Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers victory over Falcons.
Rodgers, Williams star in Packers rout of top-seeded Falcons: Rodgers accounted for four touchdowns, Williams returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and the Packers erupted for 28 points in the second quarter to rout the Atlanta Falcons 48-21 Saturday night in an NFC divisional round playoff game in front of 69,210 fans at the Georgia Dome. The victory puts the sixth-seeded Packers (12-6) one win away from their first appearance in the Super Bowl in13 years. Green Bay will travel to Chicago or Seattle a week from Sunday for the NFC title. Rodgers passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. Rodgers was 31 of 36 for 366 yards and a passer rating of 136.8 against an overmatched Atlanta secondary. The Packers scored touchdowns on five consecutive offensive possessions and outgained the top-seeded Falcons 442-194 in total yards. The Falcons (13-4) committed four turnovers in all. Two of those giveaways ended up in the hands of Williams, who has three interceptions in two postseason games. Williams, who sealed the Packers’ victory over the Eagles last Sunday with an interception in the end zone in the final minute of the game, ended one promising Atlanta drive with an interception in the end zone and returned his second one 70 yards for a score on the final play of the first half.
Rodgers makes it look as easy as paint by numbers: This is what happens when talent, preparation and game-planning meet spot-on execution. In what has to rank among the greatest performances by a quarterback in the Green Bay Packers’ storied postseason history, Aaron Rodgers gutted the No. 1-seeded team in the NFC, taking the heart and soul out of the Atlanta Falcons’ defense and the starch out of a Georgia Dome crowd Saturday night. Rodgers’ numbers only begin to tell the story in the Packers’ stunning 48-21 victory in a divisional playoff game. But they were beyond impressive. He completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 136.8. He also ran for a touchdown. “Oh, my gosh, the guy is a phenomenal quarterback,” said Greg Jennings, who atoned for a first-possession fumble by catching eight passes for 101 yards, both game highs. “He played lights out today. He played absolutely lights out.” Virtually everything drawn up by coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin worked thanks to the incomparable play of Rodgers and his four receivers. Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson combined to catch a staggering 26 passes for 331 yards. Rodgers also completed passes to tight end Andrew Quarless and running backs John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson. “He was on the money today,” Jones said. “If you watch him during the week, this is the way he prepares. We expect that kind of game out of him.” Bart Starr in the 1960s and Brett Favre in the ’90s had impressive playoff games, but if Rodgers’ performance wasn’t the greatest ever by a Packers quarterback in the postseason, it certainly has to be part of the conversation.
Williams made two huge interceptions of Matt Ryan to spearhead a dominating defensive effort in victory: In a 48-21 win for the sixth-seeded Packers (12-6) against the top-seeded Falcons (13-4), Williams picked off quarterback Ryan and took it 70 yards to the house as time expired. Green Bay took a comfortable 28-14 lead in front of a stunned crowd of 69,210 in a building in which Ryan boasted a career record of 20-2. That same crowd left in large masses as the fourth quarter began and chants of “Go Pack Go” and green and yellow clothing filled the lower levels of the dome. “I knew they were trying to get into field goal range at that point,” Williams said of his pick-six. “I let the receiver get outside of me and I broke underneath and made the play.” Green Bay quarterback Rodgers called the interception the play of the game, a play set up by one of Clay Matthews two sacks the play before. “The play of the game in my opinion was Tramon’s pick,” Rodgers said, “because that’s a 10-point swing potentially. When we went up three scores, it was just a matter of not turning the ball over and we kept it rolling.” Williams, who has blossomed under CB Charles Woodson’s tutelage, made his mentor proud with his third interception of the postseason. “He’s playing great football, and he’s been playing great football all season long,” Woodson said. “He’s coming up with some timely plays when we need them. That play right before the half — spectacular. To take it in and get six points, put six on the board as we go in at halftime, just great football by him.”