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Sunday Morning Aftermath: Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons

January 16, 2011

The Green Bay Packers avenged a regular-season loss by routing the Atlanta Falcons 48-21 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Leading by Example

In two playoff games this year, Aaron Rodgers has racked up impressive statistics. His two-game completion rate of 41-out-of-63 passes for 546 yards, 5 touchdown passes and zero interceptions defines what it means to lead by example. In fact, his 86.1 completion percentage (31-of-36) versus Atlanta is an NFL single-game postseason record, and in his first three playoff starts, Rodgers has racked up 10 touchdown passes, another NFL record. Often times, statistics do not tell the entire story, but Rodgers’ astronomical numbers well represent his amazing postseason performances.

The Best Player on the Packers’ Defense

The Packers’ defense boasts the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Charles Woodson, and Clay Matthews is the favorite to win the award this season. But one can argue that the best athlete on the unit is Tramon Williams. The former undrafted free-agent has quietly gone about his business all season. In Saturday’s victory, Williams intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the endzone to kill the Falcons’ early momentum, and his interception return for a touchdown prior to halftime put the game out of reach. Often assigned to the opposition’s best player, the fourth-year player has consistently outplayed his opponents.

As good as Williams has played, another undrafted free-agent cornerback has been a solid fixture in the Packers’ secondary. Sam Shields isn’t a starter, but he comes off the bench almost immediately. In only his second season at the cornerback position, the former Miami Hurricane has quietly done his job. As my dad wrote in an email, “Shields’ play all year enabled our defense to get better as the season went on. He allowed Capers to use Woodson exactly how he wanted to. Not bad for an undrafted rookie.”

Atoning for Earlier Drops

Aaron Rodgers’ accuracy was off the charts, and his receivers capitalized. Aside from an early Greg Jennings fumble, the Packers receivers were flawless. Jordy Nelson (8 catches for 79 yards), Donald Driver (6-for-76), and James Jones (4-for-75) hauled in all 18 passes that Rodgers threw in their respective directions. For a corps that has taken a fair amount of criticism for dropping passes this season, they showed up in a big way on Saturday night.

Long, Sustained Drives

The play of Rodgers and his receiving corps was a major reason the Packers’ offense was unstoppable, but the resurrected running game allowed the team to have long, sustained drives. Converting 8-of-13 third downs, the Packers offense was flawless. The five offensive touchdowns came on drives of 81, 92, 80, 80 and 50 yards. Those extended drives equated to a 17:00 minute lead in time-of-possession and an overall domination of the Falcons’ defense.

But perhaps the most impressive stat of the day was a non-existent one. The Packers punted zero times.

Any Worries?

In a nearly perfect performance, very little went wrong for the Green and Gold. The only worries came on the injury front. Running back John Kuhn and nose tackle B.J. Raji both left after sustaining blows to the head, and safety Nick Collins left the game with cramps. All three were smiling and joking on the sidelines after the game, so the trio should be alright for next weekend’s NFC Championship game.

Parting Thoughts…

The Packers are peaking at the right time and Aaron Rodgers is leading his team into his first NFC Championship game. Despite all the injuries this team has overcome, the Packers still look capable of beating any team in the league. Saturday’s 28 second-quarter points were one of the most dominant performances I have ever witnessed. As Donald Driver framed it, the game was “probably the best playoff game we’ve played.”

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