Seahawks, Packers square off in rematch of NFC title game

  • By GENARO C. ARMAS
  • Sunday, September 20, 2015 1:11am
  • News

GREEN BAY, Wis. — There is no looking back for the Green Bay Packers.

They’re following coach Mike McCarthy’s lead heading into their home opener on Sunday night, focused squarely on this year’s version of the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game.

No use dwelling on that last meeting, the Packers (1-0) insist. That game worked out quite nicely — if tensely — for the Seahawks (0-1), who overcame a 16-0 halftime deficit to win 28-22 in overtime in Seattle to advance to the Super Bowl.

If this is still a sore subject in Titletown, the Packers are doing their best not to let anybody else know.

“We’ve had the opportunity as a football team, I think individually everybody has had the opportunity to go through last season,” McCarthy said. “We’re focused on winning our first home game and getting to 2-0.”

MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t biting, either.

“It’s Week 2. We understand the story lines,” he said. “This is 2015. It’s a different season.”

One that’s off to a good start for the Packers after beating their NFC North longtime rival Chicago Bears last week 31-23.

The Seahawks have their own troubling losses they would like to forget. Seattle fell 34-31 in overtime at the Rams in the opener.

An incorrectly executed kickoff to start overtime stands out among the mistakes. The Seahawks failed to gain 1 yard on their final offensive play — just like in the loss to New England in the Super Bowl last season.

“We’ve got to bounce and come on back … and face an amazing opponent up there,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

The defending NFC champs faced questions this week on multiple fronts.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell took heat for how he called plays. A defense playing without holdout safety Kam Chancellor gave up eight plays of 20 yards or more to the Rams.

Now, Seattle has to travel to Lambeau Field to face one of the best passing attacks in the league in trying to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 2011.

“You’ve got guys that missed tackles that they make nine times out of 10,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We’re just going to work on tackling, work on tracking, working on the things we always work on.”

Some things to look for in this prime-time showcase:

BOOM BUST: Without Chancellor, Seattle was exposed across the middle against the pass. Carroll has been quick to say the star safety’s holdout isn’t the sole reason for the uncharacteristic holes. But the Seahawks hope a week of experience will help Chancellor’s replacement, Dion Bailey.

Keep an eye on Packers tight end Richard Rodgers, a second-year player who had a good preseason. The athletic Rodgers provides a big target with his 6-foot-4 frame.

SLOTTING SHERMAN: He’s not a one-sided cornerback, after all. Instead of his normal left cornerback position, Sherman was usually matched up last week in the slot against speedy St. Louis wideout Tavon Austin.

If Sherman is used in the same way on Sunday, it would put him up against one of the best slot receivers in the league, Randall Cobb, in Green Bay’s three-receiver sets. Cobb is recovering from a right shoulder sprain, an injury that limited the routes he could run last week.

A-ROD ON THE MOVE: Aaron Rodgers’ mobility is back. In the NFC title game, Rodgers was slowed by a strained calf. He’s healthy again and on the move, rushing for 35 yards on eight carries against Chicago, including three first downs. Rodgers’ ability to improvise and get out of trouble is one of his greatest strengths.

STOPPING THE RUN: The Packers’ defense must press on without starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington, for the season this week with a foot injury. The likely return of safety Morgan Burnett from a calf injury should help a unit that allowed 141 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to Chicago’s Matt Forte.

Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch averaged 133 yards on 22 carries in the two games last year against Green Bay.

SPECIAL STUFF: Green Bay’s special teams got off to a solid start under new coordinator Ron Zook. Rookie Ty Montgomery stood out after averaging 35.3 yards on kickoff returns

Like it or not for the Packers, the Seahawks game could be a measuring stick for the progress of special teams. A fake field goal for a touchdown, along with a recovered onside kick, helped Seattle win the NFC title in January.

___

Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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