Neither Aaron Rodgers nor Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy would bite this week when reporters, in a roundabout way, asked both if Sunday night’s Packers-Seahawks showdown at Lambeau Field held any special significance given Seattle’s three consecutive wins in the series, two of them about as improbable as outcomes can get.
“There’s not a lot of motivation there for us,” insisted McCarthy, whose response failed all known tests, including taste, smell and touch. “We’re focusing on going 2-0 and winning our first home game. That’s all we’re doing, focusing on winning a game.”
Taking McCarthy at his word is almost an insult to human nature. The Packers, and especially Rodgers, are surely aching to pay back the Seahawks for three of the most brutal losses in recent Green Bay history.
In the “Fail Mary” Monday night game (Sept. 24, 2012), Rodgers and the Packers held a 12-7 lead and needed only to keep the Seahawks from scoring a touchdown on their final offensive play. And they did. But Russell Wilson’s end zone throw to Golden Tate was ruled complete by a replacement official and the Packers left with a 14-12 defeat. Rodgers threw for a mere 178 yards. Two picks more than offset his one touchdown.
In Seattle’s 36-16 victory to launch the 2014 season, Rodgers finished way below par: 189 yards, one TD, one pick. That marked Green Bay’s largest margin of defeat in a season opener since Rodgers became the Packers regular starting quarterback in 2008.
Leading 19-14 with 2:09 to play and a Super Bowl berth imminent in the NFC Championship in January, the Packers frittered away the game with a series of gaffes and lost 28-22 in overtime when Wilson fired an improbable 35-yard touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Hobbled by a calf injury, Rodgers threw for 223 yards but no touchdowns.
His passer rating for the three: a Matt Schaub-like 73.2 — 37.2 points below his career mark of 106.0, by a wide margin the best in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts (No. 2 Tony Romo is at 97.7 and Peyton Manning third at 97.3).
While Rodgers has a 73.23 rating against the Seahawks since 2012, his rating against all other teams over the same span is 114.31.
Given that, it’s hard to imagine that Rodgers isn’t throbbing to put a beat down on Seattle. Given his history, there’s no better venue than Lambeau Field, where the Packers have lost only three times in the past three years, and where Rodgers has a 112.6 passer rating in 55 career starts. That will be a tough number to overcome even if the Seahawks had Kam Chancellor, he of the futile and foolish holdout.
Rodgers’ name is splattered all over the NFL record book, but his most impressive entry is his touchdown-to-interception ratio (229 TDs vs. 57 interceptions), which speaks to his ability to make big plays and avoid big mistakes. Of Rodgers’ 3,498 career passes, only 1.6 percent have been picked off. Best in history at that stat (1,500 attempts):
|2-time NFL MVP, 4 Pro Bowls
|4 Super Bowl victories, 3 SB MVPs
|9-time Pro Bowler, Hall of Fame 2004
|8 Pro Bowls, 4 SB wins, HOF 2000
|7-time Pro Bowler, Hall of Fame 2005
|14 Pro Bowls, 7-time 1st-team All-Pro
|9 Pro Bowls, 1 Super Bowl victory
|5-time Pro Bowler, 254 career TDs
|3-time 1st-team All-Pro, HOF 2005
|3 Super Bowls, Hall of Fame 2006
“He’s so creative, he can make every throw off his back foot. He has scrap, he can scramble,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said this week. “But other than that, I really haven’t been focusing on his positives. I got to tell myself he has some type of weakness so I can prepare myself for this game.”
Whatever that weakness his, nobody has found it yet, save perhaps the last three editions of the Seahawks, now exposed without Chancellor. In 104 career regular-season starts, Rodgers has posted 39 games with 300-plus passing yards, 60 without an interception and 62 with a 100-plus passer rating. Joe Montana would envy that.
“(The Packers) were 9-0 at home last year (including playoffs),” said head coach Pete Carroll. “They know what they’re doing, and they know how to play there at Lambeau Field. They play to their fans, their crowd, which is historically an extraordinary place to play. So they’re going to be at their best and we’re going to have to play fantastic football to have a chance in this game. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge.
“If we’re able to get this game, it will be a great accomplishment for us.”
While the Seahawks spent much of the off-season attempting to justify the worst outcome of a play call in Super Bowl history, the Packers spent the offseason wondering how they didn’t get into the Super Bowl.
With the lead and the ball with 2:09 to play, how did they not recover that onside kick? How did they allow the Seahawks to score a late touchdown, plus a two-point conversion from a wild throw by Wilson? And how did Kearse catch the winning TD with CB Tramon Williams draped all over him?
The two key victims in that game, Green Bay TE Brandon Bostick and Williams, were soon jettisoned from the organization. The club tossed Bostick a week after failing to secure the onside kick (he’s now with Arizona) and Williams went to Cleveland in free agency after the Packers predictably declined to re-sign him.
But Rodgers is there, no longer bothered by a calf injury, and won’t have to worry about the 12s. Unless the Seahawks show a lot more than they did against St. Louis, 0-2 is inevitable.