SEATTLE -- In the moments after Fail Mary, there was chaos at CenturyLink Field in 2012.
Referee Lance Easley’s signal of a touchdown turned Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll into Jim Valvano, running around looking for a celebration to join, and it left everyone on the Green Bay Packers somewhere between catatonic and outraged on their way back to the visitors' locker room.
And then one of the replacement officials popped his head into the room -- where players and coaches alike were growing angrier as they watched the replay of the Golden Tate-M.D. Jennings so-called "simultaneous catch" -- and told the Packers to return to the field for a meaningless extra point with no time left on the clock.
Many players refused, but the ones who went -- just to get it over with -- grabbed any helmet out of the equipment bin on their way back to the field. In that moment, veteran running back Cedric Benson looked at a member of the coaching staff and deadpanned: "I’m gonna go block that f---ing kick."
That’s one of the few amusing moments the Packers have ever had in Seattle.
Since the Seahawks opened their stadium in 2002, the Packers have played there five times. Thursday night’s game will be the sixth. They’ve won only once.
Among stadiums where the Packers have played at least five times since then, their 1-4 record at CenturyLink is tied with Arizona’s State Farm Stadium for their worst mark in a building, including playoffs.
They haven’t just lost in Seattle; they’ve been gutted.
And Fail Mary looks like merely a flesh wound compared to the 2014 NFC Championship Game collapse.
Strange things indeed seem to happen to the Packers in Seattle.
"What are you getting into, the supernatural or something?" Clay Matthews said.
"Definitely, those were two games that didn’t go our way when they definitely should have," Matthews added. "Well, s---, hopefully this becomes a story about how we bucked the trend on Thursday, on a short week, going all the way back to the West Coast again."
Compared to those two games, the 2006 snowstorm game (when Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander ran over the Packers for 201 yards on Monday Night Football) and the 2014 season opener (when the Packers got blown out 36-16) seem relatively painless. The Packers’ only victory at Seattle’s current stadium came in 2008 against a third-string quarterback named Charlie Frye.
A show of hands
Perhaps in an effort to demonstrate that past demons would not haunt the Packers on Thursday night, they took a poll in the locker room this week.
"We did a show of hands yesterday of who hasn’t played in CenturyLink," Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday. "And there was a number of hands in the air."
Only 11 players remain from the Packers’ 28-22 overtime loss at Seattle in the NFC title game less than four years ago -- a game the Packers led by 12 points late in the fourth quarter.
"That’s ancient history for a lot of us," Rodgers said.
Only seven are left from Fail Mary.
Receiver Davante Adams was in college then but was a Packers rookie in 2014. The season-opening blowout loss at Seattle was his first NFL game. The NFC title game was his first chance at a Super Bowl.
"We’ve played them a couple of times since then and beat them," Adams said, referring to the Packers’ three victories over the Seahawks at Lambeau Field, one in each of the past three seasons. "But I feel like we owe them something just having lost that last game in Seattle like that. It will be the first time that we get to go back there as a club. It’s definitely a big game. It’s something that means a lot to all the guys who were here for that, so we’ve definitely got to bring it."
Some, like Rodgers, can rattle off the myriad things that went wrong in the NFC title game. Had any of one of them gone the other way -- right down to the botched onside kick that made Brandon Bostick the undisputed goat of that game -- and the Packers would have won in regulation.
"That game always has been frustrating, thinking about how it went down, some of the things that happened," Rodgers said. "The non-offsides call on the pick to [Richard] Sherman and then everything else that happened along the way, getting six points in two possessions inside the 5 and then obviously how well our defense played and us not being able to finish that game off there in the fourth quarter and give them a chance to come back, the onside kick. Yeah, that one, the sting’s probably never going to go away from that one."
Reverse the curse
Even those who weren’t part of the 11 from the NFC title game or the seven from Fail Mary have been initiated into the club of pain.
Much like players who came to Green Bay after the "fourth-and-26" game -- the playoff loss at Philadelphia where a stop on that down and distance would’ve sent the Packers to the NFC Championship Game -- even players who weren’t part of those teams feel the hurt of their teammates.
"Man, those were some crazy games," said defensive tackle Kenny Clark, the Packers’ 2016 first-round pick. "I watched both of them, the Fail Mary and [the NFC title game]. Those games came down to the wire. Just one of those things where you don’t like to see it happen, but it happened. I was at a loss for words with it.
"You never want to see nothing like that happen. If I was in that situation, I wouldn’t know what to say or do."
Still, Clark doesn’t believe bad things happen to teams just because of locale.
"I mean I haven’t played there, but it’s one of those things, it’s a tough place to play whether it’s the crowd noise, the weather like here," Clark said. "I don’t know. There’s tough places to play all around the league. It’s one of those things where you have to tough it out. It’s one of those things where you just have to fight through it."
The Packers have tried different things in Seattle. They’ve changed hotels. They’ve traveled early; this week, they left on Tuesday and practiced on Wednesday in order to get the jet lag out of their system.
"I think it's a difficult place to play for everybody," coach Mike McCarthy said.
No one would dispute that it’s the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL.
"Their stereo system is the best in the league," McCarthy joked. "You see that in pregame. It's very clear. They've got great fans and the noise definitely fits their style of play, too. They're an athletic defense and it's definitely a challenge. It's a good atmosphere for the home team."
The noise in Seattle was one of the first things that came up after the Packers’ 31-12 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday. As historic as Lambeau Field is, no one would confuse it for CenturyLink when it comes to noise.
"It's super-loud -- it's the loudest environment in the NFL," Rodgers said. "And they're loud the entire time, not just once you break the huddle. They're loud when you're in the huddle. They're smart fans when it comes to noise."
That comment brought a chuckle from those in the room who have previously heard Rodgers ask Packers fans not to do the wave and make noise when he and the offense are on the field.
"That wasn't a shot at anything," Rodgers said. "It wasn't, it wasn't. I love our fans; they still do the wave when we're on offense. It's OK when it's 31-12, it's not that big of a deal. If it was 31-all maybe take it easy. I think they get a little bored maybe sometimes and they're like, 'What are we going to do here?' Because I was watching at one point from the sideline at one point, it was in the third quarter [Sunday against Miami], and I saw like four people right across from me -- this would be about behind their bench from the 40-yard line -- kind of stand up and do it. And I was thinking to myself, 'I bet you they're going to do it when we're on offense.' And they did, and we love 'em."
Unless something changes Thursday night, there’s little Rodgers & Co. love about Seattle.