The last time the Eagles and Packers played was also the last time the Eagles were in the playoffs.
It was Sunday, January 9, 2011, a cold, blustery, winter late afternoon in Philadelphia, and a rematch between the two teams from the first game of the regular season, when the Packers won 27-20 and injured Kevin Kolb to usher in the Michael Vick era. Lincoln Financial Field was rocking – fans were in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation, ready for revenge. There was also the underlying feeling that whichever team won this Wild Card matchup would ultimately represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
You know how it went, and how it so heartbreakingly ended. The Packers jumped out to a 14-0 first-half lead and then held on as the Eagles attempted to mount a second-half comeback. The defense held Rodgers to just 180 yards passing (though he threw three touchdowns), but were gashed by running back James Starks (23 carries for 123 yards) and the ground game. The Eagles almost completed the comeback, too, but cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted Vick in the end zone on a pass intended for wide receiver Riley Cooper with 33 seconds left.
"We had to play them twice that season, the first game of the regular season and then obviously the Wild Card," said safety Kurt Coleman, who was a rookie at the time and started the playoff game in place of the injured Nate Allen. "It was going against Aaron Rodgers, my first time, but I thought we did a really good job, especially in the playoffs. We matched up against him well, we just came up a little short."
"They're a great team," tight end Brent Celek said. "They've won the last three meetings against us, so we have to get them back. This (game) is going to be a big one."
While the wounds may not be fresh, the veterans on the team still remember the pain of losing that game. Even so, they were all adamant that what happened in 2010 has no bearing on Sunday's game against the Packers at Lambeau Field – that this is a new regime, a new team, a new era.
"It's not about the old teams because players have retired or gone on to different teams," wide receiver Jason Avant said. "It's about this year's team, this 2013 Eagles team to go in and play against the 2013 Packers team and try to get a win against them."
"We've started a new culture here," guard Todd Herremans said. "Everything that we're doing is fresh and new, that's the way we're riding and we don't bring up old playoff losses or anything like that."
Just 15 of the 53 players on the Eagles roster remain from that 2010 team, as opposed to 26 for the Packers, though the most important of those 26, Rodgers, will be out with a fractured collarbone. Nevertheless, the Eagles are very cognizant that the Packers still have a number of playmakers on both offense and defense – including guys who won the Super Bowl in 2010 – and that rookie Eddie Lacy is emerging as one of the league's most lethal running backs.
"They have an explosive offense with a lot of weapons," Coleman said. "Eddie Lacy is really coming on as a running back, he's a powerful downhill runner. Nelson is a great route runner, precise, he understands the offense, understands defensive coverages. He's a go-to guy with great hands, goes up and get (the ball), tough player. Same with James Jones, I think they're very similar and can make a lot of plays.
"James Starks, he had over 100 yards (in the playoff game), he's similar to Eddie Lacy – he's a downhill runner. He'll maybe give you one cut and then get as many yards as he can. You just keep giving him the ball and he'll wear down the defense."
On defense, outside linebacker and top pass rusher Clay Matthews is scheduled to return and will provide a big-time boost for the Packers.
"They're a good defense," Herremans said. "They fly around, they're very stout in the middle and have a lot of different stuff they can do with their edge rushers. We just have to be prepared for multiple fronts and move guys off the ball. (Clay Matthews) goes to the whistle, very talented, he's a smart player – he's the total package. I think it's a good opportunity for Lane (Johnson) to show what he's got, and I know Jason will do what Jason does and play well."
After defeating the Oakland Raiders to move to 4-5, the Eagles are focused squarely on beating a Green Bay Packers team that will look to shock the world without its star player and leader. The past is in the past, and this Eagles team is living in the present.
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