Withstanding inevitable 'surge' in Seattle a key task for Packers

Seahawks feed off of their crowd noise to generate momentum


GREEN BAY – Washington and Detroit were bad starts. Los Angeles and New England were rough finishes.

The Packers need to put it all together on Thursday night in Seattle to get their first road win of the year. That's a given. What's also obvious is even if the Packers can start fast and finish strong, at some point they'll have to weather a storm that always has the potential to flip a game at CenturyLink Field.

"It's really loud," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It's a loud environment. They cheer not only during the presnap but also when you're in the huddle sometimes.

"We haven't always started the quickest up there, so if we start a little faster, try and take the crowd out and then try to withstand the surge that usually comes from that team…"

Ah yes, the surge. It's practically inevitable at CenturyLink.

Back in 2012, it came in the first half from Seattle's defense, which sacked Rodgers eight times by intermission. But Green Bay's defense held tough, kept the Packers in the game at 7-0, and the offense found a running attack in the second half that won the game until the infamous "Fail Mary."

In the 2014 opener, with the Seahawks coming off their Super Bowl title, the surge came in the third quarter via an interception to set up points, a safety, and a subsequent touchdown as Seattle pulled away.

The NFC title game at the end of that season will never be forgotten, of course. Those who were there still say Marshawn Lynch's go-ahead TD run late in the fourth quarter might have been the loudest the NFL's loudest outdoor stadium has ever been. The Packers regrouped to kick a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation, but Seattle's offense was rolling by then and couldn't be stopped in overtime.

So what stops the surge? It can be any number of things. A turnover or a key third-down conversion amidst the din can always help.

This Packers team might be best suited to counter it the way the 2012 team did, by running the ball. Aaron Jones is coming off his career-best game to date (145 yards, two TDs), and while the Packers rank first in the league in yards per rush at 5.2, the Seahawks rank 29th in yards per rush allowed at 5.0.

The limitations on communication at the line of scrimmage in a place like CenturyLink don't affect the running game as much, but an effective silent count to avoid presnap penalties and tough down-and-distances remains necessary regardless.

That's where the Packers' veteran offensive line is valuable. Four of the Packers' five starters not only have played at CenturyLink, but they've played a postseason game there when the noise is greatest (Byron Bell started a playoff game there for Carolina four years ago). Only left guard Lane Taylor has not started a game in Seattle, but he's certainly played in other loud venues.

"It's important," Rodgers said of the experience of his offensive line. "Those guys have played in that environment. They know how difficult it is to hear."

Turning around on a short week to play a Thursday night game is plenty difficult, too, especially when it's a four-hour flight away. The league did the Packers no favors with the schedule, and flexing last Sunday's game against Miami to 3:25 p.m. CT cost Green Bay another 3 ½ hours of recovery time it was planning on.

But as Rodgers pointed out, Seattle had to fly back from L.A. on Sunday night, so it's a tough deal for both sides. In any event, the matchup pits two teams on the fringes of the playoff race, each vying for its fifth victory of the season.

The winner is sure to get a surge from that.

"We both need wins to stay alive in this NFC playoff picture," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "So it's a pivotal game."

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