Packers proficient at protecting big leads
Once again Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks took away a double-digit lead from the Green Bay Packers.
This time, however, Green Bay fought back, outplaying Seattle down the stretch to secure a 27-17 victory at Lambeau Field while earning a small measure of revenge for January’s heartbreaking loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game.
Eight months ago, the Packers let a 16-0 halftime lead go up in smoke in Seattle. The resulting 28-22 overtime loss prevented them from reaching the Super Bowl.
Sunday night, Green Bay’s 13-3 advantage at the break was erased just as effectively. But in closing with 14 unanswered points, the Packers not only dispatched a formidable foe, they moved that much farther ahead of them in the race for a berth in the 50th edition of football’s biggest game.
Protecting a lead is something Green Bay has done well in recent years — their most recent trip to Seattle excluded. Winning teams always have had to deal with opponents looking to chip away at their handiwork.
The Packers’ refusal to fold may be the biggest takeaway from their showdown with Seattle. Bouncing back after letting a 10-point halftime advantage slip away may steel their resolve later in the season.
Mike McCarthy’s teams have opened double-digit leads in 91 of the 146 regular-season games (62.3 percent) he has coached. Only Vince Lombardi’s Packers — 80 of 122 (65.6 percent) — got out in front by that margin more often.
McCarthy’s record in those 91 games is 82-9 (90.1 percent). With the victory over Seattle, his team has won its last 16 regular-season games in which it held a lead of at least 10 points.
But it’s those losses that hurt. Going up by 10 or more takes work, and to have that effort go to waste can be deflating.
Just ask the Packers.
Sometimes, however, a team wrestles back what it gave away. In addition to those nine losses, there have been eight occasions under McCarthy in which the Packers went out front by 10 or more, fell behind, then rallied to win.
Before Sunday, Green Bay last did so on Dec. 2, 2012. They beat the Vikings 23-14 despite blowing a 10-0 first-quarter lead.
Green Bay had to feel good leading Seattle 13-3 at halftime. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers compiled a first-half passer rating of 108.5 and fired a touchdown pass to receiver James Jones. James Starks replaced an injured Eddie Lacy (ankle) and rushed for 35 yards and three first downs.
The Packers’ defense gave Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ vaunted running back, no quarter. He was thrown for a loss four times with B.J. Raji, Nick Perry, Mike Pennel and Clay Matthews taking part in the tackles.
Russell Wilson was kept relatively quiet. Aside from a 32-yard completion to Doug Baldwin that helped set up Seattle’s field goal, he was a pedestrian 5-of-9 for 30 yards in the first half.
Mason Crosby booted field goals of 54 and 18 yards. His second came with 2 seconds remaining in the half and it gave Green Bay its second double-digit lead of the game (the Packers seized a quick 10-0 lead) and third of the season (they led the Bears by15 points in the opener at Chicago).
Unlike the Bears, the Seahawks did not stay down.
The Seahawks gained 129 yards — 25 more than they did in the first half — on their opening two drives of the third quarter. Wilson had three scrambles for 34 yards and completed 8 of 10 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
Fred Jackson caught the first. Baldwin grabbed the second, and with 6:48 remaining in the quarter, Seattle suddenly was up 17-13.
Having squandered a big lead in Seattle, the Packers were loath to lie down at Lambeau. Green Bay scored on each of its next three possessions.
Rodgers connected on 11 of his final 12 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Starks chipped in 58 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Jayrone Elliott also got into the act. The reserve linebacker did his share of taking back by halting two Seattle possessions with an interception and a forced fumble.
■ The Packers of 2011 set the franchise record (14) for most regular-season games in which the team held a lead of at least 10 points.
■ Aaron Rodgers is 40-0 at Lambeau Field in games in which the Packers open a lead of at least 10 points.
Eric Goska is a Packers historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEADING THE PACK
Packers head coaches with the greatest percentage of regular-season games in which their teams held a lead of 10 or more points.
Pct. — Coach
.656 — Vince Lombardi (80-122)
.623 — Mike McCarthy (91-146)
.616 — Mike Holmgren (69-112)
.490 — Mike Sherman (47-96)
.476 — Curly Lambeau (159-334)
.452 — Phil Bengtson (24-56)
.429 — Dan Devine (24-56)