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PACKERS 21, EAGLES 16: The Pack Rise Again

Dom Capers' Packers defense kept Michael Vick under wraps all day long.

The first chapter of the unbelievable comeback story of Michael Vick finally came to a close as the Packers outlasted the Eagles. As detailed more thoroughly in this week’s edition of Eagle Eye, the Eagles ran into the same issues they’ve had all season with respect to offensive balance and defensive fortitude, and a talented Packers team that had to claw its way into the playoffs looked much more ready to play from start to finish. If you’re a Packers fan, you’re ecstatic even though during the preseason this position would not have surprised you. If you’re an Eagles fan, you’re disappointed even though if I had told you before the year started that you would win the division and lose a tough playoff game to the Packers, you would have taken it. You know you would have. Interesting dichotomy, no? It’s important to keep these things in perspective.

WHAT HAPPENED: The Chico Kid came out slingin’ for the Packers, and Dom Capers showed through his defensive gameplan that he was taking notes when the Bears, Giants, and others made life tougher on Michael Vick and the Eagles than did, say, the Redskins. Rodgers threw for only 180 yards, but he was all about efficiency, managing three touchdowns (and James Jones dropped a bolt of sheer loveliness that would have been another). Meanwhile, the Packers found a running game in the person of fantasy unicorn James Starks, who rumbled for 123 yards on 23 carries and may be the missing element to a Super Bowl run in Green Bay. Meanwhile, the Packers smacked Michael Vick and his weapons around as Marshall Faulk’s pre-game observation that he had not seen the Eagles receivers “handle it” when defensive backs “put hands on people” turned prophetic. As usually happens, the most physical team won the football game.

SO LONG: To the Eagles, who put together an exciting if uneven season. When they were right this year, they were as good as anybody, and perhaps the most explosive offense in the league. But they consistently stumbled against a strange reluctance to employ their enormous offensive line and supremely gifted running back in the power running game. Perhaps as a direct result, teams that worried little about the sweep simply pinned their ears back and took shots on Vick (who, by the way, is small by NFL quarterback standards). The beating seemed to sap him of some of his electricity down the stretch. The defense struggled to absorb a number of key injuries and continues to seek an identity as it turns over from the old guard to the new. On the whole, it was a successful season, but you can’t help but wonder what could have been.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK: My Super Bowl champion pick before the season, the Packers looked like a confident bunch this weekend in dismissing Philly at the Linc. They’ve got another tough one this week at Atlanta, but they just lost one down there a few weeks back and will no doubt be looking for redemption. A battle of two of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks is not a bummer for those of us with the Sickness.

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