Packers vs. Falcons: NFC Championship Rants & Raves

Just over two years later, the Green Bay Packers have fought their way to another NFC championship game, this time against the Atlanta Falcons.  And just like last time, the Packers will hit the road and face to battle both the opponent and the crowd.  The Georgia Dome isn't exactly CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but this will be the Atlanta venue's last game and this crowd will certainly be as fired up as ever.  What a storyline: the Falcons send off the Georgia Dome amidst fireworks and the Falcons celebrating their first trip to a Super Bowl since 1998.  The Packers are hoping to ruin every ounce of that scenario.

Last time they were in this situation, the Packers took it to a very good and physical Seahawks team for all but a few moments of the game.  Result aside, this team knows what they did right and what they need to do differently this time.  The easy answer?  Score more points.  A lot more.  In what certainly seems to be a high-scoring affair that will come down to the game's last moments, Green Bay is going to need to pull out every stop and page of the playbook to earn themselves a trip to Houston.  Speaking of storylines, how about this one: a 4-6 team left for dead, a quarterback and head coach who seemed to have peaked and a team that wasn't listening to either one.  Heck, the quarterback's own family didn't want anything to do with him.  Still, he boldly declared that his team could run the table.  And so they did, all the way to another Super Bowl appearance.  

One way or another, something special is going down on Sunday afternoon.  Let's dive into the top points and areas that will likely factor throughout the game that will decide a Super Bowl team.

Rants

If You Have Your Health, You Have It All

Injuries are nothing new to the Packers.  It seems every year they deal with more and more guys missing time and having to plug in replacements.  We already knew receiver Jordy Nelson was a long shot to play in this game after the rib injury he suffered against the New York Giants in the wild card round.  Soon after last week's victory over the Dallas Cowboys, we learned that Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were all dealing with ailments that could possibly keep them out of this game against Atlanta.  As the news trickled out earlier in the week, many Packers fans slumped down in their chairs.  Why now?  Why in the biggest game of the season are they having to try and replace the cogs that have made the Green Bay offense churn all season?

Maybe the answer is in the question.  Look, this is the NFC championship game.  This Packers team knows what is in front of them.  Their goal at the beginning of the season was a Super Bowl title.  It is every year and in Green Bay, that's a realistic goal.  As head coach Mike McCarthy has said many times, they don't hang division championship banners and that it's called Titletown for a reason.  So trust that every one of these guys will be out there in uniform if they can walk at all.  Don't put it past McCarthy to pull some gamesmanship and try to keep the Falcons on their toes with the tease that they may not need to prepare as much for Adams or Nelson.  

I have no doubt that the injuries reported are legitimate, but much like a baseball team uses and abuses their pitchers during the postseason, the Packers will dress every key player in this game.  Even if Nelson is out there and a shell of himself, the Falcons still have to acknowledge that shell.  And that means guys like Ty Montgomery and Jared Cook can do work.  Same with Adams and Cobb.  At this point in the season, every player is dealing with some form of ailment.  Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby reportedly have an illness.  These players are accustomed to dealing with it and not letting anything stand in the way of a chance they may never see again: A Super Bowl.  Might it affect their play?  Sure.  But regardless, the game is going to be played Sunday afternoon and it counts.  For all the marbles.

And the best news of all: the Packers win Sunday and everyone gets two weeks to recover and play in the true championship. 

Air Coverage

In the first meeting between these teams in October, the Packers gave up 288 passing yards and allowed four touchdown passes by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.  Ryan's top target, Julio Jones, had just three catches in that game and was hampered by a leg injury.  Jones reportedly is dealing with a turf toe but much like I talked about the Packers players rising up and playing through the bumps and bruises, you can expect Atlanta to do the same.  Jones figures to be a big factor in this game.  Atlanta went ahead with :35 left in the game on a touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu who was left all alone in the end zone.  Taylor Gabriel had a 47 yard strike for a score and running back Devonta Freeman caught four passes of his own.  

Ryan is a MVP candidate and while the portion of the season where he creates his resume for that award is over, he certainly wants to cement his status with a big game.  In October, the Packers were without cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.  Randall will be active in this game.  Rollins has a chance to play as well.  LaDarius Gunter had his struggles that day but nearly came up with a big interception late that would have changed the outcome of the game.  I've been calling for Gunter to come through with a big play for a long time now.  There are potentially two games left for Gunter to make good on my prediction.  Sunday's game would be an ideal time.  

