It was, first and foremost, a classic football game - with a spectacular, storybook finish...
And, beyond that, one with historic as well as competitive ramifications.
As a result, the Green Bay Packers will be winging to Philadelphia this weekend for an NFL postseason game for the first time in 43 years - following a dramatic, 33-27 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks in their Sunday Wild Card Playoff Game at Lambeau Field.
Appropriately, former Eagle Al Harris provided the decisive heroic, intercepting a Matt Hasselbeck pass and returning it 52 yards for the winning touchdown at 4:25 of the sudden death overtime, sending 70,000-plus of the faithful home in vocal delight.
Also poetically, his climactic theft-and-run propelled the Packers into a Divisional Playoff opposite the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia next Sunday afternoon (Jan. 11), with kickoff set for 3:45, CST, Wisconsin time.
The Packers thus will be returning to the City of Brotherly Love for playoff purposes for the first time since 1960. The Green and Gold squared off against the Eagles in that year's NFL Championship Game - one which saw Vince Lombardi make his postseason debut as a head coach.
Lombardi and the Packers left Philly empty-handed on that occasion (Dec. 26, 1960), the Eagles pulling out a 17-13 victory with a late, come-from-behind touchdown. It was the Packers' first title game appearance in 16 years and also would mark Lombardi's only playoff loss.
The larcenous Harris made pro football history with Sunday's game-breaker, it being the first time in NFL annals that a defensive touchdown has ended a playoff game in overtime.
Sunday's win was the fifth straight for the Packers, including their last four regular-season games, and their eighth in the last 10 games, among them 7 victories in the last 9 regular-season contests.
THE TV-RADIO COVERAGE: Joe Buck will deliver the play-by-play for Sunday's Divisional Playoff, with Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth providing the analysis and Pam Oliver reporting from the sideline. Richie Zyontz produces and Artie Kempner is the director.
The game also will be broadcast over the 62-station Packers Radio Network (Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren. The broadcast will be available on www.packers.com for NFL Field Pass subscribers.
Additionally, the game will be aired nationally by Westwood One/CBS Radio, with Dave Sims calling the play-by-play, Jack Ham providing the analysis and Beasley Reece reporting from the sideline. Clemson Smith Muñiz and Roberto Abramowitz will be broadcasting the game in Spanish from Westwood One/CBS Radio Sports' studios in New York.
THE NEW VENUE: In Sunday's divisional playoff, the Packers will be making their first appearance in the Eagles' new home, Lincoln Financial Field (capacity 68,532), which opened this year.
The Eagles' longtime previous home, Veterans Stadium, still stands across the street from LFF - temporarily. It is due to be razed in February.
THE PLAYOFF RECORDS: The Packers, who will be making their 37th postseason appearance in Sunday's divisional showdown with the Eagles, have won 24 and lost 12 of their 36 previous playoff games, a .667 percentage which ranks as the best in NFL history, based on teams with 10 or more playoff appearances.
The Packers' record now includes a 12-1 mark in Lambeau Field.
The Eagles, in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, will be making their 28th postseason appearance. They have won 13 playoff games - including NFL title contests in 1948, 1949 and 1960 - while losing 14 games.
LOMBARDI WAS A MAN OF HIS WORD: After the Packers fell to the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, Head Coach Vince Lombardi made a "promise" - one that he kept to the end of his coaching career.
Telling his team in the locker room, "We just ran out of time," he vowed, "I'm never going to lose another one (postseason game)."
And, the record shows, he never did. He won nine consecutive playoff games, including five NFL Championship Games and two Super Bowls.
OT IN THE PLAYOFFS: Sunday's sudden death experience with the Seattle Seahawks was only the second overtime playoff game in Packers history.
The first occurred in 1965, when the Green and Gold defeated the Baltimore Colts, 13-10, in overtime, Don Chandler kicking the decisive, 25-yard field goal at 13:39 of the overtime period.
