In the playoffs on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers used to be automatic at home. In their first 13 home playoff games, the Packers were victorious. Teams used to fear coming to Green Bay and having to win in the Wisconsin winter.
However, the confines are friendlier for the visitors now than they are for the Packers. Since 2002, the Packers are just 2-4 in home playoff games. The home winning streak was snapped 10 years ago on a Saturday night in the Wild Card round when the Atlanta Falcons came into Lambeau and had a dominant 27-7 win.
This team needs to re-establish Lambeau Field as a place of dominance; and what better opponent for the Packers to do that against than the division rival Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay has been very successful in this rivalry at home. They’ve won six of the last seven meetings at Lambeau, with the only loss being in Brett Favre’s return in 2009.
So what do the Packers need to do to win this weekend? They need to play better in the first quarter. Starting with that Falcons game back in ’02, all six opponents have scored on their first possession of the game. And even worse, the Packers haven’t had a first quarter lead in any of the six games.
In what seems like every way possible, the opponent has gotten off to a good start.
2002: The Falcons took the opening kickoff down the field on a 10-play, 76-yard drive, finishing it with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Shawn Jefferson. Atlanta would lead 24-0 at halftime.
2003: The Seahawks finished off a long drive with a 30-yard Josh Brown field goal. The Packers would lead 13-6 at halftime, but this was a back and forth game in large part because of the good start for the Seahawks.
2004: This was the worst start for the Packers in any of these six games. The Vikings scored on a 68-yard Moe Williams touchdown on the third play of the game. After a Packers three and out, Randy Moss’ first touchdown catch of the game gave Minnesota a 14-0 lead just over 5 minutes into the first quarter. Favre threw an interception on the second play of the next drive and quickly the Vikings were ahead 17-0. The Packers never got the score closer than seven points.
2007: In the divisional game vs. Seattle, two Ryan Grant fumbles led the Seahawks to two quick scores and a 14-0 lead. The Packers stormed back to score touchdowns on four straight drives to end the first half to lead the game 28-14 at halftime. In the championship game vs. New York, the Giants controlled the ball for 15 plays, 77 yards and a tone-setting 7 minute, 45 second-drive leading to a Lawrence Tynes field goal.
2011: In what was déjà vu from 2007, the Giants held the ball for almost half the quarter resulting with a Tynes field goal and 3-0 lead early in the game. After the Packers offense missed opportunities and settled for its own field goal, Hakeem Nicks brought back shades of the Moe Williams touchdown catch with a 66 yard catch and run and a 10-3 Giants lead.
In the last half of this season, the Packers have been slow starters, which they can ill afford to do. If the Vikings start the way the Detroit Lions did a month ago in a snowy, night game, the Packers might have trouble recovering. Especially with the Vikings coming off their emotional win on Sunday.
The Packers need a good start to keep the 70 thousand fans at Lambeau into the game from the start. If they do, they should be able to start the momentum it needs to snap this ugly stretch of home playoff games as well as get Rodgers his first playoff home win.