But the real key to this game is a guy who has come up big in playoff games before.  He's the featured image of this piece.  Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was voted to his first Pro Bowl this season and has had himself two nice playoff campaigns during his past two seasons.  He has an interception in each of Green Bay's last games.  Jones will surely draw additional coverage and Clinton-Dix will have his chances to make a big play on the ball.  The Packers need a big game from #21.  Morgan Burnett has a quadriceps injury and there's a chance that he may not be able to play.  That puts more pressure on Clinton-Dix to be the man and come up with a game-changing play.  

Micah Hyde had to play a big role and took an outside corner role in the first game due to injury and Hyde has turned into a nice asset at corner of late.  His read and interception on a screen pass by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott last week was a thing of beauty and reeked of great film study.  What Hyde lacks in speed he certainly makes up in his smarts and preparation.  To put Hyde in his Swiss army knife role versus having to cover all day only helps the Packers pass defense.  

My biggest rant in this area: the middle of the field.  Some how, some way, please for the love of all things holy, cover that space.  I get "bend but don't break" and keeping things in front of you, but the Packers need to get off the field.  Allowing those Falcons receivers to roam the middle of the field will only keep drives alive, tire out the defense and inch Atlanta to more and more points.  Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has to know this is the NFC championship game.  It's time to get jiggy, as I like to say.  No need to re write the entire play book but the Packers need to take some calculated risks to try and get to Matt Ryan and force some mistakes.  While some of those would-be interceptions fell to the turf last time, the Packers have to turn every one of them into a bigger problem for the dirty birds.

Raves

The One And Only

Third and long needing to get into field goal range, Aaron Rodgers gathered the offense and drew up a play on his hand like many of us have done so many times in the backyard.  Rodgers rolled to his left, heaved it up and found Cook for the needed yardage.  Three seconds later, the Packers were on to the NFC championship game.  Rodgers is back on planet unknown.  Experts have tried to name it, tried to figure out what it's called.  No one knows.  There are many very good quarterbacks in the league: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan, Drew Brees, to name a few.  If you break down their tape, you can find something in their game that can be neutralized.  With Rodgers, that's become very hard to do over these past two months.  Rush him and Rodgers quickly finds an open guy or escapes the pocket like Houdini to find a receiver or pick up the yardage with his feet.  Sit back in coverage and hold off the pass rush and Rodgers dances all day in the pocket until the defensive backs fall behind for a split second, with Rodgers ready to stick the ball in there like a dart headed right for the bullseye.  Pick your poison, Rodgers has another capable of ending you.

It seems a lot for the Packers to continuously lean on this man and ask him to be other worldly in order for the team to achieve its high success, but that's who Rodgers is and that's what the Packers have been doing since 2008.  As the games become more and more meaningful, the bigger Rodgers becomes.  We all remember the last playoff game Rodgers played in this building, one of the best of his career.  The Super Bowl and the throw to Greg Jennings that could only be in one spot to succeed and Rodgers found it.  He's not afraid of the big stage.  And what's back is that grin.  That smile that says despite the heavy pressures of the moment, he's having a blast out there with his teammates and believes that this group can accomplish it all.  

Atlanta will throw everything they can at Rodgers to try and befuddle the unshakable man.  Maybe they will, maybe they won't.  But while all the talk is about Matt Ryan and his being the easy favorite for Most Valuable Player (and I agree), Rodgers is gearing up to seize this moment and not let another slip through his fingers.  I can tell you this: if the Packers don't win this game, it won't be because Rodgers was off and didn't play a game worthy of a winning outcome.  

Be The Bad Guys For Once

It's hard to hear that phrase and not immediately think of Mike Daniels saying it.  It was Daniels who said it a few years ago when the Packers were re-establish themselves as a physical team that had that mental edge going into every game.  While they aren't statistically the best unit or anything close to the 2010 group that was so good at every level, this defense is playing well together and with who they have.  Since week one they've had to shuffle bodies around to fill in for injured plays such as Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.  

Everyone is talking about this game being a shoot out and a scoreboard that may explode by the time it's over with.  In the best of scenarios, the Packers need to set the tone on defense early and try to get Atlanta off the field quick.  With so many young players on this team, one of the things that tends to lack is the ability to study film on the opponent in a meaningful way.  I trust that guys like Randall and Gunter are watching film, but they're no Charles Woodson.  Maybe not even Micah Hyde.  In a game of this magnitude, those nuances can make the difference between winning and losing.  Steal a few possessions and this game can easily turn quickly much like the last playoff meeting between these teams did.  Love him or not, Capers has mixed and matched his coverages and schemes as well as he can to keep the team competitive.  288 yards is still a lot to surrender, but considering what Atlanta's offense did this season, that's not a bad day at the office, especially without your top two preferred cornerbacks or Clay Matthews.

