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NFL

NFC playoff notes

By wire services
Published January 7, 2004

EAGLES: The last time Philadelphia saw Ahman Green, he ran all over Lambeau Field and set a Green Bay record with 192 yards rushing.

Philadelphia still won that game two months ago, 17-14 on a late Donovan McNabb touchdown pass. But the Eagles know if Green runs wild again, their championship hopes could be over.

"It's a challenge for us," linebacker Nate Wayne said. "We get a chance to redeem ourselves. As a unit, we didn't stop the run the last time we played. We felt we let the team down."

Stopping Green is Philadelphia's focus. Brett Favre, a three-time NFL MVP, has been outstanding in recent games. But he has had trouble away from home, losing three of his past four road playoff games.

Safety Brian Dawkins, who missed the earlier meeting because of a foot injury, said the Eagles' biggest problem against Green was missed tackles.

"We have to get as many people as possible around him and hit him as often as possible," Dawkins said.

PACKERS: Green Bay will carry plenty of momentum into Sunday's game at Philadelphia, but history says that might not be enough.

Since the NFL expanded its postseason format in 1990, home teams in the NFC's divisional round have gone 24-2, with the 2001 Bears and 1995 49ers accounting for the losses.

Though it was the Packers who knocked off San Francisco in '95, both the 49ers and Bears were No. 2 seeds.

The Eagles are the NFC's top seed, a fact that increases the odds against the Packers pulling the upset. The last time a No. 1 seed in the NFC lost in the divisional round was Jan. 9, 1987, when the Vikings shocked the 49ers 36-24.

The Packers will dismiss this, pointing to a five-game winning streak that is the longest of any NFC playoff team left. That streak was extended Sunday when cornerback Al Harris, who spent five years with the Eagles before being traded to Green Bay in March, returned an interception of a Matt Hasselbeck pass 52 yards and gave the Packers a 33-27 overtime victory over Seattle.

"Philly is a good team," Packers receiver Javon Walker said. "I'm sure they watched what we did and we're going to go to Philly and give it our best shot. Hopefully, we'll come out with a victory."

RAMS: Wide receiver Isaac Bruce is expected to be at full strength for Saturday's game after missing most of the last two regular-season games with a sprained left ankle.

The injury kept Bruce from a fifth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving year. He finished with 69 catches for 981 yards, second on the team behind All-Pro Torry Holt.

But he was at full speed Tuesday as the Rams returned to practice in preparation for their game against the Panthers.

"He's fine, he didn't skip a beat," coach Mike Martz said. "He's 100 percent."

The return of Bruce should open things more for Holt, the NFL's leading receiver with 117 catches for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns. Holt had 10 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in Game 15 against the Bengals but was held to five catches for 54 yards in the regular-season finale against the Lions.

Bruce was inactive for the Bengals game and played briefly against Detroit.

"When you have Isaac and Torry and you get into those one-on-one matchups, the capabilities of what you can do in the passing game are pretty awesome," Martz said. "To have him out there now, you know he's going to win on those routes and that's so important to what we do."

[Last modified January 7, 2004, 01:33:45]


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