Packers seek tastier home cooking

Halloween is on the horizon, but for the Green Bay Packers, playing at Lambeau Field has been more trick than treat.

As recently as 2002, the Packers were invincible in their hallowed home. Green Bay won all eight regular-season home games that season, but that's when the so-called Lambeau mystique came crashing back to earth. Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons upset a wounded Packers team in the first round of the postseason, becoming the first visiting team to ever win a playoff game in the fabled stadium.

That loss started a dubious trend that has been a pox on the 2004 season. Green Bay has lost seven of its last 13 games in Lambeau, including all three this season heading into Sunday's 3:15 p.m. home test against Dallas.

A season that started with championship promise crumbled in Week 2 when the Chicago Bears stunned the Packers 21-10 as an Ahman Green fumble near the goal line turned into a 14-point swing. Two weeks later, the Packers were dominated by the Giants but lost just 14-7. The following week, the Packers were dominated on the field and on the scoreboard, 48-27 to Tennessee.

"When you're going to play a team and the team hasn't won at home, you're probably feeling good about your chances," Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera said. "That's our fault. We can't allow that to happen.

"(The turnaround) starts on Sunday. We have to make Lambeau a place that people fear again."

Lambeau used to be perhaps the most feared venue in all of professional sports. Just a half-dozen years ago, the Packers reeled off a team-record 29 straight victories at the friendly confines. Now, the Packers are off to their worst home start since 1988.

"I've played a lot of games in this place and had, most of the time, success," quarterback Brett Favre said. "For whatever reason, that hasn't happened this year. We have to find a way to get it back."

Most of the key players on the team remember the unbeatable days of yore. Coach Mike Sherman won 22 of his first 25 home games. That .880 winning percentage was just an eyelash below the level of superiority compiled by Mike Holmgren, who went 54-7 for a .885 winning percentage.

For whatever reason, however, the intimidation factor has vanished. Green Bay hasn't finished with a losing record at home since 1991, when it went just 2-6 under Lindy Infante. Even Ray Rhodes' 1999 team finished 5-3 at home.

Last year's Packers went 5-3 at Lambeau after losing three of the first five. The strong finishing kick at home paralleled the strong finishing kick to the season in general. The Packers will have to reproduce that magic if they have any hope of qualifying for the playoffs.

"We're running out of games at home, so we need to start (winning) now," said Favre, who has posted an 86-19 ledger at Lambeau.

Last week's resounding win at Detroit certainly has the Packers feeling better about themselves.

"We're excited about coming back (home) and kind of giving the fans a game in which ... when they're drinking their beers after the game, they're a little excited and not throwing their beers at the stadium," said safety Darren Sharper. "They can kind of drink a little and be excited and have a party, whereas previous games, it hasn't been that at all. It's been more of a sorrow-type of feeling."

The Packers feel their fans' pain.

"We let down the legends of history," running back Tony Fisher said. "We've got to win at home because people don't (normally) want to come here and play us. But the way we're playing now, people are not afraid to come in here."


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