A high-profile meeting at Lincoln Financial Field nearly four months ago helped shape the 2010 fortunes of both the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. One of those Super Bowl contenders will now see a promising season end where it started when the two teams renew acquaintances this Sunday in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs.
The Packers kicked off their 2010 campaign with a 27-20 victory in the City of Brotherly Love back on Sept. 12, a game that wound up completely changing the course of the Eagles' season. The signature moment of that contest took place midway through the second quarter, when Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb sustained a concussion after being leveled by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews on a scramble.
Kolb's injury opened the door for Michael Vick to take over the reins of one of the league's most exciting offenses, and the once-disgraced playmaker certainly took advantage of the opportunity. In one of the greatest comeback stories in recent memory, Vick raised his game to a previously unseen levels in directing the Eagles to a third consecutive postseason appearance and first NFC East title since 2006.
The former Atlanta Falcons franchise face established career bests for passing yards (3,018) and completion percentage (62.6) while accounting for 30 touchdowns (21 passing, 9 rushing) in an MVP-caliber year. The Eagles went 8-2 in games in which Vick started and finished this season.
Vick couldn't deliver a win in his latest outing, however, with the Minnesota Vikings successfully containing both the dual-threat quarterback and his team's usually potent offense in a 24-14 upset at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 28. The 30-year-old was hampered in that game by a quadriceps contusion and was one of several Philadelphia regulars to be rested in a meaningless 14-13 loss to Dallas last Sunday, but pronounced himself to be at 100 percent earlier in the week.
The Packers may have the means to keep Vick and the high-scoring Eagles grounded as well. Green Bay allowed the second-fewest points in the league (15.0 ypg) during the regular season and racked up a healthy 47 sacks, six of which came in the club's Week 1 besting of Philadelphia.
Green Bay's defense stood tall once again under high-stakes circumstances last weekend, holding NFC North champion Chicago to 227 total yards in an imperative 13-10 triumph that gave the Packers the NFC's final Wild Card berth. The unit sacked Jay Cutler six times and intercepted the Bears quarterback twice, including a game-sealing pick by safety Nick Collins in the final seconds.
The Packers will lean on that stout defense as well as standout quarterback Aaron Rodgers in hopes of recording their first road playoff win since the 1997 NFC Championship Game. Green Bay has come up short in four subsequent postseason tests away from home, most recently the memorable 51-45 overtime setback at Arizona in last year's opening round in which Rodgers threw for a team playoff record 423 yards and four touchdowns in his first-ever postseason start.
Green Bay also enters Sunday's showdown having lost its last three road tilts and was just 3-5 as the guest this year.
The Eagles finished 4-4 at home and dropped two straight games at Lincoln Financial Field to close out the regular season, but the team sports a stellar 7-1 mark in playoff openers under longtime head coach Andy Reid. The lone blemish took place last January, however, with a 34-14 first-round defeat at Dallas.