Packers-Eagles Preview

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Surging back into the race by winning the game they had to win, the Green Bay Packers (4-4) will enjoy prime time for the second week in a row, hosting the formidable Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) on ABC's "Monday Night Football" next Monday (Nov. 10) while continuing their pursuit of upward mobility in the NFC's North Division.

Kickoff for the contest, a customary season ticket sellout (72,515), is set for 8 o'clock CST (Wisconsin time).

With ESPN's "Sunday Night Football" providing a national showcase, the Packers adroitly turned their season around over the weekend, dispatching the pacesetting Vikings, 30-27, and ascending to within two games of the division-leading Purple Gang, now 6-2 after back-to-back losses.

Equally important, they pulled abreast of Minnesota in intra-division record at 3-1, measurably enhancing their playoff potential. (A loss, in dark contrast, would have left them 4 games back of the Vikings with 8 games to play and a game to the rear in intra-division record).

Making Sunday's success doubly sweet for the Green and Gold, long battling a "Dome Syndrome," was executing it in the Purple Gang's deafening Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, where the Packers had won only one game in the previous five years.

In the happy process, they also squared their 42-year-old series with the Vikings. Both teams now have won 42 games since the rivalry was launched in 1961, and there has been one tie.

THE TV-RADIO COVERAGE: Al Michaels will call the play-by-play and John Madden will handle the analysis for the ABC telecast of Monday night's game, with Lisa Guerrero reporting from the sideline. Fred Gaudelli produces and Drew Esocoff is the director.

The game also will be aired over the 62-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee presenting the play-by-play and Larry McCarren offering commentary and analysis. The radio broadcast also will be available on www.packers.com for NFL Field Pass subscribers.

Westwood One/CBS Radio will broadcast the game nationally in both English and Spanish, with Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason delivering the former from the booth and John Dockery reporting from the field. Armando Talavera and Clemson Smith Muñiz will preside over the Spanish broadcast, with Alvaro Martin producing.

Additionally, ESPN International will air the game in three languages to over 180 countries.

THE 'MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL' RECORD: The Packers have been on a roll on "Monday Night Football," of late. They enter next Monday night's showdown against the Eagles as the possessors of a five-game winning streak -- the Green and Gold's longest in the 34-year history of the prime time series.

They launched their successful stretch with a 37-0 romp over the Washington Redskins in Lambeau Field in September of 2001 (Sept. 24), followed with a 28-21 win at Jacksonville (Dec. 3) and went on to prevail in both of their 2002 'MNF' appearances, dispatching the Chicago Bears, 34-21, at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium Oct. 7 and later besting the Miami Dolphins in "Lambeau" the night of Nov. 4, 24-10.

The Packers ran their streak to five in their first "MNF" appearance of the season, turning back the Bears in Chicago's newly-renovated Soldier Field, 38-23.

During this prosperous period, they have surged over the .500 mark on the showcase series, now having won 21 games overall, lost 18 and tied one -- the latter a 14-14 standoff against the Detroit Lions at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1971.

Oddly enough, next week's matchup will find the Packers meeting the Eagles on "Monday Night Football" for only the second time in the history of the series. Their first 'MNF' encounter occurred in 1996 (Sept. 9), the Packers defeating the Eagles in their season opener, 39-13, en route to winning their third Super Bowl (SB XXXI).

It has been two decades since the Packers staked their major claim to "MNF" fame -- the night of Oct. 17, 1983, when they combined with the then-reigning Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins to forge the highest scoring game in the history of the series (95 points), Green Bay emerging with a 48-47 victory.

Jan Stenerud's 20-yard field goal with 54 seconds remaining decided the issue. The Redskins' Mark Moseley was in a position to change the outcome but he subsequently missed a 39-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

MIKE SHERMAN'S 'MNF' RECORD: Mike Sherman, in his fourth season as Green Bay's field leader, has had an impressive run of his own on "Monday Night Football. The purposeful New Englander, leading his team into a "MNF" matchup for the eighth time, enters Monday night's game with a 6-1 record in the series as a head coach.

Sherman made his bow on the showcase in a memorable manner, pacing the Packers to a 26-20 overtime victory over the Vikings on a rain-swept night in Lambeau Field (Nov. 6, 2000), 26-20. He incurred his first, and to date, only 'MNF' loss three weeks later, the Carolina Panthers posting a 31-14 win.

Since then, Sherman has escorted the Packers to five victories in a row on the series, with Green Bay outscoring the opposition, 161 to 75, over that successful span.

