GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mason Crosby has lived through both nightmares, and Green Bay’s kicker doesn’t want a hat trick.
Crosby was part of Packers teams in 2007 and 2011 that fully expected to reach the Super Bowl. But in both of those seasons, the Giants came to Lambeau Field and notched playoff upsets. Each of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl.
“Those were great years and we had great teams and obviously they did too, because they went on to win both those years,” Crosby said. “And so those are great games. It’s a great rivalry now.”
The Packers hope to swing the rivalry back in their favor Sunday when they meet the Giants in an NFC wild-card game.
These teams have never played in the same division, and they weren’t even in the same conference until 1970. But what’s transpired since 2007 has made them fierce rivals.
“Any time you fall short of accomplishing your goal, it’s tough,” Packers safety Morgan Burnett said. “And they stopped us from our goals those years.
“So any time you fall short, it’s always tough. If you don’t get the job done, it hurts. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
The Packers have experienced arguably more postseason heartbreak than any other NFL team during the past decade. Since 2007, they have lost four playoff games in overtime and five times on the final play — highlighted by their meltdown in the 2014 NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
The losses to the Giants are as brutal as any.
In the frigid NFC Championship Game after the 2007 season, Green Bay was a 7 1⁄2-point favorite. But Eli Manning and Co. scored a stunning 23-20 win in overtime in Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer.
The Packers were 15-1 in the 2011 regular season and entered the divisional-playoff round as an eight-point favorite over the Giants. But Manning threw three touchdown passes and had a 114.5 quarterback rating as the Giants notched a 37-20 win.
The Packers are a 4 1⁄2-point favorite for Sunday’s game.
“We’ve met up a lot and they’ve obviously had a lot of success the past seven, eight years just like we have,” Packers Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang said. “You get two fan bases like that, two teams with that type of characteristics meeting up in the playoffs, it obviously makes for a hell of a game.”
The only Packers remaining from that first game against the Giants are Crosby and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay has 10 players who competed in the second contest.
Only Manning and long snapper Zak DeOssie played in the first game. Six were around for the second.
With so many new faces, several Packers tried downplaying Sunday’s matchup, insisting that any rivalry talk is overblown.
“I don’t know how many guys were here in ’07 besides probably just me and Mason,” Rodgers said. “And in ’11, not many guys on either side — probably just a handful. We’re playing against the 2016 Giants and they’re playing against the 2016 Packers in 2017.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy agreed.
“You’re talking about two different teams,” he said. “I don’t even know how many players are on each one of those teams. And so playoff losses are tough, but they don’t really factor in this game.”
McCarthy can try selling that message to his fan base, but they’ll tune a deaf ear. The fact remains that the Giants handed Green Bay two of the most devastating playoff losses in franchise history. Watching the Giants win the Super Bowl in those seasons was even more painful. Now the Packers want to begin settling the score.
“Is it a rivalry? I don’t know. Probably,” Burnett said. “I just know it’s going to be two good football teams going out, going at it. It’s going to be a 60-minute football game of guys giving it their all. We’ve just got to try to get a win.”
And try writing a different ending.