Sat. Final: Packers 48, Falcons 21

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  • Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Next game: Sunday, January 23rd at Chicago
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4th Quarter

10:17 p.m.  Packers' 4th Drive  :23
MONSTER victory formation.  Celebrate, Packers fans.  You're 60 minutes from the Super Bowl.

10:14 p.m.  Falcons' 4th Drive  1:56
C.J. Wilson joins the Packers sack party.  Incredible night even for the defense.

190 total yards.

Wayne on Packers/Bears matchup in NFC title game: "I hope it is."

10:06 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  6:01
Green Bay 48, Atlanta 21
Crosby 32 yd FG

Now, just run the ball and run the clock out so we can party in Packerland.

Starks...to the 16.  Well, they can't run the clock out if they're that close.  A half a hundred ain't bad.

Rodgers QB rating: 136.8.  Insane.

Related Content: 
Packers 48, Falcons 21

Analysis: Packers Super Bowl-Ready

3rd-8 at ATL 14: and it's Starks for 1 yard.

10:02 p.m.  Falcons' 3rd Drive  6:29
424 yards for Green Bay, 191 for Atlanta.  More than double the yardage, more than double the points.

Flynn warms up.

Ryan continues to dink and dump, but a 3rd-5 completion goes for 4 yards.

The final death knell if Atlanta can't get the first down...and Jenkins fumbles after a Ryan catch....pileup...and as Don Meredith would sing, "turn out the lights, the party's over."

Desmond Bishop recovery.

9:54 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  12:05
Green Bay 45, Atlanta 21
Crosby 43 yd FG

Pitch...catch...Nelson.  14 yards.  Money.  Wow.

Pitch...catch...Jennings.  5 yards.  Money.  Wow.  This is not a repeat.

Wayne: "Go Pack Go all the way to the NFC Championship Game."

3rd-7 at ATL 27: Rodgers to Nelson...another first down and the bloodletting is like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  

3rd-7 at ATL 15: Rodgers sacked.  There goes that 80% on 3rd down the Packers have had tonight.

9:48 p.m.  Falcons' 2nd Drive  12:55
Atlanta has that much time to live, and three scoring drives to produce with no offensive productivity by the Packers.  VERY big problem.

Especially when Raji eats Ryan for dinner and a nine-yard loss.

NO!  Raji...hurt.  Not good.  Please.

Ryan in the no-huddle is like Rodgers in normal situations.  Packers should be more aggressive defensively.

3rd-1 at ATL 45: RYAN FUMBLE!  Did Packers fall on it?  CLAY MATTHEWS WITH THE SNAG!  That should end it.

9:42 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  14:21
Packers expect the onside kick.  That's what I would do if I was Mike Smith....and it's snagged by Atlanta.  Finneran with the Jordan-like.  Ugh...wait.  Was it inside 10 yards?

Thankfully....yes.

Green Bay now with less than 40 yards to go to put up a near-century of points.

Starks time, and he can only get to the scrimmage line.  This is the only bad thing - you still need Rodgers in the game to take care of first downs because the Packers can't run if Atlanta expects it.

3rd-10 at ATL 39: Rodgers finds Jackson for a short gain - just 7 yards thanks to the blitz...but it's Mason Crosby time to make it three TD's and 3 two-pointers for Atlanta.

Off the upright from 50 yards.

9:36 p.m.  Falcons' 1st Drive  Continued from 3rd Quarter
Green Bay 42, Atlanta 21
Ryan-White 5 yd TD pass

Ryan to Finneran...and it's dink and dump to death for Atlanta.  Where was this all night long, Falcons fans must be asking.

White cuts inside Williams for the TD that cuts the lead in half.

3rd Quarter

9:28 p.m.  Falcons' 2nd Drive  2:41
Wayne Larrivee calling a dagger before the 4th quarter of a playoff game.  Insane.  And beautiful.

Peprah, that doesn't give you license for a face mask, even if you don't get called.  Offensive pass interference.  You got away with one, Peprah.

Packers, if you choose to play this way the rest of the season, the 13th world championship and 4th Lombardi trophy will come home.

Of course, the Bears, Steelers, Jets and Patriots defenses in particular have something to say about that.

Not the Seahawks.  They can't stop the Packers even when they're average.

3rd-3 at ATL 34: Ryan finds Jenkins with a fantastic spinning catch against Shields.  It's not like the Falcons are giving up.  And they still have a quarter.

Ryan discovers Finneran and drilled it like me putting a screw in the wall for 19 yards.

