Turns out the experts were right, the Green Bay Packers really are a scary playoff team.
In a game that highlighted the importance of quarterback play and a strong defensive structure, the Philadelphia Eagles met their ultimate NFC match on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field, tasting their second consecutive defeat this season against the Packers, losing 21-16.
Luckily, the Packers don’t have luck to blame.
Finally after months of criticism and harsh words by fans and media analysts’ alike, quarterback Aaron Rodgers earned himself his first ever playoff win in an extremely convincing fashion.
As if last year’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t considerably perfect despite the loss, Rodgers threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia, more or less earning himself the unofficial man of the match.
Speaking of outstanding players, the list of Packer brilliance is for once both long and bright for Green Bay following Sunday night.
Starting from the very top, rookie running back James Starks answered the naysayers easily, exposing Philadelphia’s 15th rank rush defense that underwent constant scrutiny in the days leading up to the game. In the end, Starks wound up with 123 yards to his name, along with one of the game changing plays to expire a bundle of time on the clock.
Who said Green Bay had no running game?
Maybe Starks will fall off the wagon a little when the Atlanta Falcons play host next week (that remains to be seen), but for now fullback John Kuhn is providing an ideal blocking presence up the middle – something that hasn’t been seen in, well, forever.
Then there was Dom Capers, a man that is worthy of a small mention. Since taking over in 2009 Capers has shot an ounce of confidence into the Packers rebuilt 3-4 scheme, but the questionable mix of zone/blitz looked likely to puzzle Capers against an unhealthy Michael Vick.
All of that worry was for nothing.
Linebackers Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop were ruthless, and when Vick was forced to pick himself up off of the turf early in the forth quarter, the uneasy feeling of Kevin Kolb potentially stepping in saw a flood of memories pour back from Week 1.
Fortunately, Philadelphia fans were lucky enough not to bear witness to that scenario yet again.
What the Eagles ultimately saw unfold before their very eyes, though, was a Packer team that answered in just about every area of the field. Rodgers was great, yes, but it was also the small advantages such as Tim Masthay’s clutch kicking to avoid DeSean Jackson, along with the mounting uprise of defensive end Eric Walden who continues to show blemishes of promise in his third season.
But surely the Packers can’t totally see this underdog victory all through rose colored glasses, right?
As much as Green Bay fans made themselves heard when Kuhn ran the ball, it was far from an entirely solid McCarthy team on Sunday.
The biggest concern that can easily have Green Bay fans worried heading into Atlanta, is fumbles. Not only is this a concern as the playoffs draw on, it is also a potential problem that may plague the Packers in the future, considering Green Bay have been much more contained when it comes to turning over the ball this season.
Against Philadelphia, Rodgers and the offense coughed the ball up four total times thanks to costly fumbles, turning possession over to the Eagles twice during critical moments. The Packers escaped unscathed due to the defense, but next weekend in Atlanta, McCarthy may not be quite so lucky against the Falcons fifth rank point scoring offense.
The problems don’t end their either.
If penalties have become the Packers biggest enemy in the past two years, it appears a peace offering has now been met. Before you get ahead of yourselves, though, say hello to Green Bay’s newest problem – dropped passes.
To any neutral fan of the playoffs this postseason, witnessing Green Bay drop deep passes must be similar to watching the Chicago Cubs actually win a playoff game, the two just don’t go hand in hand.
Still, this is a problem that has consisted of what McCarthy likes to call “a lack of concentration”, as his wide receivers encountered yet another game that saw the likes of James Jones and the normally trustworthy Donald Driver drop key passes throughout the afternoon.
Expect some emphasis to be placed on this new issue that has stolen some of the spotlight away from the Packers winning attitude, but also expect a much more focused Green Bay offense as they look to make up for their last second field goal loss against Atlanta in Week 12.
Lastly, the final nitpick that has snowballed into one big sore thumb, is McCarthy’s clock management. The announcers saw it, the fans saw it, and it’s fair to say that even Philadelphia fans were surprised not to see McCarthy go for it with a few moments left at the end of the first half.
There are downfalls when it comes to attempting to add on points, but what is the advanage in having a quarterback such as Rodgers, who has thrown only one interception in the end zone this season, if you are too afraid to take a shot?
I guess we’ll never know.
The deed is done for the Packers, and Rodgers now has his first notch in that championship belt he is so proud of displaying when he scores a touchdown.
Atlanta waits at the Georgia Dome, in a game that somehow sees Green Bay shape up nicely as far as odds and chances are concerned. It’s the Divisional Round, the air is full of confidence, and after rediscovering the run game and punishing a high-flying team like Philadelphia, who knows how far this Packer freight train will stray in the next three weeks.
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.