Green Bay is returning to Philadelphia for the first time since last year’s divisional round of the playoffs. The Packers appeared to be headed to the NFC championship game, leading 17-14 with 1:12 to play and the Eagles facing fourth-and-26 from deep in their own territory.
“Everything was on the line,” McNabb said. “Guys had full confidence we could get it accomplished. It was an exciting time for Philadelphia history.”
That’s because McNabb somehow completed a 28-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell, leading to David Akers’ 37-yard field goal with five seconds left that sent the game to overtime. Akers hit a 31-yarder five minutes into the extra period to give Philadelphia a 20-17 victory.
“I really don’t go back to that situation. I won’t even mention it necessarily to the players in regard to fourth-and-26 or whatever,” Green Bay coach Mike Sherman said. “I mean, in this day and age in the National Football League, every team’s a new team every year. So, you know a third of your guys weren’t even there, so there’s no sense in even going back to it.”
Favre was certainly there, and his questionable heave early in overtime resulted in Brian Dawkins’ interception and 35-yard return that set up the game-winning field goal.
“I played a long time and because of that, I’ve seen everything, and I also know you are never out of a game, and that was one of those games,” Favre said. “Of course, with Donovan, you’re never out of it.”
Favre is coming off a memorable Monday night. The Packers’ 45-17 win over St. Louis saw the future Hall of Famer make his 200th straight regular-season start and throw three touchdown passes, topping 20 for the 11th consecutive season to break Dan Marino’s NFL record.
There’s another of Marino’s records Favre can tie this week as he needs just 159 passing yards for his 13th 3,000-yard season.
“Brett Favre is unbelievable. It’s a great honor to play with him,” Packers running back Najeh Davenport said. “Who knows how long he’s going to be around … He’s like an old man, but he’s young at heart.”
While the 35-year-old Favre has led Green Bay to six straight wins and a tie with Minnesota atop the NFC North, Philadelphia is tied for the league’s best record and has wrapped up the NFC East.
Since suffering their only loss—27-3 to Pittsburgh on Nov. 7—the Eagles have defeated Dallas, Washington and the New York Giants by a combined score of 104-33.
Even without Terrell Owens having a big game, the Eagles totaled 390 yards of offense in Sunday’s 27-6 win over the Giants. McNabb went 18-of-27 for 244 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, and also ran for a score.
Owens, the league leader with 13 TD catches, had four receptions for 61 yards.
“We are just one step closer to where we need to get,” said Owens, 31 yards shy of his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season. “We are putting ourselves in position to grab home-field (advantage). Once the playoffs start, it’s anybody’s game. This is just the beginning.”
Philadelphia has a one-game lead over Atlanta for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and can clinch a first-round bye with two wins in its last five games.
Though the Eagles are tied with Baltimore for the league lead with 164 points allowed, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has a lot to think about facing Favre and the Packers’ rushing attack.
Davenport rushed for 179 yards last week but will come off the bench as Ahman Green is expected to return after sitting out Monday with bruised ribs. Green rushed for 159 yards in the playoff loss to Philadelphia.
While the Eagles leads the NFC with 34 sacks, the Packers have allowed a league-low five.
“Their offensive line has done a nice job. I think it’s important that we keep doing what we do,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “Jim feels very strong about that obviously, that’s his scheme. It doesn’t matter who that quarterback is, he’s going to still bring people after him. It won’t change this week with Brett.”