9:20 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  7:29
Green Bay 42, Atlanta 14
Rodgers- Kuhn 7 yd TD pass

Green Bay 50 yards from a possible dagger after a horrible shank punt.

Larry McCarren: "Falcons have done a great job of taking the crowd out of the game."

3rd-5 at ATL 45: Rodgers scramble...NELSON!  First down.  Another shot into the heart of Atlanta. 

Starks smashing for yard after yard.  Starch removed from Atlanta.  They didn't show up to the drycleaners.  Packers sent them there already.

3rd-5 at ATL 33: RODGERS TO DRIVER!  22 yards.  Wayne Larrivee: "The Falcons are POWERLESS!"

Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn inside the 10 and there are more long-U vowels screamed than Falcon fans murmuring.

Rodgers - Kuhn - TD!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Right at the pylon. 

9:09 p.m.  Falcons' 1st Drive  8:28
Packers 348 total yards, 303 by Rodgers.  Falcons: 106 total yards. 

That pretty much says it all.

Right now, this feels like the Colts preseason game when the Packers absolutely destroyed Indy.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but it just feels like it's in the bag.  I should never feel that way in a playoff game.  Dangerous thought.  Must leave my brain.

3rd-8 at ATL 29: Ryan finds Jenkins past the 50 yard line.  My point exactly: game never over.

But wait: Mike McCarthy is sending the red flag to the turf...and he has a point.  The ball was bobbled as Jenkins was going out of bounds.  No control.

And the refs agree.

8:54 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  15:00
Green Bay 35, Atlanta 14
Rodgers 7 yd TD run

Now, the Packers can continue the momentum swing...no, momentum swing-seat-over-the-bar.  A touchdown on this opening drive of the second half and Atlanta is completely in catchu-up mode.  They can't score 21 points in the 2nd half if they don't have the run to go to.

Packers will have to go 80 yards to place the Falcon cadaver in the coffin.  Not nail it.  Just put the cadaver in.

Rodgers sacked to start the half, inside the 10 yard line.  Atlanta knows how critical this drive is for Geren Bay, and they start with a crowd-pleasing play.  That's how you get the noise level high when it was silent before.

3rd-13 at GB 17: with big-5 formation, Rodgers avoids a blitz - FINDS JONES!  FIRST DOWN!  Rodgers with a fantastic spin move to get past the blitzer and it's a MONSTER first down.  A big deflater for that defense.

Nelson!  A great move after a short pass to get nine yards.  Atlanta should not be blitzing, because when they do, Rodgers burns them.

STARKS!  2nd-short run and they slam to the Atlanta 46.  Green Bay can do no wrong.  It's like the inverse of Murphy's law, to quote NFL Films: "Everything that could go right did go right."

Starks again and it's nine yards.  Finally, some productivity from Starks tonight.

3rd-7 at ATL 32: and already, 5:00 into the quarter, Rodgers blitzed - and  JORDY  NELSON  MAKES ANOTHER CATCH FOR A FIRST DOWN!

Atlanta, are you stupid?  Don't blitz if you want to live.

ARod...again...lots of time...Nelson inside the 10 yard line.  It's darned if you do, darned if you don't. 

1st-goal at ATL 7: ARod....takes it in himself!!!!  

2nd Quarter

8:34 p.m.  Falcons' 3rd Drive  :42
Green Bay 28, Atlanta 14
Williams 70 yard INT return

Finneran takes another short kickoff because they are avoiding Weems like nuts, and Atlanta gets great field position.  Too much time.

3rd-6 at ATL 39: a stop here is huge.  Ryan finds Jenkins - tipped away and a flag on Shields.  What???????   Shields' arms up in disbelief.  Face-guarding as he was jostling with Jenkins.

Tramon Williams with another flag.  Horrible.  Use your brains, defense.

HUGE SACK!   Matthews with a monster sack to push the ball to the 47 yard line, which is 50-50 situation for a field goal for most kickers.

PICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   WILLIAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  SEEYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8:21 p.m.  Packers' 3rd Drive  2:22
Green Bay 21, Atlanta 14
Rodgers-Jones 20 yd TD pass

Packers 80 yards from the lead and they'll get the ball to start the 2nd half.  Momentum swing in their hands if they want it.

Inside the two minute warning: whistles blow play dead after a neutral zone infraction.  Rodgers found Jones wide open...why did refs blow that play dead?  That should have been a touchdown.  Ugh.

Rodgers scrambling does what he needs to - then out of bounds to save his life.  to the GB 37.

And he wastes too much time to draw a delay of game to force a 2nd-9.  Think, ARod...like you normally do very well.

