Unfortunately, the Packers didn’t get the job done in Minnesota last week and the Vikings prevailed, eeking their way into the postseason. Still, the Packers are division winners and will host a playoff game this coming Saturday evening. As fate would have it, those same Vikings will be Green Bay’s opponent.
At first glance, any opponent coming to Lambeau in January should seemingly have their reservations. It’s cold and there is a rich history of the Packers winning in those types of games. But recent history suggests that the Vikings may not have as much to worry about as teams historically have in the past.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big believer that history is bound to repeat itself. I’m sure you can all think of other examples, but the biggest one that I always point to is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy almost exactly 100 years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Under head coach Mike McCarthy, Green Bay has won just one time in three games at Lambeau Field in the postseason. Those two losses did come to the New York Giants and both times, the Giants went on to win a Super Bowl. But both times, the Packers were also favored to win, as they should have been. McCarthy’s most successful postseason was one in which his team had to play and win three road games before getting to and winning Super Bowl XLV, another virtual road game.
Lately, the theory of a historical repeat doesn’t bode well for the Packers. Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, this history does go two ways.
One Way: Packers in 2002
It was exactly a decade ago during the 2002 season that the Packers, under head coach Mike Sherman, were heading into the last week of the season with a chance to improve their playoff seeding. They had clinched the NFC North in early December and were 12-3. A win would have put them in place to secure the number one or number two seed. I can’t recall which off the top of my head.
Green Bay traveled to New York and were soundly beaten by the Jets to finish 12-4 and with the third seed. The following Saturday on a snowy night (seeing a parallel yet?), in came the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons, a dome team (any other parallels?). Green Bay was once again favored to win and at that time, the Packers had never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field.
What came next was a very flat and uninspired performance by the guys in Green & Gold and they were soundly beaten for a second game in a row. Season over. Again, that was under a different head coach and an entirely different roster, but this is a history lesson. History doesn’t care who the people are. It just continues to come around.
Another Way: Cardinals in 2009
It was week 17 and the Packers came to Arizona to face the Cardinals. This one is more fresh in the minds of Packers fans and this team. McCarthy was head coach and several of the players from that team are still on today’s roster.
Arizona had already won the NFC West and was the fourth seed. Green Bay wanted to lock up the fifth seed with a win. Arizona rested several of their starters (Packers were without key starters Charles Woodson and Randall Cobb against the Vikings last week) and the Packers won in a blowout. As fate would have it, that led Green Bay right back to Arizona one week later. It brought about a confidence from the team, media and fans alike that the Packers should easily advance past the Cardinals.
This time, Arizona had all of their starters in and what ensued was one of the craziest playoff games in NFL history (and because of that and unfortunately, it is replayed on the NFL Network more than I would prefer). I’ll spare a recap as my stomach is churning just thinking about it. The Cardinals emerged with an overtime victory after everyone thought a certain repeat of the week before was coming.
I’m not implying that the Vikings should be favored or that the Packers don’t seemingly have a chance to win but again, this is merely a glance from a historical perspective.
Much like those 2009 Packers going to Arizona the following week, the Vikings will be coming to Green Bay with a lot of confidence and having just beaten the same opponent a short week earlier. Will the Packers hand the Vikings the same cruel fate they endured at the hands of the Cardinals?
The 2012 Way
I can’t begin to profess what this coming game will bring but I’m sure we’re all hoping that recent history prevails. Green Bay should be getting both Cobb and Woodson back for this game and I have to think they both could have contributed in last week’s game.
On several occasions, I heard clamoring for “Angry Aaron Rodgers” last week. He may have been angry but unfortunately, Rodgers doesn’t play defense. If the Packers don’t come out hell bent on stuffing Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, they will be clearing out their lockers for another offseason come late Saturday night.
A motivated Peterson, as we learned, is an even scarier version than the usual. It was evident, this past game, that Peterson wanted to get his team into the playoffs and set a new NFL single-season rushing record. He came 27 feet short of accomplishing both. Now he comes into next week confident after posting back-to-back 200 yard games against the Packers and in a one-and-done tournament scenario. If Tramon Williams was afraid of Peterson last week (and he clearly was), he might as well twist an ankle in practice this week or come down with a major flu bug.
In closing, the overall point is that there is a lot to be learned from history. It has commonly been said that if we don’t understand history, we are bound to repeat it. Which scenario the Packers choose is entirely up to them.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: