As the Packers prepare to open the 2014 season against the defending Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks, they’ve been down this road before.
The 2013 Seahawks are a mirror image of the 1985 Chicago Bears, a team the Packers lost to twice and then lost to twice more in ’86. Today’s Seahawks and yesterday’s Bears had basically the same genetic markers.
The first match on the DNA map would be great defense – defenses deserving of being in the discussion of best ever. The only difference is the strength of the ’85 Bears was its front seven, and the strength of the ’13 Seahawks was its back seven.
The next similarity would be their running games. Both were spearheaded by an elite, punishing, durable back. Marshawn Lynch might not be Walter Payton, but he was built in the same mold and can at least be talked about in the same breath.
Both sets of receivers and both offensive lines were solid and functional.
The quarterbacks, Jim McMahon and Russell Wilson, also were of similar ilk. True, Wilson makes plays with his feet, whereas McMahon was a pocket passer. But neither one had to carry their teams to win a Super Bowl. They merely had to play their game and that was plenty good enough.
McMahon was a gamer and so is Wilson -- smart, resourceful and they both played much bigger than their sub six-foot heights, although McMahon was listed at 6-1 in the program.
Another parallel between the teams was that when they won their Lombardi Trophies, both fueled talk of being dynasties in the making.
The ’85 Bears looked like a team that might win two, three titles in a row. McMahon was 26. Three future Hall of Famers on defense – Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent – were 28 or younger. Only Payton, at 31, was nearing the end.
Unlike the Bears, the Seahawks will have to contend with the uncertainties of free agency in the future, but on paper they also look like a team that might not be done collecting hardware and rings. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, two of their defenders who might someday have busts in Canton, are 25 and 26, respectively.
The Seahawks left the same kind of impression in their 43-8 conquest of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII as the Bears did when they manhandled New England, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX.
As Sept. 4 looms, the one difference between now and 28 years ago is the Packers are a vastly superior team compared to their 1986 ancestors. They’re also more disciplined and seemingly more respectful of the game.
What derailed the Bears, as much as anything, in their pursuit of becoming a dynasty was Charles Martin’s cheap and uncalled for body slam of McMahon in the 12th game of the 1986 season.
The Bears still finished 14-2, but Doug Flutie started for McMahon in the playoffs, went 11 for 31 with two interceptions, and the Bears lost their first game. McMahon required surgery and started only 15 games over the next two seasons, his last two in Chicago. Mike Tomczak, his replacement, was incapable of leading the Bears, no matter how talented they were elsewhere, to anything more than division titles.
Unlike the 1986 Packers, today’s Packers are much better equipped to take on an opponent as talented as Seattle and have a shot at winning fair and square. But they’ll also be facing one of the most formidable Super Bowl winners ever, just like the ’86 Packers who played the Bears first at Lambeau in their third game of the season.