THE SERIES: The Packers' rivalry with the Eagles, one of the National Football League's oldest series, dates back to 1933, when the NFL was a mere 14 years old. Yet, surprisingly enough, when the Pennsylvanians visit Lambeau Field next Monday night, they will be making only their 15th appearance on Green Bay turf in the 70-year history of the series.

The Packers, for the record, have won 11 of those 14 encounters, including the last three.

Overall, Green Bay owns a substantial advantage in the series, having won 22 of their 31 meetings with the Philadelphians.

The Birds, meanwhile, have prevailed in the only postseason meeting between Monday night's principals, the 1960 NFL Championship Game, played in Philadelphia's Franklin Field. The Eagles escaped with a 17-13 victory on that distant occasion as Chuck Bednarik felled the Packers' Jim Taylor at Philadelphia's 8-yard line on the final play of the game and pinned the Green Bay fullback beneath him as time ran out.

THE COACHES: A personal element to Monday night's showdown will find Mike Sherman and the Eagles' Andy Reid, coaching colleagues on Green Bay's staff in 1997-1998 -- and still close friends, matching tactical wits for the second time in their respective careers.

The first such occasion also occurred in Lambeau Field - on Sept. 17, 2000, when Sherman's Packers shaded Reid's Eagles, 6-3, thus enabling the former to record the first victory of his NFL head coaching career.

The thoroughgoing Sherman, unswervingly committed, highly consistent and impeccably prepared, has already entrenched himself among the premier head coaches in Packers history.

Since becoming the 13th field leader in team annals in 2000, he has repeatedly demonstrated his considerable coaching expertise, presiding over more victories in his first three seasons (33) than any other head coach in the team's distinguished annals -- more than team founder Earl "Curly" Lambeau, more than the storied Vince Lombardi and more than Mike Holmgren -- the other winning head coaches in the history of professional football's most successful franchise.

Over that exceptionally productive three-year span (2000-2002), Sherman also proceeded to entrench himself in what have become substantially expanded responsibilities (he added executive vice president and general manager titles to his résumé after one season as head coach) while escorting Green Bay to three consecutive winning seasons and -- in 2002 -- to its first division championship since 1997 en route to a second consecutive playoff appearance, earning Sherman the Staples 'NFL Coach of the Year' honors for the '02 season.

Shouldering the additional duties with typically total commitment, and literally without missing a step, Sherman led the Packers to back-to-back 12-4 records in 2001 and 2002, the Green and Gold thus becoming the winningest team in the league over that two-year span (24-8). The 12-4 marks have been exceeded by only four teams in the club's 82-year NFL history and the 12-12 parlay was only the second such coupling in team annals (12 or more victories, back-to-back). His current regular-season coaching record is 37-19.

En route, the 48-year-old Central Connecticut State University alumnus also has rivaled the regular season accomplishments of the fabled Lombardi over a comparable span, compiling a 33-15 record in his first three seasons (16-game campaigns) compared to Lombardi's 26-12-0 record over a similar stretch (two 12-game seasons and one 14-game campaign) while he served as the Packers' head coach and general manager.

Additionally, Sherman equaled another Lombardi accomplishment by leading the Packers into the playoffs in only his second season (2001) at the controls.

In the overall process, he has made Lambeau Field a somewhat uncomfortable place for NFL rivals to visit. Since establishing residence at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in 2000, the Green and Gold have forged an imposing 23-5 record in "Lambeau" under his leadership - the best regular season home record in the NFL 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 -- since Lombardi functioned as vice president, general manager and head coach in 1949 -- Sherman brings multiple credentials to his responsibilities. They include a Super Bowl following the 1997 season, during which he was a member of the Holmgren coaching staff that led the Packers into Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos at San Diego.

It was to be the first of three consecutive years in the playoffs for Sherman, who returned to the postseason with the Packers in 1998 and as the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's Seattle staff in 1999.

Now in his 26th year in the coaching profession, Sherman began 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, has turned the Eagles into one of the NFL's elite teams. Under Reid, who was given the additional title of executive vice president of football operations in May of 2001, the Eagles have captured two consecutive East Division titles for the first time in team history and have made two consecutive trips to the NFC Championship Game.

Named the NFL coach of the year in 2000 and 2002, Reid has the most playoff wins (4) in Eagles history and has the highest winning percentage of any Eagles coach (.608). His current overall record is 48-31 (44-28 regular season).

In his 11-year coaching career, Reid's teams have made the playoffs nine 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: Even though a victory was the result, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman described the Packers' most recent encounter with the Philadelphia Eagles as "like being at the dentist."

