PHILADELPHIA — Perspective is everything in life.
In Philadelphia, the day after their defeat, the local papers hammered away at how the Eagles blew it, from the two David Akers missed field goals to the screwed up two-point conversion thanks to Brent Celek stepping out of the end zone just before he hauled in Michael Vick’s pass.
Forgotten was the fact that in the final seconds of the first half, Packers wide receiver James Jones dropped a perfectly thrown ball by Aaron Rodgers, who hit him in stride on the run with Jones a couple of steps in front of his defenders. If Jones makes the catch around the Eagles 40-yard line, he zips into the end zone to put Green Bay up 21-3 and that would have been the game.
But on the day, on both sides of the ball, the Packers were the better team and richly deserved their 21-16 victory.
Now, like General Sherman in the Civil War, they march on to Atlanta in the hopes that they can continue to win out on the road and into the Super Bowl.
As it stands now, the Packers are one of four teams standing in the NFC and with their win and the way they won, they have to be considered co-favourites with the Falcons to emerge as the conference champs.
They beat the Bears two weeks ago to make it into the playoffs and nobody is taking the Seahawks seriously.
So that leaves them and the Falcons as the favourites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, Feb. 6.
The Packers, though, look very much like a team on the rise. In the cold of Philadelphia they discovered a running game that has been lacking all season long.
The fact that unheralded and untested running back James Starks could pile up 123 yards on 23 carries simply pumps their confidence that much higher. Maybe there’s more to them on offence than just the strong right arm and heady smarts of Rodgers.
Heading towards Atlanta, they are definitely pumped, not only because of their win over the Eagles, but how they have played in the past three weeks.
“Well, you have to win the close games in the playoffs,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday. “This is the way it’s going to be.
“We’re on the road, you play uphill when you get off the bus and you have to overcome the atmosphere that you’re playing in, particularly the communication challenge. It feels good.”
For the second consecutive week, the Packers, due to being on the road, will be underdogs. They were 21/2 point dogs against the Eagles and are 2-point dogs against the Falcons.
“We know we’re a good team,” Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins said following the win. “We’re right where we want to be now. It doesn’t matter where we’re ranked. If we keep winning, our goal is right in front of us.”
It will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. Back on Nov. 28, the Falcons pulled out a 20-17 victory.
While Atlanta will be rested, the Packers believe they have an edge in being battle tested.
“They’ve been sitting around during their bye and we’re in a groove,” defensive end Ryan Pickett said. “This is our fourth week coming up of the playoffs. We’ve been in the playoffs since we played New York. We feel like we’re rolling.
“I feel good about how we’re playing. We’re a different team than we were down there earlier. We’re playing with a lot of confidence. Special teams are playing big now. Defence is better than when we played there.”
All that and now they’ve added a running game. Are they a team of destiny?
“No doubt about it, this team had its back against the wall,” Rodgers said. “We had two games we had to win and we came up with two great efforts.
“We have a really resilient team, especially on defence, to hold the Giants to 17 points and the Bears to three points and (Sunday) the effort they put forth. We had a lot of effort and a lot of confidence and hopefully we can carry that over into another game.”
It would be foolish to bet against them.