I expect big things from the veterans Matthews, Daniels and Peppers.  Matthews and Peppers have been to Super Bowls before.  Peppers hasn't been back in 13 years so he certainly understands what's in front of him.  Expect max effort from him and don't be surprised if goes full ham in this one.  Does Matthews have another "it is time" moment in him that turns this one in favor of the Packers and thrusts them to another conference title?

4 Quarters

All of this garble I've written comes down to four quarters of football that the Packers need to play better than the Falcons do.  For those of you who wanted a ton of stats and metrics to give you a feeling about this game, I'm sorry to disappoint.  As many of you know, I've never been the 'stats guy" to begin with but at this point in the season, it's about heart.  It's about will and desire.  There are no stats or ways to measure that.  It's not a consolation should the Packers not win this game, but they have surpassed last year and against tougher odds.  This team will be fine moving forward, regardless of Sunday's result.  But one thing I know for certain: this team knows exactly what is in front of them on Sunday.  There won't be a lack of effort.  There will be no quit.  It may come down to the very end and tax all of our hearts but we got what we so desperately wanted back in early September when the season started: a conference championship game and chance to appear in a sixth Super Bowl.  Go get it, boys! 

 

 

-------------------

Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

0 points

Comments (43)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
pooch's picture

January 21, 2017 at 02:26 pm

No injury updates??

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 21, 2017 at 03:22 pm

http://www.packers.com/team/injury-report.html

Michael suddenly showing up as Questionable is a bad sign for his playing on Sunday. Signed Max McCaffrey to the active roster today and IR'd Tretter.

Allison and Adams are expected to play. Burnett has a chance to play. Rollins has not cleared the concussion protocol, to my knowledge.

0 points
0
0
WKUPackFan's picture

January 21, 2017 at 04:15 pm

Max McCaffrey went to Duke, Christian to Stanford. Ed and their Mom must be a couple of smart people!

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 21, 2017 at 06:37 pm

Sometimes smarts don't matter...

0 points
0
0
Allan Murphy's picture

January 21, 2017 at 10:53 pm

Allison hamstring i don't think so Adams maybe .

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

January 22, 2017 at 05:20 am

http://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2017/1/21/14347784/packers-injury-upda...

Here's another report which was on Acme Packing Company yesterday at 3:30 PST suggesting Nelson, Adams, Allison, AND Burnett should be cleared. Even if Nelson is cleared my hope is the Packers don't have to put him on the field.

Since '61 and I both are thinking along the same lines. RUN THE BALL. The Falcons ILB aren't that big, Jones and Campbell are both rookies and Jones is actually the same size or lighter than Monty and Michaels, depending how much you believe these weighs posted for players. I'd think everyone might be a little bit lighter after 18 games.

The biggest difference in the Falcons Defense is they won't have Desmond Trufant or Adrian Clayborn, their best D-Lineman and CB. Who the Falcons put on the field really doesn't matter. They have ONE pass rusher, maybe 2 with Reed. Losing Clayborn hurts this team, he was the only one who really harassed Rodgers last time they played.

0 points
0
0
jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 21, 2017 at 02:35 pm

"Some how, some way, please for the love of all things holy, cover that space."

You can't anymore. At least not without linebackers who can run.

0 points
0
0
Gforcetrivers's picture

January 22, 2017 at 10:08 am

Please no soft zone today?

0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

January 22, 2017 at 11:28 am

How would you deploy the talent?

0 points
0
0
Spock's picture

January 21, 2017 at 02:58 pm

Jason,
You mentioned the "Aaron Grin". I noticed that last game. I turned to my wife at one point in the Dallas game and said, "Did you see Aaron's smile? THAT is a CONFIDENT look!" There's just something about Rodgers when he has that "look"... you just KNOW the Packers are going to win!!

0 points
0
0
DrealynWilliams's picture

January 21, 2017 at 03:01 pm

Aye, maybe it's just me, but I am as confident in this game as I was going into the Dallas game.

Last match up was without:

Matthews
Cook
Cobb
Montgomery
Randall
-------------------

Now, Randall is far from a shut-down, but we don't have to see Goodson on the field, and a bomb isn't attempted or completed.

Maybe Ryan won't be so comfortable in the pocket with Matthews out there.