On that occasion, Sept., 17, 2000, the Packers managed to weather four turnovers to pull out a 6-3, claw-and-scratch decision over the Birds, led into Lambeau Field by Head Coach Andy Reid, who had left the Green Bay staff to take over the Eagles following the 1998 season.

History of sorts was made in the process. It was the first time in 35 years that the Packers had won a game without either team scoring a touchdown.

As a result, it was placekicker Ryan Longwell who provided all of Green Bay's points in the winning cause, deciding the issue with a 38-yard field goal as only three seconds remained on the Lambeau Field time clock.

Longwell, who earlier had tied the score at 3-3 by delivering a 37-yard field goal at 6:08 of the third quarter, thus recording the first game-winning kick of his four-year pro career -- on, poetically, his 100th regular-season field goal attempt in the NFL.

Overall, the Packers complicated their task with their generosity with the football -- three interceptions and a lost fumble, one Philadelphia "pick" occurring at the Eagles' 10-yard line in the second quarter and the final theft at the visitors' 15-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Adding to their woes, in the frustrating process, was an illegal block penalty which expunged a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Allen Rossum late in the third period.

Longwell and the special teams provided the points but it was a rapidly improving Green Bay defense which saved the day, holding the Eagles to 171 net yards of offense (only 85 rushing) and sacking Philly's quarterback, Donovan McNabb, 5 times for 32 yards in losses.

Standouts in this project were free safety Darren Sharper and left corner Tod McBride, the latter making his first NFL start. Each was credited with 2 passes defensed, Sharper's production including his second interception of the season and McBride's contributions including a team-leading 7 tackles.

Up front, Santana Dotson weighed in with 1.5 sacks and ends John Thierry and David Bowens with one apiece. Middle linebacker Bernardo Harris also sacked McNabb and safety Scott McGarrahan joined Dotson in sacking the Eagles field general late in the third quarter.

Quarterback Brett Favre, going without throwing a touchdown pass for only the fourth time in two seasons, completed 18 of 33 attempts for 189 yards, with 3 interceptions. Under as much pressure as he had seen in some time, Favre was sacked 5 times by the Eagles' highly regarded defense for 32 yards in losses.

Running back Dorsey Levens, making his first appearance of the regular season after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, accounted for better than half of the Packers' offensive production, rushing 24 times for 74 yards to emerge as the game's leading rusher, and catching 2 passes for an additional 15 yards.

THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: In the wake of a 189-yard effort against the Vikings Sunday night, the Packers' ultra-productive Ahman Green is essentially king of the hill in the NFL, statistically speaking.

After rolling up 137 yards rushing and 52 receiving against Minnesota, Green leads the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,152.

Green also leads NFL in the production of first downs with 69 (54 rushing and 15 receiving), owns a "perfect" 100.0 percent conversion rating in third-and-one rushing with a record of 6-for-6 success and ranks second in NFC rushing with 871 yards in 172 attempts, a 5.1-yard average.

Quarterback Brett Favre, fourth a week ago, moved up to second place among NFC passers with 91.1 rating, based on 169 completions in 252 attempts for 1,723 yards and 16 touchdowns, the TD total sharing league leadership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Brad Johnson and the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning.

Favre also stands seventh in NFC third-and-one passing with a 79.5 rating, base upon 41 completions in 66 attempts for 427 yards and 6 TDs, with 5 interceptions, and ninth in 4th quarter passing with a 75.2 rating, based upon 41 completions in 67 attempts for 518 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 4 interceptions.

Returner Antonio Chatman continues to rank ninth in the NFC in both punt and kickoff returns, with an 8.5-yard average for 13 punt returns and a 22.3-yard average for 34 kickoff returns.

On the defensive side of the football, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is now tied for 11th place in the NFC in quarterback sacks with 4.0 and cornerback Al Harris and linebackers Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs are among those tied for 10th place among NFC interceptors with 2 apiece.

Teammate Najeh Davenport continues to own the NFC's longest run from scrimmage of the season - his 76-yard scoring excursion against the St. Louis Rams Oct. 19.

From the team standpoint, the Packers' 451-yard performance against the Vikings lifted them from fifth to a tie for third place in the NFL - with Minnesota - on offense. They rank third in rushing and 14th in passing.

They lead the NFC on "Inside-the-20" with a 75.0 touchdown success ratio (21 touchdowns on 28 possessions) and also in production on first down plays, averaging 5.82 yards per first-down play (1,356 yards for 233 plays).

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