Packers brace for deafening return to Seattle
The last time Green Bay visited Seattle, it was a festive occasion. Fans showed up to CenturyLink Field wearing their No. 12 jerseys, ready to party. Pharrell and Sound Garden were there to greet them with live performances in the parking lot.
It was just a regular-season game. The stakes were incomparably less than what awaits Sunday when the Packers play the Seahawks in the NFC championship game.
But the crowd noise?
There's no question Green Bay has seen the NFL's loudest stadium at its booming best this season. When the Seahawks unveiled their Super Bowl XLVIII banner before kickoff, the decibels hit a deafening level.
"That kickoff opener, that Week 1, it's probably as loud as that place has been all season long," fullback John Kuhn said Friday, hours before boarding the team plane headed for Seattle. "That place was rocking. It's a tremendous place to play. We can look back on that and see some of the things we didn't do as well, and learn from those and make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes."
To be clear, Green Bay did not want this NFC title bout to be played in Seattle. Several players admitted as much this week. When they left Seattle after their 36-16 loss in September, the Packers understood there was a distinct possibility they could meet the Seahawks again in the playoffs.
They hoped that game would be played at Lambeau Field.
Instead, Green Bay will get the next best thing – though it's no consolation prize. At the very least, the Packers know what it's like to play inside CenturyLink Field at its rip-roaring loudest.
"That's the loudest stadium that we've played at this year," rookie tight end Richard Rodgers said. "It will be good to go back there and try to redeem ourselves for that loss."
Rodgers had the unenviable task of playing his first career game at CenturyLink Field. Even though Green Bay played at Seattle two years ago — the infamous Fail Mary game — he isn't the only one who played at CenturyLink Field for the first time in the opener.
More than 20 players weren't on the Packers' 53-man roster for that Sept. 24, 2012 game in Seattle. For them, this season's opener is the only experience they have at their disposal.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari remembers his teammates on the offensive line talking about the crowd noise in the days leading up to kickoff. Skeptical, Bakhtiari said, he wondered if they were exaggerating.
"I'll be honest," Bakhtiari said, "these guys were really freaking out about the noise, and it's all cracked up as it is. I had never been in that environment. So I was like, 'OK, how loud can it be compared to an away game? I've been in loud stadiums, OK. You don't understand.' So now that I've been there, I have an idea. I have first-hand experience, and it's not passed down through narrative."
More than the crowd noise, it's never easy playing a defending champion inside their stadium. Clearly, it didn't go well the first time Green Bay traveled to Seattle.
That experience, and the lessons gained from it, could be important the second time around.
"It's going to be loud," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They will feed off the energy, and you have to control the clock and convert first downs and try to keep drives alive, not turn the ball over. All the things that you usually have to do on the road. It's just a tad bit louder than most places."
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