Historically, it was a critical victory for the Packers. They went on to defeat the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game a week later (Jan. 2, 1966) - the first of a record three straight league titles under the NFL's playoff system - the only time it has been accomplished.
THE SERIES: It is no less than poetic that the Packers and Eagles should cross paths in the National Football League playoffs. Theirs, after all, is one of the league's oldest rivalries, reaching back to 1933 and the "pioneer days" of the NFL, a time when the league consisted of just 10 teams.
And then, of course, there is the matter of their mutual postseason history. For the record, it involves only one game, but that contest remains a bittersweet memory for the Green and Gold.
The occasion was the 1960 NFL Championship Game - and Vince Lombardi's postseason debut as an NFL head coach. Despite the Packers' statistical superiority in Philadelphia's Franklin Field on that distant day, the Eagles escaped with a 17-13 victory.
The issue was settled as Philadelphia linebacker Chuck Bednarik felled the Packers' Jim Taylor at the Eagles' 8-yard line on the final play of the game and pinned the Packers' fullback beneath him as time expired.
Overall, in regular season play, it is a substantially different story. The Packers own a major advantage in the series, having won 22 of 32 meetings with the Philadelphians.
The Eagles, however, enter Sunday's game with the knowledge that they prevailed in their most recent meeting, a "Monday Night Football" matchup in Lambeau Nov. 10 which saw the Eagles depart Green Bay with a 17-14 victory.
For the record, the Packers' most recent victory in Philadelphia came in 1962, when they triumphed, 49-0, under Lombardi. The Eagles have won their five regular-season meetings on Philly turf in the 41-year interim.
THE HEAD COACHES: It is no longer a novelty - a game day showdown for them - but close friends again will be facing each other from opposing sidelines when the Packers and Eagles take to the turf of Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field Sunday afternoon.
The Packers' Mike Sherman and the Eagles' Andy Reid, fellow members of Mike Holmgren's Green Bay coaching staff in 1997-98, will be matching strategies for the third time in their head coaching careers. But, for the first time, in the postseason.
And they will go into this latest matchup all even. Each has won one of their two previous coaching encounters, Sherman's Packers posting a 6-3 victory in Lambeau Field Sept. 17, 2000, and Reid squaring accounts as the Eagles pulled out a 17-14 victory in "Lambeau" the night of Nov. 10.
Both have prospered in their respective roles. Sherman, closing out his fourth season, has compiled an impressive 43-21 regular-season record while leading the Packers to four consecutive winning seasons and back-to-back NFC North Division Championships the last two years.
Reid, meanwhile, has converted the Eagles into one of the NFL's elite teams. Under the massive BYU alumnus, who along the way has also become executive vice president of football operations, the Eagles have captured three consecutive East Division titles for the first time in team history and have made two consecutive trips to the NFC Championship Game.
Sherman, highly consistent and impeccably prepared, continues to make Packers history annually. In addition to leading the Green and Gold to four consecutive winning seasons and back-to-back NFC North titles, he also has become the first head coach in team annals to win 40 games in his first four seasons at the controls, thus surpassing the fabled Vince Lombardi, who weighed in with 39 wins in his first four years (39-13-0) and Mike Holmgren, who posted 38 victories in his first four seasons (38-26-0).
Sherman simultaneously joined Lombardi and Holmgren in another major category by leading the Packers into the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Lombardi was the first Green Bay head coach to do so - escorting the Packers into the NFL Championship Game in 1960-61-62 and again in 1965-66-67, and Holmgren subsequently maneuvered the Packers into the postseason in six consecutive seasons, 1993-98.
In the wake of Sunday's 33-27 overtime, Wild Card victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the 49-year-old New Englander now owns a 2-2 record in postseason play.
Over the four-year span, Sherman has established himself in an extensively expanded role, having added the titles of executive vice president and general manager to his résumé after just one year as head coach - and responded to those additional responsibilities by leading the Packers - in 2002 - to their first division championship since 1997 and a second straight playoff berth. The latter accomplishments earned Sherman Staples 'NFL Coach of the Year' honors.
