Seattle Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren had a heavenly homecoming tonight at Lambeau Field, the scene for so many of his past triumphs. The former Packers coach was greeted with a warm ovation before the opening kickoff, and his new team then went about ruining the evening for Packers backers everywhere.
The Seahawks sent waves of blitzers at battered and beleaguered quarterback Brett Favre on a night when Green Bay committed seven critical turnovers, dropped a half dozen passes and looked thoroughly out of sync in a 27-7 loss to the Seahawks. The Packers dropped to 4-3, a game behind the NFC Central-leading Detroit Lions (5-2).
"It was a special game and a special night," Holmgren said. "I'd be less than honest if I said it was just another game. Coming out of the tunnel in this stadium should give everyone goosebumps. I didn't know how I'd react, and I really didn't handle it very well."
There would be no late heroics tonight from Favre, who already had engineered three stirring final-minute comebacks this year. A three-time league most valuable player under Holmgren's tutelage, Favre lost two fumbles and, for only the second time in his career, threw four interceptions. He finished 14 of 35 for 180 yards.
The Seahawks, 5-2 and leading the AFC West, also used a 61-yard touchdown return by cornerback Shawn Springs on a blocked field goal late in the first quarter.
Seattle quarterback John Kitna played a relatively mistake-free game and his offensive line also managed to spring running back Ricky Watters for 125 yards on 31 carries, including a 45-yard run.
"Mike never said this was just another game to us," Watters said. "He said it's a big game. He said you'll come to Lambeau and it's going to be different. He also told us we could win. All week long he made us feel like we could win. This us huge for us. We can't downplay it. To beat them like that means so much to this organization. We're on our way."
On a blustery, chilly night, Kitna finished 12 of 19 for a modest 109 yards. But he also threw two touchdown passes, including a two-yard fade to wide receiver Sean Dawkins for a score that culminated a 73-yard drive on Seattle's opening possession of the second half. That score provided a 21-7 lead, and the Packers never were able to recover on a night Favre essentially was in a big chill of his own.
Holmgren, his longtime mentor and close friend, came into Lambeau for the first time since leaving the Packers following the 1998 season for a job that also included general manager and vice president in his title. He had resurrected the club over his seven-year tenure here, taking the Packers to a Super Bowl championship in the 1996 season and posting a 47-5 record on the hallowed Lambeau turf.
He admitted that his emotions clearly spilled over at the start, but once both teams settled down, he did, too.
Favre never was able to take control of this game and finished with one of the worst performances of his career. He was sacked three times and was hit often after releasing the ball against a fearsome pass rush.
Favre didn't even finish the game, mercifully pulled with six minutes left in favor of backup Matt Hasselback.
"Seattle played well, but we couldn't beat anyone the way we played tonight," Favre said. "The mistakes we made, turning the ball over like that. . . . We had costly penalties, we didn't capitalize on the chances we had. It's as simple as that."
Springs, who is from Silver Spring and attended Springbrook High, had two interceptions to go with his touchdown on a 50-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell. The kick was blocked by rookie Lamar King from the middle of the line and set the tone for a Seattle team that managed only 222 total yards but still won easily.
"I think when they made the schedule they were looking at us like cannon fodder," Seattle defensive back Merton Hanks said. "One of the guys was saying it was like we were their homecoming opponent. But this team is starting to come together. It was a big win for a lot of guys who'd never even played on Monday night. Everybody just came up big."