The defensive plans took an abrupt change in direction on Monday night when Aaron Rodgers was sacked and knocked out of Green Bay's game against Chicago. All of a sudden, the suspicion, later confirmed, was that the Eagles wouldn't face the star quarterback on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
All of a sudden, it's Seneca Wallace who will start.
Wallace is a solid veteran backup who is going to be asked to carry the day for Green Bay for a few weeks. He moves well, he's intelligent and he has some skills to take what the defense gives him.
What Wallace is not, however, is a mystery. Bill Davis, the Eagles' defensive coordinator, coached the linebackers while Wallace was a backup quarterback in Cleveland in 2010 and 2011. Pat Shurmur, the Eagles' offensive coordinator, was Cleveland's head coach, and he worked very closely with Wallace.
The Eagles saw Wallace when he started as a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2008, and made a big splash on Seattle's first play from scrimmage, connecting with wide receiver Koren Robinson on a 90-yard touchdown play to give the Seahawks an early 7-0 lead. The rest of the night did not go as well for Wallace, who ended his game with 13 completions in 29 attempts for 169 yards and the touchdown. Wallace was sacked four times. After the big play to Robinson, Wallace was 12 of 28 for 79 yards. Seattle gained just 143 yards on its last 54 snaps, and punted 11 consecutive times, seven after three-and-out offensive series.
It was a tough night for Wallace.
The Eagles hope to have the same kind of success on Sunday at Lambeau Field, but before you count it as an easy one for the defense, understand just what the Eagles are facing. Green Bay, despite losing Rodgers, tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver Randall Cobb, have some outstanding receivers in Jordy Nelson and James Jones, a good running game featuring Eddie Lacy and James Starks (who is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and who trampled the Eagles for 123 rushing yards on 23 carries in Green Bay's 2010 playoff win at Lincoln Financial Field in 2010) and a very strong coaching staff and scheme.
Folks, this isn't going to be easy, no matter who is playing quarterback for Green Bay.
I could tell you all about the times the Eagles faced this same situation, and how it worked out. I remember how the Saints were forced to start John Fourcade at quarterback in 1989, and Fourcade went out and tossed three touchdown passes and scrambled away from pressure and drove the defense crazy to beat the Eagles, 30-20 in a December game that was just crushing. I could make sure you recall how Colts running back James Mungro ran for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns at Veterans Stadium in 2002 as Indianapolis stunned the Eagles, 35-13.
It wasn't that long ago (2006, to be exact) when Tampa Bay's Matt Bryant boomed a 62-yard field goal to stagger the Eagles in Florida, a field goal that was 12 yards longer than any in Bryant's NFL career to that point (he has since kicked a 55-yard field goal)
Those are just a few names that jump out as examples about the unpredictable nature of the NFL. Sometimes you think you know how this game is going to go, and then it turns 180 degrees in the other direction.
Such is the thinking with Wallace and the Packers on Sunday. The Packers are without their franchise quarterback, and that is a setback for Green Bay. No question about that. Injuries have played a major factor in the Packers' season.
But the good teams in the NFL rally together in times of adversity, and the Packers are a good team. They're going to play with vigor on Sunday. They're going to be physical. They're going to try to establish the running game with their outstanding rookie, Lacy, and with Starks. They're going to try to create easy throws for Wallace. They're going to move the pocket and allow Wallace to use his legs as weapons.
Green Bay will go after Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles and take some chances and look to create some turnovers to give the offense a short field.
And the crowd? Rabid. Nuts. Head coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles can't play their practice music loud enough to replicate what the offense will hear on Sunday on the not-frozen tundra at Lambeau Field.
Word of warning: Don't get ahead of yourselves here. No doubt the Packers suffer a hit without Rodgers, but Green Bay is still a quality football team and the Eagles have to bring an "A" game to the party to come home 5-5.
It's happened before. Those moments are painful memories and missed opportunities. The Eagles can't afford to slip up here, no matter who lines up for Green Bay's proud and talented Packers.