Sherman also has joined an exclusive fraternity in leading the Packers to four consecutive winning seasons. Team founder Curly Lambeau, Lombardi and Holmgren are the only other head coaches to post four consecutive winning seasons in Green Bay.
After shouldering the additional duties with typically total commitment and literally without missing a beat - Sherman directed the Packers to successive 12-and-4 records in 2001-02, the Green and Gold thus becoming the winningest team in the NFL over that two-year span (24-8-0).
Moreover, the 12-4 marks have been exceeded by only four teams in the club's 84-year NFL history and the 12-12 parlay was only the second such coupling (12 or more victories in successive years) in team annals.
Sherman also equaled a Lombardi achievement by leading the Packers into the playoffs in only his second season.
Along the way, he has made Lambeau Field a somewhat anti-social venue for NFL rivals to visit. Since he established residence at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in 2000, the Packers have forged an imposing 26-6 regular-season record in "Lambeau" under his leadership - the best regular-season home record in the league during that span, including the league's only perfect home record (8-0) in 2002.
The first man in a half-century to take on his tri-cornered roles in the Packers organization - since Lambeau served as vice president, general manager and head coach in 1949 - Sherman brings multiple credentials to his multiple responsibilities. They include a Super Bowl following the 1997 season, during which he was a member of the Holmgren coaching staff that led Green Bay into Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos at San Diego.
It was to be the first of three consecutive visits to the playoffs for Sherman, who returned to the postseason with the Packers in 1998 and as the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's staff at Seattle in 1999.
Now closing out his 26th year in the coaching profession, Sherman launched his coaching career at Stamford, Conn., High School in 1978. He went on to coach in the college ranks for 16 years, including one year as offensive coordinator at Holy Cross and terms as offensive line coach at such highly respected programs as UCLA and Texas A&M.
Reid, the 20th head coach in the history of the Philadelphia franchise, was named the NFL 'Coach of the Year' in 2000 and 2002. He also has the most playoff victories (4) in Eagles history, and has the highest winning percentage of any Eagles coach (.638).
In his 12-year coaching career, Reid's teams have made the playoffs 10 times. Along the way, he has coached in the Super Bowl twice and the NFC Championship Game five times.
Reid became head coach of the Eagles in 1999 after a seven-year stint as an assistant coach with the Packers under Mike Holmgren, a period during which he helped the Packers earn a Super Bowl XXXI win over New England.
Prior to joining the Packers, Reid coached in the college ranks for 10 years - at Brigham Young (1982), San Francisco State (1983-85), Northern Arizona (1986), Texas El-Paso (1987-88) and Missouri (1989-91).
THE LAST TIME: A record rushing performance by Ahman Green was not sufficient to make the difference the last time the Packers and Birds met - in an ABC "Monday Night Football" showdown the night of Nov. 10.
A winning scenario appeared to be in the making as the contest headed into the closing minutes. The Packers were out front, 14-10, as the result of a 45-yard scoring run by the remarkably productive Green as they punted to the Eagles with 2:43 remaining in the game and Philadelphia taking over on its own 35-yard line.
To the Green and Gold's chagrin, the Eagles were in the Green Bay end zone in the span of 2 minutes and 16 seconds, quarterback Donovan McNabb finding wide receiver Todd Pinkston in the left corner of the end zone with a 6-yard scoring strike.
After placekicker David Akers added Philadelphia's 17th and final point and Antonio Chatman had returned the subsequent kickoff to the Green Bay 36-yard line, only 27 seconds remained to play.
But there was still hope on the Green Bay sideline. Quarterback Brett Favre, who customarily thrives in such challenging situations, hit tight end Wesley Walls and wide receiver Javon Walker with 14- and 8-yard completions - calling a timeout after each - and the prospect of a game-tying field goal began to develop.
