Connections and history

Bits and pieces to note on Packers-Seahawks divisional playoff

The Green Bay Packers will play their first playoff game in three years on Saturday at Lambeau Field against an opponent that should look familiar. The Seattle Seahawks have a head coach in Mike Holmgren that won a Super Bowl in Green Bay 11 years ago and went to another one the following year. More on that later.

The Seahawks also have four assistant coaches the coached for Holmgren during his time in Green Bay. They would be offensive coordinator Gil Haskell, tight ends coach Jim Lind, wide receivers coach Nolen Cromwell and special projects/defense coach Ray Rhodes (Rhodes was also head coach for the Packers in 1999). Plus, the defensive coordinator for the Hawks, John Marshall, spent time in Green Bay under Bart Starr in the early 80's.

Plus, there are several players that start for the Seahawks that were acquired by current Packers general manager Ted Thompson. QB Matt Hasselbeck was traded by the Packers to the Hawks in March of 2001. Plus, Thompson drafted many key players in his time in Seattle which was from 2000-2004. Players such as RB Shaun Alexander, CB Marcus Trufant, WR D.J. Hackett, DT Rocky Bernard and K Josh Brown. Thompson also acquired WR Bobby Engram as a free agent in 2001.

Another twist is that former Packer head coach Mike Sherman was a tights end coach for Holmgren in Green Bay in 1997/98 and offensive coordinator under Holmgren in Seattle in 1999, before coming to Green Bay to be the head coach in 2000. Sherman, when he also became GM in 2001, drafted a number of the players that will match up against the Seahawks including DE Aaron Kampman, LB Nick Barnett, DT Corey Williams and C Scott Wells.

Brett Favre won all three of his MVPs (1995-1997) under Mike Holmgren. Favre also led the Packers to one Super Bowl win and another Super Bowl appearance. Favre should have two rings instead of one. And I have to put that on Holmgren. HB Dorsey Levens almost had 100 yards rushing before halftime in Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos, but he rarely got a carry in the second half.

Why? You will have to ask Holmgren. Favre had a nice game in that contest throwing for three touchdowns, but the running game was just gashing the blitzing Bronco defense. Plus, a running game also tires out the opposing defense, plus gives your OWN defense time to rest. The Broncos used the running game to do just that, as they wore out a tired Packer defense with Terrell Davis gaining 157 yards and 3 TDs. John Elway only threw for 123 yards in that game.

Anyway, Favre has faced Holmgren five times since Holmgren left for Seattle, winning three times. Included in that is the 33-27 playoff win in Green Bay in 2004. That was Holmgren's only playoff defeat ever at Lambeau Field. Before that game, Holmgren had been 5-0 as coach of the Packers at Lambeau.

As the Packers prepare for the Seahawks this Saturday, the team must also be aware that they have lost two out of the last three playoff games at Lambeau Field. That NEVER used to happen. That is one of the reasons Sherman is no longer the Packers head coach as they lost the two games in his tenure. Before the first loss against Atlanta in 2003, Green Bay had been 13-0 at home during the playoffs.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has figured out the Lambeau Field needs to be a home field advantage. His rookie team in 2006, struggled to a 3-5 record at home. But in 2007, the team has rebounded to have a 7-1 home record. A team never wants to have a one and done home playoff game, so I expect that McCarthy will have the Packers well prepared for this game.

The Seahawks offensively have become much more of a passing offense this year, as the running game has really struggled. The Packers should fare well with cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson covering the Seahawk wide receivers, but Hasselbeck might try to take advantage of the Packers relative inexperience at safety with Nick Collins and Atari Bigby. It also looks like Tramon Williams will be the nickel back this weekend, and his role could be key as well as WR Deion Branch is expected back this Saturday.

The Seattle defense looked quick against the Washington Redskins last weekend. That all starts with their front seven. The D-line is led by DE Patrick Kerney, who like his counterpart Kampman, is All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. Kerney will be matched up against RT Mark Tauscher. The linebackers are quick as well and they are led by Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson. CB Trufant, who is also going to the Pro Bowl, leads the secondary.

The Packer offense has to keep mixing the run and the pass against the fast Seattle defense. RB Ryan Grant should get plenty of opportunities on Saturday. Favre needs to have time to pass, especially when the Packers line up with a 4 or 5 wide out formation. Favre also might find find tight ends Donald Lee and Bubba Franks open against this type of defense. But I also expect Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, former Seahawk Koren Robinson (drafted by Thompson), James Jones and Ruvell Martin to get their opportunities.

As usual, special teams will also play a large part in determining the winner of this game. Holmgren knows all about this if he remembers that 1996 championship team in Green Bay behind KR/PR Desmond Howard. But all aspects must be clicking. Kicking, punting, kickoff and punt coverage and kickoff and punt returns. Overall, the Packers have been fine in those areas throughout the 2007 season, and now is NOT the time to regress.

The 2007 season has been a very special season for the Packers and their fans. Hardly anyone expected the Packers to win the NFC North. A scant few will admit that they thought the Packers would be 13-3 and have the number two seed in the NFC. Favre is playing like he was in the MVP years. But all of that has happened. And now the fun REALLY starts. I think it is very apropos that the Packers and Favre will start the post-season for this year against Holmgren and the Seahawks.

There has been so much history between the two teams and the two men, Favre and Holmgren. Favre was 9-4 as a playoff quarterback for Holmgren. But the record has slid to 11-9 after Holmgren left for Seattle. But one of those two playoff wins after Holmgren, was AGAINST Holmgren. I think Favre will up that mark to 12-9 in the playoffs and 2-0 against Holmgren in the playoffs this Saturday. Favre is playing that well right now. Almost as good as he played while Holmgren was in Green Bay. Like then, it will lead to victory for Favre and the Pack this Saturday.

Bob Fox is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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