POSTSEASON Eagles hope to end two years of losses in NFC title games



Philadelphia opens this year's playoff run Sunday against Green Bay.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Ike Reese had his bags packed for San Diego. He wasn't the only one.
The Eagles were favored and had home-field advantage against Tampa Bay in their second straight NFC championship game last season. They, and their hostile fans, were going to send Veterans Stadium out a winner.
"Everybody had finally sold themselves on the fact that they were finally going to the Super Bowl," Reese said. "When I say everybody, I mean players, I mean fans, I mean family members."
Instead, too many mistakes, too many penalties and not enough big plays doomed the Eagles. The Buccaneers won 27-10 and went on to beat Oakland in the Super Bowl.
"It was a big letdown that day," Reese said. "We've learned from that lesson. We have as players. That's why we're not buying into all that other stuff and are trying to stay focused."
Philadelphia (12-4) comes into the playoffs this season with the same record, the same hype and the same home-field advantage in front of the same title-starved fans -- this time at Lincoln Financial Field.
New approach
The Eagles, though, say they have a new businesslike approach for this year's playoff run, which starts Sunday against Green Bay (11-6). The sting of consecutive NFC championship losses haunts the Eagles.
"I've been in this situation for three years now," running back Duce Staley said. "I'm definitely hungry to go to the next level. I'm not trying to be the Buffalo Bills of the playoffs. We can't get over the hump right now. I'm definitely not trying to be them."
The last NFC team to reach the conference title game in three consecutive years was Green Bay in 1995-97. The Packers lost to Dallas in 1995, but beat Carolina and San Francisco the following two years, winning the Super Bowl in 1996.
The last NFC team to lose two straight conference championship games and then win it the third year was San Francisco. The 49ers lost to Dallas in 1992 and 1993, but defeated the Cowboys in 1994 and went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
Dealing with Packers
Before the Eagles start thinking about the Super Bowl, however, they need to deal with the Packers.
"This is the greatest challenge. This is a tremendous hurdle," Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent said. "I think this is the toughest divisional game we played. We haven't faced a Brett Favre in this situation."
Vincent spoke softly about watching the confetti rain on the Buccaneers as they put on their championship hats and shirts. Vincent said it was like a party at his house, only he wasn't invited.
"You can't do anything but watch," he said.
This year, no one is cracking jokes at team meetings. There is no small talk. For rookies or newcomers who haven't experienced the losses, all they need to do is look and listen inside the locker room to know how much the losses linger.
"I don't think we need to say anything," Vincent said.

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