'Lambeau in LA' will give Packers road game like no other

Green Bay has turned around its fortunes away from home in 2019


LOS ANGELES – It'll be a one-of-a-kind road game.

All indications are the 30,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., is going to be overrun by Packers fans on Sunday. Some estimates peg the crowd will be 75-80% Green Bay fans for the Chargers' "home" game.

"We'll try to have Lambeau in LA," outside linebacker Preston Smith said.

The Packers are looking forward to playing in a home away from home, but they're also taking nothing for granted.

While fellow Smith brother Za'Darius Smith said the defense will certainly welcome "that blood flowing and that energy," especially on third downs, Head Coach Matt LaFleur has prepared his team as though it's still a road game.

The Packers used crowd noise in practice on offense inside the Don Hutson Center this week, and if they ultimately don't have to deal with it, all the better.

"If there isn't as much, I guess that's a good problem," LaFleur said.

"Our fans are really, really … they're awesome. But we'll just wait and see what it's like out there. You've still got to go out and play the game."

The Chargers, who recently moved to LA from San Diego and are waiting for their joint mega-stadium with the Rams to be completed, won't get caught off-guard. Three weeks ago they hosted Pittsburgh in prime time, and the official attendance of 25,425 was waving Terrible Towels all night long.

The Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead by the middle of the third quarter and hung on for a 24-17 victory, so if the Chargers were shell-shocked at all by the hostile environment in their own venue, they've processed it and moved on.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn was deliberately downplaying any impact the fans are going to have on the outcome.

"It should be exciting, a lot of energy in the stadium," Lynn said in a conference call with Green Bay media this week. "We don't play the fans, we play the Packers."

From a historical perspective, this will be the first time in more than three decades the Packers will play a game in front of 30,000 fans or less. Back in 1988, late-season games at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium (29,952) and Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome (28,124) were more than half empty to watch three teams that combined to win just 13 games that year.

In the here and now, the Packers are trying to keep up their complete 180 away from home compared to a year ago. Green Bay didn't win a road game until its final trip of the 2018 season in Week 16, after the coaching change. The Packers had lost nine straight on the road dating back to December of 2017.

The Green Bay Packers hit the practice field before heading off to Los Angeles for Sunday's game against the Chargers.

This season they've had three straight road victories to open the year at Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City, none easy places to play. Nothing is more galvanizing to an NFL team than winning on the road – future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson used to say all you've got is your guys and your equipment – and the Packers' success away from home is beginning to build on itself.

"I think the mentality can change for sure," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It can go from a 'Here we go again' mindset to a 'We're gonna find a way' mindset. I think that's what we're starting to develop, a comfort with winning and an understanding of what it takes.

"I think the mindset for the guys is a very confident one and not 'I hope we win' but 'How are we gonna win and who's gonna be the guy to step up and make a big play so that we leave here with a win?'"

At Chicago, it was Adrian Amos' fourth-quarter interception in the end zone. At Dallas, it was an offensive explosion that built a huge lead. At Kansas City, it was a big-play TD to break a tie, a defensive stop near midfield, and a grind-it-out drive to kill the clock.

Whatever it takes on Sunday, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity a friendly road environment should present. There may never be another "away" game like this.

"Our fans obviously travel really well," Rodgers said. "There shouldn't be any bad seats in the house."

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