Quarterback Aaron Rodgers won his first career playoff game, a caveat he couldn’t escape from the media prior to the game. “A year after losing his first foray into the NFL postseason – a 51-45 overtime loss at Arizona in the NFC Wild Card round in which he threw for 422 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort – Rodgers delivered a less-productive but nearly error-free performance Sunday, completing 18 of 27 passes for 180 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 122.5 passer rating,” writes Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin. “While he was sacked twice and lost a fumble on the opening possession of the third quarter, Rodgers appeared in complete control of the game from start to finish.” I wonder how Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio will react today.
It’s official. The Packers will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons at 7:00 p.m. Saturday on Fox in the division round of the NFL playoffs.
Rodgers deflected the attention. “It was huge the way James Starks ran the football,” Rodgers is quoted as saying by Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That was the most important factor in us winning. I’m so happy for him. He’s a great kid. He’s grown up a lot in the last two weeks.” The way Starks and the Packers ran the football took some pressure off Rodgers and allowed him to throw three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Starks broke the franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie in a postseason game as he rushed for 123 yards on the day. “Starks’ total was a season-high for the Packers and it was only the second time the team had a back go over 100 yards; Brandon Jackson had 115 against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10.” Starks contributed in the passing game with one reception for nine yards and on kickoff returns as well. Wilde penned a similar article. So did Gordon Jones of Packer Report.
Dom Capers’ players on the defensive side of the football deserve their due too. “His stars – Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams – lived up to their billing and were the overriding reason the Packers’ defense wrapped up the upset victory at Lincoln Financial Field that sent them on to a divisional playoff meeting with the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night,” writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Matthews, in particular, was a matchup nightmare for Eagles right tackle Winston Justice.
Williams’ interception sealed the win for the Packers. “With the Eagles driving toward a potential game-winning touchdown, Michael Vick picked the wrong guy on the Packers’ defense to throw a jump ball against,” writes Bill Huber of Packer Report. “Williams played it perfectly and 6-foot-3 rookie receiver Riley Cooper didn’t have a prayer of making the play.” I wouldn’t expect any less from Tramon Williams given the way he’s played this season. Jason Wilde wrote a similar article.
The defense did a fantastic job bottling up Michael Vick. “With the right mix of playmakers, blitzes, coverages and spies, the Packers kept Vick from taking control of the game and then made the clinching interception in the end zone with 33 seconds to play in their 21-16 win at Lincoln Financial Field,” writes Pete Dougherty of the Press-Gazette. Because Vick is so special and such a weapon, the job the defense did in containing him can not be understated.
Wide receiver James Jones was one of the few negatives to come away from the game. “Drops have become more than a rare occurrence for Jones, whose play recently was summed up with a beautiful scoop of a low Rodgers pass for a 9-yard touchdown on one play and the dropped bomb on the other,” writes Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel. “Jones dropped a sure long gain against the New York Giants two weeks ago and sure touchdowns against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys before that.” Unfortunately, his fumble against the Chicago Bears also looms large.
Punter Tim Masthay did a decent job limiting Eagles dangerous return specialist DeSean Jackson including his final punt of the game late in the fourth quarter. “Masthay responded with a towering punt that hung in the air for 4.75 seconds and traveled 41 yards,” according to the Press-Gazette. “Slocum called for a punt to the left side of the field, and Masthay placed it perfectly between the numbers and the left sideline.” It continues a solid job by Masthay over the second half of the season.
Running back Brandon Jackson gets praise for taking a screen pass for a touchdown on Sunday. “Jackson showed perfect patience on a third-quarter screen pass by waiting for his blockers, and it paid off with a 16-yard touchdown reception from Aaron Rodgers that put the Packers ahead 21-10,” writes Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette. “It culminated an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive that Rodgers called the most important of the game. With their 14-0 lead cut to 14-10 early in the third quarter, the touchdown gave the Packers some breathing room.” Even if he’s lost his job to Starks, Jackson is still a very good third-down back.
Tight end Tom Crabtree was an unlikely hero for the Packers. “It was Crabtree’s 7-yard touchdown catch – the first touchdown of his NFL career – that got the Packers offense going in the team’s 21-16 NFC Wild Card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field,” writes Jason Wilde. His blocking for James Starks shouldn’t be overlooked either.
The stat sheet looked pretty good after the game. “The Packers converted on 8-of-13 third-down opportunities (61.5 percent) on Sunday, their second-best mark of the season behind only a 10-of-15 performance (66.7 percent) vs. Dallas in Week 9,” writes Tom Fanning of the Packers official website. It would benefit the Packers greatly to repeat that performance next weekend at Atlanta.
The Packers didn’t do very well converting third downs in their first meeting at Atlanta. There’s reason to hope that will change. “Over the last decade, the No.?1-seeded team in the NFC is 8-2 at the divisional level,” writes Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel. “The big dog won seven in a row from 2000-’06 before Dallas lost to the New York Giants in 2007 and then the Giants lost to Philadelphia in 2008.” No. 1 seeds have fared even worse in the AFC with a 6-4 record over the same time period.
There were some unheralded performances in the win over Philadelphia. “Last week’s hero, Erik Walden, quietly had a good game as did rookies Sam Shields, Tom Crabtree, and Bryan Bulaga,” writes Max Ginsberg of Purple Pants, Green Jersey. “Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for getting their team to play at such a high-level.”
Donald Driver gets credit from packergeeks. “Driver, despite his drop, came through as Rodgers’ trusted target today,” writes Andy Hayes. “It almost seemed that Rodgers was looking for Driver today more than anyone else. He is the most experienced.” The word on Driver’s injury is that he has a bruised knee.
A balanced game was credited by Packer World Central. “It was the finding of a perfect balance that allowed the Packers to win the game, with more than 120 yards or rushing offense,” according to the blog.
The report card reads “B+” from C.D. Angeli of Tundra Vision.
The Packers have to play better next week says Michael Rodney of Packer Update.