JENNINGS!  Into Atlanta territory at the 48!  Tick, tock, timeout.  Good clock management there.  Right in the seam of the zone, too...Rodgers destroys zone defenses, and when teams blitz, Rodgers is #1 rated in NFL.

Rodgers beats another blitz to Quarless...tick, tock, tick, tock....but there's loads of time - 1:15 left.

3rd-3 at ATL 41: DRIVER!  To the 20.  Rodgers is insane.  Wayne Larrivee: "Rodgers is picking this Atlanta defense apart!"

214 passing yards already.

ARod...end zone...JONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   One of those catches where you just go OH MY GOD!  (Or say that could have been offensive pass interference.)

8:11 p.m.  Falcons' 2nd Drive  6:06
VERY short kickoff to the 14, and the Falcons take advantage with a 35 yard return.  Avoiding Weems.  Not smart to kick to him, but not smart to allow for such short fields.

Finneran with a catch off a play action bootleg from Ryan.  Finneran is like a tight end, but is an H-back in WR's clothes.  The famous key pass, which all west coast teams use.

UGH!  Personal foul - shot to the head on Ryan by Jenkins.  Wasn't much more than a slight hand, but that's enough in this protect-the-QB era.

Larry McCarren: "That is costly."

Shields gave Jenkins all the room to work and Ryan found Jenkins more open than a fly before you zip your jeans after you put them on.

WOODSON!  THANK YOU FOR THAT SACK!  Woodson faster to Ryan than the offensive line to a free all-you-can-eat buffet.

3rd-long at GB 21: PICK!  THANK YOU  DEFENSE!  Williams with another huge pick when this team needs it!  And with time for Rodgers to score.

7:57 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  11:05
Green Bay 14, Atlanta 14
Kuhn 1 yd TD run

OK, 102 yards, not 101 as we first mentioned.  Either way, fire Shawn Slocum NOW!

Playing from behind is not what you want....nor is a MUFF by Starks and the ball out of bounds inside the 10 yard line.  Had he let the kick go, it's the Packers' ball at the 40 yard line.

Pathetic.  Fire Shawn Slocum twice!

OK, offense, hold the ball for a long time.

Rodgers - Driver!  There you go!  Inside the 35 yard line of Green Bay.  Owens tackled Driver hard. 

The Packers' offense can dominate this game if the defense and special teams let them.

As proven again by a perfect throw past a zone blitz to Jennings for a first down.

Rodgers gets past a blitzer and finds Jones - DEEP - inside the red zone!  Credit not just Rodgers' arm, but feet...avoiding the Moore blitz.

Rodgers - fake handoff...Jones with a fantastic leaping snag inside the 10 yard line...but not a first down.

He makes great catches, then drops easy, easy ones.

3rd-2 at ATL 8.5: Rodgers sacked near the 15...but a flag in the end zone.  Driver grabbed while Abraham and Babineaux sacked?  YES SIR!  Beautiful call.  Love those zebras!

Goal to go, people....ARod's precise throws are more critical here.

ANOTHER FLAG!  Owens holding Driver while in the end zone.  Twice in the last minute...and it's 1st-goal at the one.  The Falcons cannot defend Green Bay's passing game...at least not so far.  Their only chance is to hold them with the run or sack Rodgers.

Starks...?.....?....met airborne right before the goal line.

WOW...BJ Raji as fullback...Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn!  Raji blocking for him.

7:55 p.m.  Falcons' 1st Drive  12:04
Atlanta 14, Green Bay 7

Weems 102 yard kickoff return
Weems with the kickoff return - uh oh....gone.  You knew he was gone as he went past the 30.

7:48 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  (continued from 1st quarter)
Green Bay 7, Atlanta 7
Rodgers-Nelson 6 yd TD pass

Now the Packers have the lather going.  As long as the Falcons get blinded by the suds, Rodgers will keep finding open targets.

Rodgers - play action - to Jennings, but Atlanta knew it.  Grimes, a shorty - 5' 9" with the textbook tackle.

3rd-3 at ATL 16: NELSON!  Beautiful throw for the first down.  Packers had four receivers on the left side, just Nelson on the right.  Was Atlanta thinking WR screen on the left?

AROD!  Nelson!  Was that a TD?  Right at the pylon...beautiful!

1st Quarter

7:38 p.m.  Packers' 2nd Drive  5:00
An answer is rather important here, to stop a potential floodgate from opening.  Home teams get great momentum in the start of playoff games and the pressure gets higher on the visitor.  Packers must settle down.

They won't start with great field position...inside their own 20.

Need some time of possession here...a potentially tired defense needs a break.