0 points
0
0
Bert's picture

January 21, 2017 at 09:12 pm

We really need a big game from Clay or Peppers. With the secondary so porous some help from the front seven would be huge!!

0 points
0
0
fthisJack's picture

January 22, 2017 at 07:47 am

what about Perry? he has been playing well even with the club. he could reek some havoc.

0 points
0
0
Bert's picture

January 22, 2017 at 09:35 am

Yep. I agree about Perry. He just needs some help from the other guys.

0 points
0
0
DrealynWilliams's picture

January 22, 2017 at 12:36 pm

That's exactly what I meant @Bert

It's easy to scheme or play away from 1 "dominant" pass rusher. It's difficult to scheme or play away from 1 "dominant" pass rusher and 1 "dominant" pass rusher that can rush from multiple positions/angles.

It wouldn't surprise me none if we see Clay and/or Perry rush from over the Center this game. We can not let Ryan be as comfortable in the pocket as we did last time.

0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

January 21, 2017 at 03:42 pm

Just win baby! Thanks, Since '61

0 points
0
0
EdsLaces's picture

January 21, 2017 at 04:46 pm

Just freakin win baby...

0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

January 22, 2017 at 11:27 am

Why not both?

0 points
0
0
Samson's picture

January 21, 2017 at 05:02 pm

There's really no 'good' reason to think the Pack can't come out of Atlanta with a "V" and head toward a SB showdown with the Pats. --- Really believe the Cowboys were the biggest hurdle.

Even with all the gimpy players, this game will still come down to AR and his recent 'on fire' MVP performances. -- Win or lose will be determined by AR, again.

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 21, 2017 at 06:39 pm

I think Pittsburgh pulls the upset and beats the Pats tomorrow.

0 points
0
0
Finwiz's picture

January 21, 2017 at 09:22 pm

Brady is a really clutch player, like Rodgers only older. I don't see Pittsburgh beating NE. I feel a lot better about that prediction than anything regarding ATL vs. GB. I think it's less likely the Steelers pull the upset than the Packers.

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

January 22, 2017 at 09:26 am

Then Roethlisberger will have to play a lot better than he has on the road this season. He's been pretty bad on the road this year where saying he's been average would be a huge compliment.

http://www.nfl.com/player/benroethlisberger/2506109/situationalstat

I'd like to play New England. Get 2 weeks to get healthy before the SB and beat Brady for the SB win #5 and Championship #14. What that would do for Rodgers "Greatness" would be immeasurable. It would eliminate all those that always have a "If" or a "But" at the start of a sentence when speaking about Rodgers.

Skip Bayless still wouldn't give props to Rodgers and the Packers and was even critical of the way Crosby's FG's went through the uprights. (We'd expect nothing less right) A win in the NFCCG and then beating Brady in the SB not only silences Bayless, it gives anyone talking to him to say "Just Shut Up Skippy" whenever Bayless even starts to talk about Rodgers.

Just my 2 cents worth....GO PACK GO!!!!

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 22, 2017 at 09:48 am

If there's one player I don't want to see the Packers having to figure out how to contain, it's LeVeon Bell. Belichick is a genius at figuring out how to take away things from an opposing offense, but I don't know how they stop Bell.

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

January 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

That's my concern too. Pick your poison right, Bell or Brady? Let's BEAT Atlanta, enjoy it for a day, then worry.

0 points
0
0
Bearmeat's picture

January 21, 2017 at 05:07 pm

Injuries or not, I think this team finds a way. GB will get out to an early lead and weather the storm during the 3rd quarter MM "lull," then they'll seal the deal late.

Good guys: 35-34

0 points
0
0
4zone's picture

January 21, 2017 at 05:18 pm

Sorry, just ain't feeling it this time. Wish I was but I see our DB's getting shredded. Unless ATL makes some critical mistake, I just don't think we have enough horses to get this done. I don't doubt the effort one bit and I'd be happy to end up wrong, but I see us coming out on the short side this week.

Good luck guys just the same. As long as the clock keeps ticking there's still a chance. So have at Pack, my opinion means nothing. It's up to you now. Go Pack!

0 points
0
0
ironman3169's picture

January 21, 2017 at 09:55 pm

I am counting on a supreme effort from our front seven to tip the game in our favor.

0 points
0
0
4zone's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:48 pm

Sadly, feelings were correct.

0 points
0
0
DrealynWilliams's picture

January 21, 2017 at 05:58 pm

Niiiice.

I can't wait to see who's thrown out there to pick up the slack for Adams/Nelson/Allison when their snaps are cut down to protect their injury.

