Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Wildcard Round Playoff Review of Packers/Eagles

The Green Bay Packers went on the road to beat the Philadelphia Eagles for the second time this season. Here are the biggest things that stood out to me from the Packers' 21-16 playoff victory over the Eagles:

Bottled up Michael Vick:
Let’s not forget that outside linebacker Clay Matthews is a big reason why Michael Vick is quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers played the Eagles in Week 1 in Philadelphia. It was supposed to be Kevin Kolb’s coming out party after the Eagles traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to their division rival the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately for Kolb, Matthews knocked him out of the game with a concussion on a clean hit. Michael Vick came in to throw for 175 yards and run for 103 yards. Vick almost lead the Eagles to a come from behind victory over the Packers. In their second meeting of the season on the same field Vick threw for 292 yards and ran for 33 yards but it was not enough to beat the Packers. Vick threw an ill-advised pass up for grabs in the end zone that was intercepted by Tramon Williams to seal a victory for the Packers.

Miscues hurt both teams:
Usually in a playoff game if either team makes a critical mistake it leads to a loss. Both the Packers and Eagles made miscues that canceled their respective errors out. The Packers defense made a nice stand on the first drive but on the ensuing punt much maligned (mostly for off the field reasons) backup cornerback Brandon Underwood touched the ball with his foot despite the fact that the rest of the Packers special teams was trying to get away from the ball.

The touch was recovered by the Eagles giving them great field position. The Eagles were unable to punch the ball into the end zone and were forced to settle for a 41-yard field goal attempt by David Akers. Very uncharacteristically, Akers missed the field goal. Most Packer fans would consider that miss a make-up for the fumble since the Eagles did not “deserve” to get the ball anyway. Akers later missed from even closer on a 34-yard attempt.

Those missed field goals were covered up by the Packers own miscues. Right before halftime Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver James Jones in stride for what should have been a 63-yard touchdown. Unfortunately Jones dropped the ball so the Packers only lead 14-3 as opposed to 21-3 at halftime.

Not only did the half end in a whimper for the Packers but they started the second half with another big gaffe. Rodgers was stripped by Eagles defensive lineman Darryl Tapp on the first possession of the second half. Eagle defensive lineman Juqua Parker recovered the fumble at the Packers’ 24-yard line.

As you can see, the Packers and Eagles both had some major miscues that essentially canceled each other out.

James Starks:
After rushing for only 101 yards in three regular season games, rookie running back James Starks rushed for a rookie playoff franchise record 123 yards. Greg Gabriel, the former Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears and current contributor to National Football Post, recently pointed out that James Starks was almost a Chicago Bear. Although Starks contributed very little in the regular season due to injury, his performance against the Eagles justified Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s decision to use a 6th round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft on the often injured Starks. Keep in mind that if Starks had a clean bill of healthy he was a potential first round pick in the making after his junior year in college.

Aaron Rodgers:
Coming into the game Rodgers had a 0-1 playoff record but Rodgers really only made two mistakes in his first playoff performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately one of them directly lead to the Packers losing. Fast forward to this year, Rodgers completed 18 of 27 passes. Rodgers had a pretty good game against the Eagles in a win but played much better last year in the Packers' playoff loss to the Cardinals. Aaron Rodgers' two playoff starts show that quarterbacks get too much credit when they win (i.e. Eagles playoff victory) and too much blame when they lose (i.e. Cardinals playoff loss).

What should the Eagles do with Michael Vick:
With the Eagles’ 2010 campaign coming to a disappointing end, the Eagles need to decide what to do at the quarterback position. After trading away a franchise quarterback (Donovan McNabb) in the off-season, they still have two potential franchise quarterbacks on the roster. The Eagles have Kevin Kolb under contract for the 2011 season for a little more than a million dollars. Michael Vick is set to become a free agent, which means the Eagles might be forced to put the franchise tag on Michael. It is amazing to think what happened between Vick’s last playoff start, the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia playing for the Atlanta Falcons and today. Vick spent 18 months in federal prison for participating in a dog fighting operation. Vick’s jail time cost him two NFL seasons and millions of dollars. The Eagles put their faith in Michael Vick when no other team trusted Vick, how will that trust impact their negotiations?

Packers finally win a playoff game in Philadelphia:
Third times a charm. The Vince Lombardi lead Packers lost to the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship, which turned out to be Lombardi’s only playoff defeat. Even better the Packers officially put to bed “4th and 26” from a playoff game in Philadelphia that took place on Sunday, January 11, 2004. The Eagles were facing a 4th and 26 from their own 25 yard line, trailing the Packers by three points with 1:12 remaining in the game. Thanks to questionable coverage by Nick Barnett and Darren Sharper, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb hit wide receiver Freddie Mitchell for a 28-yard gain to keep the Eagles alive. The Eagles kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime. Following an overtime interception by Favre, the Packers lost to the Eagles on a David Akers field goal.

With their playoff victory over the Eagles, the Packers now head to Atlanta to face the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons. Check back for more Packers playoff coverage.

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