For some strange reason, almost cosmic in nature, the Packers and the Seahawks have been tied together for nearly two decades. It began with Mike Holmgren’s defection there from Green Bay–sending the franchise into coaching purgatory for a couple of years until Sherman (who also coached for the Seahawks) came to provide a small amount of normalcy.
They have been, along with most of the NFC West, one of our most common playoff opponents in this millennium. They are the thorn in our side that replaced San Francisco after Kaepernick turned out to be all-muscle-and-no-brains. For this writer, I have gone from calling Seattle my favorite NFC rival to loathing everything about them.
To that effect, let’s skip the most recent contests and look back at a different time in our rivalry: a time when Favre roamed the field like some immortal, green and gold spectre akin to the Ghost King from Lord of the Rings. In fact, that image sets the stage for the first look back to the past.
Primarily, this story line centers around how Mike Holmgren and (former Packers backup QB) Matt Hasselbeck came to be one of our most important rivals in the mid-2000’s. Holmgren would nearly match the success he had in Green Bay, immediately breaking a 10-year playoff drought and giving the franchise its first ever Super Bowl appearance. The Seahawks, obviously, resided in the NFC with the Packers and this set the stage for some very memorable games–culminating in one of the more triumphant moments in Favre’s career.
Seattle Seahawks at the Green Bay Packers
January 4th, 2004
Final: SEA-27 GB-33 (OT)
This game began a string of interesting contests between the NFC’s green teams and is probably cemented in the mind of most Packer supporters who were alive at the time. That year was famous for many things. This was the 4th and 26 year, the year Favre’s father died, and the year of the most improbable birth to the playoffs imaginable. Not wanting to be left out, this Wildcard game pitted old friends together in a sudden-death battle royale.
The Packers were just 5 years removed from Holmgren, now the Seattle Coach, leaving the team after a devastating Super Bowl loss. Holmgren had overseen one of the winningest times, not only in Green Bay’s illustrious history, but in league history. He won 75 games from 1992-1998. It looked like the early makings of a dynasty–lead by a brash youngster named Brett Favre. They won their Super Bowl almost too easily. And then, for various reasons, it all fell apart. Holmgren left and the future was nowhere near as bright as it could have been in Green Bay.
For Holmgren, however, things were looking up. While the Pack were left without a captain on the ship, the coach turned around and molded Hasselbeck into a pro-bowl QB who started in a Super Bowl. That would be the next year after this one because, unfortunately for them, they never made it past Green Bay. The Packers came in favored and at home.
They had a better record and a better QB. Seattle had a better coach. Holmgren leveled the playing field, and the teams were deadlocked in a 27-27 tie at the end of regulation.The Packers had the slight edge in yardage and had a 6-13 halftime lead. But some power-running by Shaun Alexander, including a last-minute rushing touchdown (he had 3 1-yard touchdowns on the day) sent the game into OT. This is where it gets fun.
Hasselbeck’s game-ending interception by Al Harris will go down as one of the most exciting finishes of any playoff game. It would be even without the Seahawks QB’s famous “We’ll take the ball, and we’re gonna score” line after winning the coin toss. He created an all around catastrophe that was the talk of the playoffs that year–in the worst possible way. Or it was the talk until Green Bay’s defense let him off the hook in the next game against the Eagles. But that’s a tale for another time.
Seattle Seahawks at the Green Bay Packers
January 1st, 2006
Final: SEA-17 GB-24
It was New Years day in 2006. The Iraq War was still in full swing, Broke-back Mountain was cleaning up at awards shows, and Vince Young’s Texas Longhorns were about to defeat Matt Leinart’s USC Trojans in the greatest BCS National Championship game of all time. What naive people we all were.
Brett Favre, however, was rolling in everything but naivete–especially interceptions. He threw 29 interceptions that year. I had to look and see if that was the record. (It’s not even close: 42 by George Bland in 1962. Honorable mention goes to Vinny Testaverde who threw 35 in 1988.)
The Packers were 4-12 that year. The Seahawks had wrapped up a bye in the playoffs and were on their way to a Super Bowl, reversing the fortunes of the previous outing. Shaun Alexander was tremendous in 2005, easily snagging the MVP award with a ridiculous 28 touchdowns on the season. How come you don’t hear anyone talk about Alexander these days? His stat lines were amazing. That’s what happens when you lose a Super Bowl, I guess.
As a teenager, I remember that game very vividly. It was the first season I stopped watching the Packers because they were genuinely embarrassing. I did watch this game, though, and seeing Favre walk out of Lambeau felt like the end of something. He played valiantly in this game. Typical for Favre, he won with a gutsy performance and played through a shoulder injury. This was only slightly overshadowed by the league MVP getting the rushing title wrapped up and the fact that Seattle didn’t even need this one. No one on the team really knew what was next for him.
Looking back, that season was really when the ’08 “retirement” debacle got started. Everyone prepared themselves for this to be the quiet demise of the Favre era. It turned out Brett wouldn’t leave, instead they fired Mike Sherman and hired Mike McCarthy. McCarthy only coached two seasons with Brett, and after an 8-8 beginning, he gave us one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory.
Seattle Seahawks at the Green Bay Packers
January 12, 2008
Final: SEA-20 GB-42
The Packers were 13-3 and had wrapped up the NFC North and the #2 seed. This divisional playoff game was the final turn in a back-and-forth rivalry that saw each team on top. Green Bay was hosting its first home playoff game since a drubbing from the Vikings in 2004. But Brett Favre, meanwhile, had found the fountain of youth. There shouldn’t be a Packer fan alive that doesn’t remember this season. It was Brett’s last, great hope at another title.
The list of accomplishments that season sound like they were made up by some Favre fanboy: he set the all-time record for touchdown passes, finally beat all 31 teams (he would get all 32 in a couple years), and he set the record for most games with 3 touchdowns scored. He was on his way to Sportsman of the Year and a common name for a non-Brady MVP. And we got a home playoff game…in the snow.
For one day, it all came up Packers. Well, sort of. On the first two drives, Ryan Grant fumbled leading to a Seahawks touchdown both times. (Unfortunately for the Seahawks, he would make up for it by running for 3 touchdowns and 201 yards by the end). The Seahawks were up by 2 touchdowns on the road in the first quarter. Then, it started to snow–hard.
Much like the snow fell tumbling to the field, Hasselbeck and Alexander fell hard to the Packers in a grudge match between the franchises. Once the wheels were turning for the Pack, the bus never stopped. This one was the culmination of everything that had happened in the “rivalry”. Favre, once the jilted apprentice left by his former mentor, now reigned as the victor.
He threw for three touchdowns and let Ryan Grant take care of the rest. You might remember that game as the one where he threw a snowball at an official. Nobody cared. The official was just happy to be included.
Neither Brett nor Holmgren would ever win another title, but that day Favre evened the score. Who knows what would have happened had Holmgren stayed with the team–and it’s unlikely he had anything personal tied up in leaving. But the magic that was on display in that game had to have stirred up a little nostalgia for the Seahawks coach.
Lambeau knew it needed to have another great Favre game before he hung it all up. Let’s hope some of that old magic comes out again for Rodgers and this current squad. The spirits of Lambeau are calling for snow again this weekend. Couldn’t hurt.