Do we trust Janis (who has made little to no progress as a WR)
or
Davis (a rookie...still an unknown in these situations)

Does this limit Montgomery's backfield contribution to make up for WR production?

Do we see more of Rodgers Outside?

0 points
0
0
Allan Murphy's picture

January 21, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Faith .................

0 points
0
0
marpag1's picture

January 22, 2017 at 04:18 am

Sorry for the off-topic post, but can someone tell me when the Vikings play today? None of the websites seem to include that game on the schedule.

Thanks in advance.

PS - If you can list the game times for the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Cardinals, Rams, Niners, Seahawks, Bears, Lions, Panthers, Saints, Bucs, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Colts, Jags and Titans, that would also be helpful. Cheers!

0 points
0
0
Handsback's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:42 am

Well played!

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 22, 2017 at 05:10 am

Jason, hat kind of injury had/have Cobb? When he was injured during Dallas game?

0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 22, 2017 at 05:13 am

EDIT: All of you forget that "probable" as category does not exist any more. So, all players listed as questionable may be also in probable category. Problem would be if they are doubtful...

0 points
0
0
chugwater's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:21 am

I always thought the player status change they made this year was dumb. Teams already try to mask the true nature of their players health. This just allows for more gamesmanship.

0 points
0
0
NashvilleCheesehead's picture

January 22, 2017 at 06:49 am

History repeats. Packers 48-21

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:14 am

Can we fast-forward through the next 6 hours and get to game time already?

0 points
0
0
chugwater's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:18 am

No kidding. These week long intervals have me emotionally exhausted by kickoff.

Don't know how we'll survive until the next game when we have to wait TWO weeks. ;)

0 points
0
0
chugwater's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:16 am

I predict we run the Janis jet sweep today. Showed it in NOV and early DEC. Haven't run it in awhile. Gotta think MM might want to pull the trigger against a speedy defense, especially if ATL over pursues.

0 points
0
0
Handsback's picture

January 22, 2017 at 08:38 am

The way I see it is this- in two weeks Green Bay would have much more firepower at it's disposal than they do right now. The question is now, do they have enough to beat the Falcons?
The defense has to show big and make some major impacts during the game,maybe you have to include the special teams in that statement as well. If the entire game rests on Rodgers and the depleted offense....I'm not sure how they can swing it.

Right now what this team has going for it is a hot QB (best in the league) and a strong Oline. Neither can let up for a Packer win. One play at a time, one series at a time one qtr at a time. If they keep their attention on the work in front of them....see them in Houston!

0 points
0
0
303packattack's picture

January 22, 2017 at 01:09 pm

Today is the day my friends. Today is the culmination of so many things in just one season. We have perservered and continually told we couldnt't compete with the top teams or teams with great defenses. This run is going down in the hostory books. These group of men have bonded together and playing for one another. There is an energy and a spirit to this team we havent seen since 2009-2010. That spirit is Adam Czech and how powerful of a message he sent to us all. That even though things look bleek at times there is an unwavering faith that is so powerful it trumps everything else in this world. The man kept a sense of humor even though he was going through painful times. That is a sign of a very strong person with a heart of gold. This isnt about winning another superbowl this is about what football does best and thats bring us all together as family and thats the greatest thing I love about this game. Lets be like Charles Woodson said in the lockroom during the superbowl, one team, one heartbeat and one soul that unites together. God bless.

0 points
0
0
Donster's picture

January 23, 2017 at 06:26 am

Well that was certainly a good old fashion butt kicking. Kudos to the Falcons coaching staff for easily out coaching MM and Capers. And kudos to the Falcons players for playing much better then the Pack did. They were the better team Sunday.

I will always be a Packer fan no matter what. I will take for my favorite game of this season the fact we beat Dallas in Jerry's house, a team we weren't supposed to beat, they coming in with all the advantages, and we coming out on top. That was our SB I guess.

I've said before, my opinion is that Capers must go, even though he isn't being supplied the players he really needs. TT needs to retire. We have been down this same road to many years now without significant change to the quality of defensive players on the field. In fact, I feel we have regressed to some degree.

But it was one hell of an interesting season, one hell of a run at the end. I am looking forward to the Draft. Then the start of OTA's and next season.

I do hope what ever changes are made, that they can solve this constant injury bug that has plagued this team for a few years on now. It is one hell of a tough sport, and injuries are going to happen, but it sure seems like the Packers seem to have a very high percentage of them.

Go Packers!

0 points
0
0