Another Visit to Hallowed Ground

He's back.<p> Mike Holmgren will get another shot at his former team, this time with the stakes sky-high, when his wildcard Seahawks (10-6) take on the NFC North Division champion Packers (10-6) at Lambeau Sunday.

When the game kicks off at noon (Central), Holmgren may become the only coach in NFL history to orchestrate a game from the visitors' sideline with a street named in his honor about a block away.

"It will always be fun for me to go back," Holmgren said in his weekly press conference.

Holmgren coached his share of playoff games at Lambeau during his highly successful first head coaching stint. In his seven seasons in Green Bay, Holmgren presided over five post-season games here, all of them wins. The return to glory at Lambeau culminated in a 30-13 win over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 12, 1997.

Just as Holmgren has a permanent spot on a street sign and in the memories of fans in this smallest NFL city, Green Bay will always occupy a spot on Holmgren's heart.

"I think it's wonderful, as a member of that organization and as a member of a team that goes in and plays there," Holmgren said.

"The people are very enthusiastic," he said. "The seasts are close to the field. The stadium is built in such a way that it's only football. There's no track. It's a football stadium."

Holmgren left Green Bay for the opportunity to be a dual coach/GM in Seattle shortly after the Packers' 1998 season ended with Terrell Owens' killer catch at 3Com. Holmgren has helped the Seahawks accomplish some moderate goals that had eluded them for years: put together a string of non-losing seasons and get into the playoffs. This season they won 10 games for the first time in 17 years.

The coach has been back to Green Bay twice in the regular season. His Seahawks won his original homecoming 27-7 on Monday Night Football Nov. 1, 1999. Green Bay returned the favor in the rematch this season, claiming a decisive 35-13 victory on Oct. 5.

No one expects this game to be that lopsided in either direction.

For the red-hot Packers, the key will be to just keep rolling. For Holmgren and the Seahawks, one of the important jobs in this game will be to keep the many Green Bay-Seattle storylines from getting tangled. One is former Seattle running back Ahman Green, now a legend with the Packers. Another is Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, Brett Favre's former backup starting his first post-season game. Under it all will be Holmgren, a savvy pro and veteran coach, who none the less will encounter a few ghosts – or at least some nostalgia – when he takes the field Sunday.

"The atmosphere is different from any place you'll play," Holmgren said.


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