field has meant a lot in the recent history of the Packers-Seahawks series.
Will it mean anything on Sunday? Green Bay certainly hopes so.
The previous five meetings between head coaches Mike McCarthy and Pete Carroll have been won by the home team.
Going back further, to 2003, only once in the last 12 Packers-Seahawks contests has the road team prevailed. That was when Green Bay won at Seattle in 2008, the last time neither team was relevant in the NFC playoff picture.
Of course, the home team’s run includes the 2012 “Fail Mary” game and the 2014 NFC title tilt, both in Seattle and games the Packers feel they did/should’ve won. So take that for what it’s worth.
Or, as McCarthy said this week, “Every game is different, every year is different.” Very true.
In any case, home-field success has been a hallmark of both of these Super Bowl-winning coaches. McCarthy emphasized re-establishing the Packers’ advantage at Lambeau Field from his first season in 2006, and Carroll provided a re-birth of CenturyLink Field’s reputation (started under former Packers coach Mike Holmgren) when he assumed the reins in 2010.
In examining the numbers, it’s astonishing how similar they are. Looking strictly at the coaches’ records since 2010, when they’ve been in the league together, McCarthy has a home record, including playoffs, of 48-12-1, a .795 winning percentage. Carroll’s mark is 49-13, just a few points behind at .790.
It’s no coincidence both of these teams have been in the playoffs every year in that stretch except 2011, when Seattle did not qualify.
“It’s been very important,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of success at home. “They’re a tough team in general, and they’re extremely tough at home, and we feel like we’re the same way. We’re a tough team to beat at home. It’ll be another test for us, a good start to the season.”
The question that’s impossible to answer right now is just how important this game will end up being in the grand scheme of things.
Will it decide the location of a potential playoff rematch? Will it determine who gets a playoff bye in January and who doesn’t?
“Every game could be looked at in that way,” Rodgers said. “When you start the season in training camp, I’m sure 32 teams are talking about winning the Super Bowl. That’s not really the case. There’s not that many teams that have those squads that can do it.
“Us and Seattle are usually in the mix. They have been, and we have been, for a long time. You know it’s going to be two teams that expect to be there in the end.”
Back in 2014, the Seahawks’ home win in the NFL Kickoff Opener coming off their Super Bowl title wound up giving them the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the Packers the No. 2, when both teams finished 12-4. It became the tiebreaker that sent the Packers out west for the NFC Championship Game.
Of course, Green Bay would lament its frustrating Week 15 loss at Buffalo that year for bringing the tiebreaker into play. But then, Seattle would have felt the same about its two-point loss at midseason to sub-.500 St. Louis had the shoe been on the other foot.
That’s how the NFL goes, and why games such as these can have significant implications.
“Week 1 is always the unknown,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “You never know. You learn a lot in this week. It’s exciting to get started again and actually start playing games and keeping track of wins and losses.”
Strangely, this is the first time in the last five years the Packers have opened a season at home. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels actually remembered that he had opened at Lambeau just once in his career so far, as a rookie in 2012.
That year, the Packers lost to San Francisco. And where did the end the season? In the playoffs, at San Francisco.
Which makes this an opportunity the Packers shouldn’t let slip away, especially with a road trip to defending NFC champion Atlanta, to open a new stadium, looming next week.
But that’s next week. This week it’s up to the Packers to hold serve at home, and get the season started right.
“Our home crowd, hopefully they get it rocking as loud as they want to be on Sunday,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to help our defense out.”
It could help out a few months down the road, too.