Frequent-flier miles, hotel points only thing Packers win on road

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Every Green Bay Packers home game this year has been a celebration of their historic 100th season.

There hasn’t been a single celebratory game on the road.

Five games away from Lambeau Field.

Five losses.

The Packers are as close to going 0-for-the-road as they’ve been in 40 years. In 1979, they lost their first seven games on the road only to win the regular-season finale at Detroit. Since then, they’ve had two other one-win road seasons -- 1-6-1 in 1980 and 1-7 in 2005 -- but at least in those years they didn’t wait until the last week of the season to win away from home.

If the Packers fail to win Sunday at Minnesota and then lose their final two road games, at Chicago in Week 15 and at the New York Jets in Week 16, they will become just the sixth team in 100 years of football in Green Bay to lose every game on the road and the first since 1958. That team went 0-6 out of town in a 1-10-1 season. Eight years earlier, the Packers also went 0-6 on the road in a 3-9 season. The other three winless road teams all played in the 1920s.

Mike McCarthy, as he usually does, has taken a pragmatic approach to the road woes.

Sure, the head coach could change hotels; the Packers are staying in a different spot in the Minneapolis area than they have in recent years, but that was booked shortly after the schedule was released in late April. He has taken the team out a day early twice this season -- to Los Angeles and Seattle -- but he has done that before on long trips.

“Sleeping in a different hotel, I don’t think that’s going to help us,” McCarthy said this week. “That’s not an option. We’re going to maybe spend a little more time on third down as an offense, things like that. So we’re just going to focus on football.”

With the Packers’ season on the brink of collapse at 4-5-1, Aaron Rodgers said after Thursday’s loss at Seattle that the team needs a galvanizing moment. A victory at Minnesota might qualify.

They’ve lost both games at U.S. Bank Stadium since it opened in 2016. Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone there last year.

The past three road losses -- to the Rams, Patriots and Seahawks -- have been particularly agonizing.

Rodgers never got the ball back after the Rams took a 29-27 lead because Ty Montgomery fumbled a kickoff he should have kept in the end zone. The New England game was tied until Aaron Jones fumbled on the first play of the fourth quarter. And then at Seattle last Thursday, the Packers led the entire third quarter and most of the fourth until the Seahawks took the lead with 5 minutes, 8 seconds to play. Rodgers & Co. managed just three points in the second half. On his final throw, he bounced a pass short of Marquez Valdes-Scantling on third-and-2, prompting McCarthy to punt with 4:20 left. Rodgers never got the ball back.

“It’s tough losing on the road; it’s tough losing by one possession,” Rodgers said after the Seattle game. “Obviously, I’m frustrated, not just by the last throw but some other stuff that we could’ve done better out there. I think it’s important to get away and get refreshed. This is an important, obviously, six-game stretch left. I still believe we have a lot to play for. It’s going to start with a tough trip to Minnesota on Sunday night football.”

The road struggles could be tied to two things: completion percentage and third-down conversion. On third downs at home, Rodgers' completion percentage (66.7 percent) ranks tied for eighth in the NFL. But on third downs on the road, he’s at just 52.4 percent (27th in the league). That translates into a third-down conversion rate of 41.2 percent at home and 35.1 percent on the road.

No road win would be bigger than this one. It would bring the Packers back to .500 at 5-5-1 and tie them with the Vikings, who currently sit in what would be the final wild-card playoff spot. It would give Green Bay the head-to-head tiebreaker at 1-0-1.

“We understand what our record is and you can break it down even tighter than that,” McCarthy said. “We need to win on the road. That’s something we haven’t done. History doesn’t help you but it’s a good reminder. It’s a tough place to play over there. We know what we need to do.”

And changing travel plans won’t help.

“We’re going to stay in the hotel we planned on staying,” McCarthy said.