Packers Analysis: Clutch Win Surpasses Stats

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  • Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

NFC Divisional Playoffs: Saturday, January 15th at Atlanta
Packers Gameday at 5:00 p.m. on Newsradio 620 WTMJ with coverage on Live at 5, 6 and 10 on TODAY'S TMJ4

PHILADELPHIA - Playoff games are not always won because of great performances that automatically get reflected on individual stat sheets. 

The Packers' 21-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay's first road playoff win since the 1997 playoffs, was such a win.

Certainly, Aaron Rodgers' 122.4 QB rating thanks to a three TD, no INT performance should be reflected when discussing his day.  So should James Starks' 123 rushing yards.

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But they and the Packers didn't win this game because of stats.

The Packers won it because of clutch plays.

Examples:

How about five consecutive third down conversions by the Packers offense in their dominant first half?

Yes, the first came off an offisdes call in the first quarter.

But the second came off Rodgers' arm on a throw to John Kuhn.

The third went off the short yardage plunging of Kuhn (and his timely fumble recovery).

The fourth went, again, on Rodgers' arm to Johnson for a first down on 3rd and 2.

The fifth was another Rodgers delivery - this time, with his legs, on the final first down before the completion to Jones in the end zone that made the game 14-0 and put the Packers in control...for the moment.

Need more?

How about BIG clutch catches in the 3rd quarter by Donald Driver?

One with 12:31 left on 3rd-5 at the GB 25...another on 3rd-10 at the GB 31.

Those gigantically helped in the Packers' third touchdown drive, the one that eventually gave them the critical cushion they needed.

That's seven ought of eight third-down conversions in a playoff game.  On the road, no less.

That's why Aaron Rodgers deserves credit for the win.  Not his stats.

Same thing for James Starks.

It wasn't the fact that his 123 rushing yards were the big key.

It was the fact that he sent a message on his first run play of the game, a 27-yard message.

And he kept sending it with gash after gash, to keep the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers.

Each run made it more apparent that the Packers would not have to worry about Philly's potent pass rush.

And even on the play they did have to endure it - the sack on 3rd down with just over two minutes left, Rodgers' brains helped his team.

He had no realistic time to get a receiver open with the speed of that blitz.

He could have risked a throw that could have either turned into an interception or an incompletion, stopping the clock and giving the Eagles a free play.

Instead, he held on to the ball and took the sack and the hit, knowing the clock would run down to two minutes because the Eagles couldn't stop it.

Eventually, Vick's interception by Tramon Williams was the biggest clutch play of the game - and season, so far.

Of course.  It was truly the dagger into a dangerous Philadelphia team whose penchant for comebacks produced much indigestion in the cheese state.

However, there were a bunch of clutch plays that each made a critical difference in the Packers' continuing their playoff march on Atlanta.

(Oh, and by the way, the Packers and Bears are one win each away from producing - for football romantics like me - the best possible matchup you could ever get in the NFC playoffs: Packers-Bears, and the chance for the Packers to hoist the George Halas Trophy in his team's home stadium and go after the Vince Lombardi trophy in Jerry Jones' oversized playpen.)