The Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. The Seahawks are attempting to become the first team to reach consecutive Super Bowls since the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots. The Packers are trying to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since they won it following the 2010 season.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tyler Dunne joined Bill Littlefield to preview the matchup.
BL: Tyler, NFL teams tend to struggle the year after they win the Super Bowl. In fact, head coach Pete Carroll’s Seahawks are the first defending champion since the 2004 Patriots to make it back to a conference championship game. How have they managed to do that?
[sidebar title="The AFC Championship" width="630" align="right"]The AFC Championship pits the up-and-coming Indianapolis Colts against the New England Patriots.[/sidebar]TD: It starts first with that defense. I mean, there isn't another defense in the NFL that hits harder, that closes faster and is as confident as these guys. I've been out here all week, and I'll tell you what. They just are so comfortable in their own skin.
And it really starts with Pete Carroll. He wants these guys playing loose, wants them feeling loose and wants them to be confident. They're the kind of team, the kind of defense, that tells you, "We're going to punch you in the mouth," and then they back it up.
BL: In Week 1, the Seahawks beat the Packers, 36-16. [Green Bay] quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for just 1 touchdown and had an interception. Running back Eddie Lacy was held to just 34 yards. Why are they playing again?
It's a much different Packers team and a much different Seattle team than what you saw there at CenturyLink Field in Week 1.Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
And since that game they've got a lot more creative, and Eddie Lacy and that ground game really got rolling. I think for Green Bay to have a fighting chance in this game, it starts up front with that offensive line. You know, you saw that brawl against Dallas when they were kinda fighting after the play. That's just the kind of attitude that you have to have if you're going to get into this cage fight out here in Seattle.
BL: In that Week 1 game, Aaron Rodgers did not throw a single pass in the direction of star Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Will Green Bay have to adjust their strategy this time?
[sidebar title="Phish And Russell Wilson" width="630" align="right"]During Seattle's playoff run last season, we learned about the connection between the jam band Phish and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.[/sidebar]TD: They absolutely have to adjust because you could see the effect that had on the entire game, on that entire offense approach. Because when you avoid half of the field, when you avoid Richard Sherman, that free safety Earl Thomas, he can tilt the other direction. He can take away things on that other side.
So I know Sherman's the best in the game and he's gonna make you pay, but look, you're also a really good offense yourself. They have to dictate the action one way or another this time around.
BL: As you pointed out in a Jan. 9 column, the Packers defense has a recent history of not playing up to its potential in the postseason. This year's team has veteran linebacker Julius Peppers. Is there any indication the defense will step up this weekend?
TD: You know, the Dallas game is a great way to start. They played a lot of weapons and found a way to get it done there, and it really does start with Julius Peppers. You can still remember Tramon Williams, after the season when they lost to San Francisco a year ago, he was pretty blunt and said, "Look, we're a draft and develop team. That's great. But sometimes you need veterans. You need experience." When bad turned to worse in seasons past, they didn't always have that experience. Julius Peppers is a guy — I mean, when he talks, people listen.
BL: All right, it's prediction time. Who do you see representing the NFC in the Super Bowl?
TD: I really think it's going to be Seattle. I like what Green Bay has done offensively since they last played, but Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, this secondary, they're not going to give Aaron Rodgers the passing windows that he's had these last three games. Let's go Seattle 33, Green Bay 20.
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This segment aired on January 17, 2015.