Favre, however, playing with a broken thumb on his right hand suffered Oct. 19 at St. Louis, fumbled while attempting to pass on the next play, the Eagles' Darwin Walker recovering with one second left. The play was challenged by the Review Assistant and upheld....and the game was over.
A significant irony in the overall process is the fact that the Packers had again mounted a dominant, clock-controlling running game, rushing for 241 yards as Green powered and sprinted his way to a new team single-game record, personally amassing 192 of those 241 rushing yards.
But, when they needed to put the Eagles away with a first-down or two in the late going, they came up short, prompting Head Coach Mike Sherman to observe in his post-game wrap-up, "We didn't do what we needed to do at the end of the game to keep them out of the end zone."
Favre, observing after the game, "The wind and rain seemed to bother us more than it did them," closed out the evening with a modest 109 yards passing, on 14 completions in 22 attempts, fumbling the wet, slick football three times in the overall process.
Aside from last year's game against Washington, when he had posted 89 yards before being injured in the second quarter and leaving the contest, it was the fewest passing yards Favre had had in a regular season game since Oct. 31, 1994, when he settled for 82 yards in a game at Chicago's Soldier Field on a stormy night that saw winds escalate to more than 50 miles per hour.
The Packers' scoring task was complicated when the invariably accurate Ryan Longwell was short with a 45-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, thus suffering his first field goal miss of the season, ending a string of 11 consecutive successes.
THE 1960 NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Dec. 26, 1960: Philadelphia 17, Green Bay 13
The Packers couldn't hold a 13-0 fourth-quarter lead, yielding a late surge to the Eagles, who scored the deciding points on a 5-yard run by Ted Dean.
The Packers had stopped Philadelphia at their own 4-yard line late in the third quarter, then recaptured the lead on a 7-yard TD pass from Bart Starr to Max McGee.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Dean's 58-yard return ignited the Eagles, and led to his game-winning touchdown with 5:21 remaining.
Green Bay made a last-ditch effort, driving to the Eagles' 22, but on the final play, Philadelphia's Chuck Bednarik stopped Jim Taylor at the 8 as time expired.
The game marked the Packers' first title game appearance in 16 years. It would also mark Lombardi's only playoff loss.
THE NFC PLAYOFF STATISTICAL UPDATE: In keeping with his regular-season custom, running back Ahman Green again ranks among the NFC's statistical leaders after the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Although his numbers are not as robust as usual, Green ranks second in the NFC in yards rushing (66), total yards from scrimmage (110 - including 44 receiving) and scoring (12 points on 2 rushing touchdowns).
Green also leads the NFC in the production of first downs with 8 (6 rushing and 2 receiving).
Quarterback Brett Favre is the NFC's second-ranking passer with a 102.9 rating, based upon 26 completions in 38 attempts for 319 yards and 1 touchdown, with no interceptions.
Favre also leads in fourth-quarter passing with a 102.3 rating, based on 8 completions in 9 attempts for 77 yards, with no interceptions, and is second in third-down passing with a 53.9 rating, based upon 4 completions in 9 attempts for 32 yards, with no interceptions.
Wide receiver Javon Walker ranks fifth in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with a net of 103 and fellow wideout Donald Driver eighth with 66 yards. Driver also is tied for second among third-down receiving leaders with 2 catches.
Antonio Chatman leads the NFC in punt return yards with 39 yards and a 13.0-yard average for 3 runbacks and Najeh Davenport ranks third in kickoff returns with a 20.3-yard average for 3 returns.
As a team, the Packers led the NFC in first playoff weekend on offense with 397 yards (78 rushing and 319 passing) and in first-down plays with a 6.87-yard average for 31 first-down plays.
The Packers rank second in total defense with 340 yards (49 rushing and 291 passing).
Individually, Cletidus Hunt and Aaron Kampman are involved in a six-way tie for the lead in quarterback sacks with 1.0 apiece.