Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White was correct in not wanting to face the Green Bay Packers. On Saturday night, he too felt the wrath of one of the scariest playoff teams in the past ten years.
Luxurious or not, turns out a week long break wasn’t the relaxation the Falcons needed this postseason. Mike Smith’s team were the immaculate example of regular season grace in 2010, only to trip up against a sixth seed Packer team intent on spoiling the party.
And what a party they spoiled.
The Georgia Dome was relatively full of life as fans prepared for an overdue playoff game under young starting quarterback Matt Ryan. Yet with the nail-biting circumstances of Baltimore’s visit to Pittsburgh still dwelling, Ryan was unaware of the upset that was about to unfold in front of his very eyes.
In a buzzing stadium, the Falcons kicked off the game in their usual fashion. Targeting White was foreseeable on a defensive front, but the power game of Michael Turner wasn’t quite so expected early on in the affair.
Luckily, Dom Capers had prepared for just that. Atlanta’s drive stalled in Packer territory, however the Falcons were successful in pinning quarterback Aaron Rodgers in front of his own goal line during Green Bay’s opening possession.
A three and out later, and Packer faithfuls were feeling woozy at the thought that lay ahead.
Following on from this rather boring start, the Packers then allowed the first points on the day, seeing Turner power over the goal line midway through the first quarter. Green Bay’s lack of tackling on this play led most to believe that a repeat of Week 12 was in order – things quickly changed, though.
Who led the Packers comeback?
None other than the man that Pro Bowl voters snubbed, Aaron Rodgers.
A six yard pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson acted as the Packers quick reply to Atlanta, resulting in a tied game for one brief moment before another Falcon touchdown off of some poor Green Bay tackling.
Yep, you guessed it, memories of Week 12 poured in once again. This time, special teams were the cause for concern as the Packers allowed kick returner Eric Weems a 102 yard seam up the middle to take it to the house.
That was the very last of Atlanta’s scoring until the forth quarter.
From there on out Green Bay controlled possession. Head coach McCarthy remained persistent with the passing game during the first half, leading to a John Kuhn one yard run to knot it up at 14-14 apiece.
Next, the man that every green and gold supporter cursed last week stepped up. Wide receiver James Jones was seemingly unfocused when dropping a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the Wild Card round, but looked determined to make up for his misfortune on Saturday night.
Jones did just that. On the back of two remarkable catches that were perhaps uncharacteristic of Rodgers, Jones snatched a touchdown pass against prolific Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, sending a sold out Georgia Dome crowd into disbelief.
Realistically, this defensive no-show was never expected from Atlanta. The Falcons were ranked 16th in overall defense during the regular season, making Brian VanGorder’s game plan a real threat this throughout January.
You can forget that now.
Speaking of defense, cornerback Tramon Williams recorded his second endzone interception on Saturday night. Not to be outdone, Williams’ confidence then tided over into a 70 yard pick six, to place the Packers comfortably ahead 14 points.
This performance now outshines Darrelle Revis’ efforts this time last year.
The second half?
Well it was nothing short of a blowout. Rodgers continued to make a serious MVP case winding up with 366 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day, while Atlanta wallowed in fumbles, incomplete passes and ultimately a Packer defeat.
Aside from the victory, perhaps the most impressive factor to arise out of this game was the run game. McCarthy may not have stuck to his guns in the first half, but the efforts of James Starks were certainly on display during the final two quarters.
Starks wound up with 66 yards to his name, yet the added bonus of BJ Raji at the fullback spot was also a commendable move on McCarthy’s part. Raji may be no bull runner by any stretch of the imagination, however the blocking threat was present during Kuhn’s early touchdown.
Chicago or Seattle now wait, and Packer fans will be watching tomorrow’s game closely as Green Bay’s future lays ahead. A trip to Qwest Field is slightly more favourable in comparison to a visit to the rival Chicago Field, but either way, the Packers will need to keep their road momentum swinging next week.
One game away from the Super Bowl, and a second NFC Championship appearance in the span of four years. Rodgers has proven he has the precision, intelligence and wherewithal to take the Packers all the way, and quite frankly, Green Bay are living up to preseason expectations.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.