The Eagles last played the Packers on Sept.9, 2007, at Lambeau Field, the first NFL game for Kevin Kolb and Brent Celek. Both players said today they remembered the historic setting more than anything else.
"I remember it was a lot like a college atmosphere," said quarterback Kolb, who also recalled that he was the No. 2 to Donovan McNabb that day, not No. 3, because A.J. Feeley had suffered a broken finger in the preseason. "I was pretty focused."
Tight end Celek said he remembered "Brett Favre running out of the tunnel."
Eagles fans have a few more pungent memories from the 16-13, season-opening loss. When pushed, Kolb and Celek allowed they recalled that stuff, too, they just didn't want to dwell on it today.
In case you've forgotten, here is the opening to the game story in the Sept. 10, 2007 Daily News:
GREEN BAY, Wis. --- Well, this game certainly put the “special” in special teams.
The Eagles would be 1-0 this morning had they declined to send anyone back to return punts yesterday.
Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than a 16-13 loss to a Green Bay Packers team that averaged 2.7 yards per rush, 3.7 yards per pass attempt, and did not come close to scoring an offensive touchdown in the season opener at Lambeau Field.
Destined to be rehashed more than a few times in the long week before the Birds’ Game 2 against the Redskins at the Linc is the fact that the Packers scored 10 of their 16 points directly off punts the Eagles fumbled away, because neither Greg Lewis nor J.R. Reed had ever fielded a punt in a game that mattered.
Also just in: That’s a really dumb way to lose, not that there are a lot of smart ones.
“I feel like I let my team down,” said Lewis, whose muff of Green Bay’s first punt was recovered in the Eagles’ end zone for a 7-0 Packers lead. “But I’m not going to dwell on it. I talked to the guys and they told me to keep my head up, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do, just try to get better each and every time I go out there, and hopefully, what happened today won’t happen again.”
There’s no guarantee Lewis will ever be in a position for it to happen again. Special teams coordinator Rory Segrest switched from Lewis to Reed on punts after Lewis ran into up man Jason Avant while fielding one ball, then followed that by imprudently running in and throwing himself on a rolling punt that didn’t need to be fielded.
“Anytime you’re on the receiving end of a kick, you definitely want to retain possession of the ball there,” astutely noted Segrest, who was promoted in the offseason when John Harbaugh opted to move to coaching defensive backs. Before assisting Harbaugh last season, Segrest coached defensive linemen and special teams at Samford University in Alabama.
“You can’t simulate everything just exactly as it’s going to be in a game during the course of practice,” Segrest said, answering a question about Lewis, but perhaps also stating the key to the Birds’ return-game struggles, which carried over from the preseason. It took the Birds a couple of exhibition games to figure out Jeremy Bloom wasn’t what they’d hoped for as a punt returner, after he’d looked great in practice (Bloom did, in fact, catch cleanly every ball he went for, and might have been cut a little more slack, having not really played in three years). They oriented everything toward giving Bloom optimal game reps early, didn’t establish a primary backup, then didn’t have time to adequately train a replacement when they cut him.
Reed gained 8 yards his first time back there, but then, with the score tied, the clock ticking toward a minute remaining in regulation, Reed ran up on a short Jon Ryan punt, waving his arm for a fair catch. Reed muffed the catch, on a dead run, and Green Bay corner Jarrett Bush – the guy who’d separated Lewis from the ball on the touchdown play -- was credited with recovering at the Eagles’ 31. Eagles rookie tight end Brent Celek insisted afterward he had recovered, which seemed quite possible on replay, but there was no apparent video review, with 59 seconds remaining.
Three plays later, rookie kicker Mason Crosby boomed the 42-yard field goal that won the game, ending Eagles coach Andy Reid’s five-game streak of mastery (including a playoff win) over the team that once employed him as an assistant.
Ah, memories. The Eagles were the better team that day in just about every statistical category, but they began a season-long pattern of shooting themselves in the foot that led to an 8-8 season. The Packers were propelled toward a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship Game, in Favre's last Green Bay season. (As you might have noticed Thursday night, he and Greg Lewis now are Vikings buddies. Wonder if Brett ever thanks Greg for the boost?)
"Opening games do matter," Kolb said.
Speaking of the return game, DeSean Jackson told reporters Thursday that he would be covering punts Sunday when the Packers visit the Linc, and the prevailing sentiment has been that Ellis Hobbs would return kicks. Andy Reid might have just been striving for the old competitive advantage today, but he demurred when asked to confirm that. Reid said he wasn't sure he might not go with Jorrick Calvin, the corner-returner the Birds picked up from the Cardinals last week. (They're going to find a spot on the 45-man active list for Jorrick Calvin, one of six corners, who has been working in Sean McDermott's defense for a little more than a week now? Really?)
"I'm debating on that right now," Big Red said.
Calvin said he had no idea if he would be up or down when the 53 contracts to 45 active.
"Come gametime, hopefully I'll get my name called," he said.
Hobbs said he wasn't sure what was up either, that there had been "a lot of heavy rotation" among the returners this week.