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All Packed and Ready: Behind Rodgers’ Four Scores, Packers Wallop Falcons & Clinch Berth in NFC Title Game

Rodgers, Packers blast Falcons in Georgia Dome, head to NFC Title game

On the big stage and on the road in enemy territory, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced the biggest game of his career.  Overwhelmed and overmatched, the Atlanta Falcons were at the mercy of Rodgers’ spectacular night.

Rodgers was marvelous, completing 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, three passing touchdowns, a rushing score and a passer rating of 136.8, as the Packers whipped the Falcons 48-21.  Nearly flawless, Rodgers dissected and demoralized the Falcons’ defense by elluding tacklers, avoiding sacks, finding receivers downfield.  The Packers converted 8-of-12 third downs.  His 86.1 completion percentage ranks fifth best all-time in playoff history.  Rodgers led the Packers on four scoring drives of at least 80 yards (81, 92, 80, and 80).  After a turnover on their first possession, Rodgers and the Packers scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions (81,92,80,80 and 50).  Simply put, the guy was in another world.  Just unbelievable.

Rodgers will gladly trade a Pro Bowl admission for a spot in next week’s NFC Championship Game, either in Chicago or Seattle.  Green Bay’s quartet of receivers (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson) combined for 26 catches, 331 yards and two touchdowns (Jones, Nelson).  Each receiver had at leas four catches and at least 75 yards receiving.  Jennings led the group with eight catches for 101 yards.

This was the kind of game that can elevate a quarterback into elite status.  It’s difficult to argue Rodgers doesn’t belong on a short with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees as the NFL’s best quarterbacks.  The Packers have the making of a championship team.  Without Rodgers, that wouldn’t be plausible.

Ryan's three turnovers and horrid defensive effort have the Falcons pondering how things snowballed so quickly

Entering the Divisional Round, the No.1 seed in the NFC had won 18 or 20 previous games.  Atlanta wasn’t able to make it 19 of 21.  They weren’t even close.  After having the makings of a Super Bowl contender and posting their second-best record all time in franchise history at 13-3, the Falcons face a long offseason to struggle with the embarrassment of getting destroyed so convincingly in a place where Matt Ryan has only lost twice in three seasons.

It’s been a long time since there were so many empty seats in the Georgia Dome at the end of a game.  You’d probably have to go back to 2007, the year prior to Ryan’s arrival in Atlanta when the Falcons were 4-12, the franchise quarterback off to prison and the coach reverting back to college.  On Saturday night, the Falcons’ defense couldn’t keep up and couldn’t stay off the field.  Nicknamed “Matty Ice”, Ryan was as cold as ice, throwing for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, none more costly than his pick at the end of the first half in which Pakers cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted a poorly thrown pass intended for Roddy White.  Williams took it to the house and 70 yards later, the Packers took a 28-14 lead into halftime and took the wind completely out of the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta got off on the right foot.  Corner back Brent Grimes recoverd a fumble by Jennings and returned it to the Green Bay 48 yard line.  Faced with a third-and-13 from the Packers’ 25, Ryan went to his favorite target, receiver Roddy White, for 12 yards setting up a fourth-and-one.  With confidence, Falcons coach Mike Smith called for his offense to stay on the field and go for it.  Fullback Ovi Mughelli plunged ahead and picked up the first down.  On the next play, Michael Turner scored on a 12-yard run and the Falcons flew out to an early 7-0 lead. 

The Packers quickly answered on the next possession with Rodgers capping off an 81-yard drive with a 6-yard score to Nelson.  On the ensuing kickoff, Pro Bowl returner Eric Weems went 102 yards for a return score and the Falcons were back in front, 14-7.   That was the final moment of the night the Falcons would enjoy this one.

Green Bay scored touchdowns on five straight possessions, none larger than Williams’ backbreaking interception return for a touchdown.  In the middle quarters, Green Bay outscored Atlanta 42-7.  Ryan had three turnovers ( 2 INT’s, 1 fumble) and was sacked five times.  Atlanta turned the ball over four times and gained just 194 yards of total offense.  Turner had only 39 yards rushing, his fewest output of the season.  In two playoff games, Ryan is 0-2 with six turnovers.

The NFC’s No.1 seed limps off quietly into the offseason while the NFC’s and maybe the NFL’s most dangerous sixth seeded team of all time, charges into the NFC title game. 

Whie the Falcons’ faithful were silenced into disbelief, the cheeseheads across the nation are rejoicing while trying to remember the name of that guy that Rodgers replaced.  I think his name was Brett….something or other.


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