‘Backs against the wall’

SEATTLE — There was little time for nostalgia or reunions or talk about another playoff rematches last week.

The Seattle Seahawks, and outgoing head coach Mike Holmgren, were in no mood to think about their past with the Green Bay Packers, nor the possibility of the two once-mighty NFC contenders meeting again in the future.

As the Seahawks and Packers head into a Week 6 matchup that was supposed to help determine playoff position, the only item on either team’s plate is Grade-A desperation.

“You’ve got two teams in tough situations, backs against the wall, really,” Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said this week. “I know a lot of people right now don’t think we are, but I still believe we’re a good football team. And I believe they are too.”

After today, one of these teams probably won’t be called a good team for a while. A loss for either the Seahawks (1-3) or the Packers (2-3) could serve as notice that the season has officially come off the tracks.

Seattle is reeling from the most lopsided loss in Holmgren’s head coaching career — that includes his seven seasons in Green Bay and nine-plus with the Seahawks — after getting spanked 44-6 against the defending champion New York Giants last Sunday. If Seattle fans were wondering just how far from Super Bowl contention the 2008 Seahawks are, that game may have answered a few questions.

Green Bay is in less dire straits, having been competitive in every one of its games this season. But the Packers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak that has put the city’s high hopes on hold.

“It’s been disappointing, that’s the biggest thing,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is in his first year as Brett Favre’s heir. “We felt good about our first two games, although we didn’t feel like we played a complete game in either of those two. … That’s been our focus this week: getting back to fundamentals and basics and trying to put together a four-quarter game.”

The Seahawks’ Tatupu answered any questions about desperation by asking an inquisitor about both teams’ records. When it was revealed to him that Green Bay has one more win than Seattle, Tatupu nodded his head and said: “There you go, then. We need it more.”

Teammate Julian Peterson agreed.

“We need it more than they do,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what they bring to the table; we’ve got to get the W and take it from there.”

The Seahawks’ season, which opened with the first 0-2 start in seven years, appeared to get back on track with a one-sided, 37-13 home victory over the St. Louis Rams three weeks ago. Seattle went into its bye week riding the emotion of that win, and losses by all three NFC West opponents the following Sunday only heightened the city’s optimism.

But the humbling by the Giants set the Seahawks back again, and now each game takes on added importance.

“Each week is more and more important if we want to get things turned around,” Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard said. “We don’t want to look up at the end of the season and say, ‘Shoot, that one or two games that slipped away made the difference.’”

In a broader sense, the two sports towns are going through similar heartbreak right about now. Seattle is coming off a forgettable baseball season, the departure of an NBA team, and a college football scene that has generated about as much as excitement as turtle racing.

The state of Wisconsin has experienced similar heartbreak, albeit with more sudden impact. The Milwaukee Brewers’ historic season came crashing to an end with a playoff loss last week, while the Wisconsin Badgers’ football team lost back-to-back games to fall out of the Top 25.

Now both regions can turn their sole focus to the NFL, and things aren’t exactly looking rosy in either place.

Injuries have been a key to both teams’ problems, but not the lone factor. Even when the Seahawks got their two top receivers back last week, the offense continued to stall. Green Bay is hurt on both sides of the ball, and the Packers have looked especially susceptible on defense this year.

Today’s game is a battle of two hurting teams — both physically and mentally. The Seahawks are off to their worst start since 2002, and they’ve never made the playoffs after starting a season 1-3. Their inability to come out of the gates has many local fans worried that this might be a long season.

“We had high expectations going into the season,” Bernard said. “One good thing about this league is that it’s not over yet. We still have time to get things turned around, and then in a few weeks people will be saying good things about us again.”

With each passing week, the Seahawks and Packers are getting more and more desperate to turn things around.

“I would call it a sense of urgency, but not panic,” Seahawks receiver Bobby Engram said. “We’ve got to come out, play harder and play sharper, and that’s the bottom line. That’s what we have to do. That’s what we haven’t done.

“If we were 2-2 or 3-1, and we hadn’t won games the way we thought we should, we’d be saying the same thing. Obviously, there’s a little more emphasis when you’re losing games.”

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