Starks gets a great first down...we think...on the 2nd down run...what?  Marked out a yard short?

BRANDON JACKSON!  Huge run...they CAN run on the Falcons.  I like this.

KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHN!  Dives for a first down after a Rodgers throw and the thousands of Packers fans in the dome give the U-vowel tribute.

First trip into Atlanta territory.

Driver with a quick catch from Rodgers, but Anderson and Lofton immediately hold him to a short gain.

3rd-6 at ATL 40: must get this.  MUST get this.

ARod!  Jennings!  Way downfield, and credit Rodgers' feet and Jennings continued the pattern.

7:29 p.m.  Falcons' 2nd Drive  8:55
Atlanta 7, Green Bay 0
Turner 11 yd TD pass

Turnovers are killers on the road, but this one can't be blamed on Jennings.  He tucked the ball properly.  It wasn't like he let his arm out like the ball was a hot potato.  It was just a textbook pop-the-ball-out by Atlanta's Grimes.

Ryan to Jenkins...beating Woodson.  This is not good.  To the 22.  Basically the red zone. 

BIG SACK on 2nd down: guess who?  Some guy named Clay Matthews, though he can thank Charles Woodson coming in untouched, forcing Ryan's hand right into Matthews' path.

 

3rd-17 at GB 29: Ryan finds White inside the 15...right at the first down marker on a play where the Packers dropped 8 guys back.  Vick torched Green Bay when they played such zone D last week, but Ryan is 4th in the NFL in QB rating against the blitz.

4th-1 at GB 13: right up the gut.  Textbook run for the first down.  

Next play: Turner, like a "bowling ball" as Wayne put it.  Ugh.

7:25 p.m.  Packers' 1st Drive  10:01
89 yards to pay dirt, or pay fieldturf in this case in the Georgiadome.  Higher than 89, I'm sure, on the decibel level.  Wayne: "This crowd is being prompted like a bunch of monkeys to yell."

And the Falcons gang tackle Starks to start, a -3 loss.  Not good.

3rd-13 at GB 8: how's about a 92 yard touchdown pass?

YES!  Jennings deep!  NO!  Fumble.  And advanced into Green Bay territory.  Ball was simply popped loose with a great tomahawk move.  Jennings couldn't see the guy.  Simply unavoidable.  Result equivalent to a punt.

7:15 p.m.  Falcons' 1st Drive  15:00 left in first quarter
Green Bay has won three in a row with their season at stake.  Atlanta doesn't come in with much momentum, but with rest.  This could be REAL interesting.

Weems is one of the best kick returners in the game - but he doesn't get too much past the 20.  Thanks, Wilhelm and Peprah for controlling things on the kickoff return.

And Atlanta starts with a tackle-eligible using a jumbo formation...hmmmmmm.

Ryan goes incomplete to start the game, and Roddy White and Charles Woodson were impersonating amateur wrestlers in a first round Olympic bout, but no flag.

3rd-6 at ATL 26: Ryan to White...and Ryan scrambled successfully to free up Roddy White who was in front of the Packers zone.  Darn.

Turner gets to the second level for a five-yard gain on first down.  Last time, Turner had five carries of 10+ yards.  That CANNOT happen tonight.

3rd-5 at ATL 41: BLITZ...and it does nothing.  Ryan to White to the 47.  This could get REALLY old.  Desmond Bishop was one step late with the blitz, and White went to the vacated spot in the defense where Bishop started the play.

Cullen Jenkins!  Owning 2nd down and burying Turner to force a 3rd-9 at ATL 47....and Snelling doesn't get first down yardage.  Packers FANTASTIC in tackling a check down receiver in front of the first down marker. That's how you stop teams.

Pregame

7:11 p.m.
The coin toss, and wind will not be a factor: Packers win the toss.  They will defer, and Atlanta takes the ball.  I like that - start the 2nd half momentum battle with the football, the more important momentum to have if you can score first.

7:09 p.m.
Zac Brown Band doing the national anthem.  Good stuff.  Expect it on 620WTMJ's Wisconsin's Morning News Monday if you missed it.

7:03 p.m.
For you who need some proper tuneage before kickoff: click here to hear "Hotlanta" by the Allman Brothers.   No, that is not a statement on the winner of today's game.

6:43 p.m.
Injury update:

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brian Williams will miss the NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers with an injured left knee.

Williams is inactive after hurting the knee in the regular-season finale against Carolina.

Christopher Owens is expected to fill Williams' spot as the team's primary nickel back against the Packers.

The Packers are holding out safety Atari Bigby with a groin injury and fullback Korey Hall with a knee injury. Quinn Johnson is starting for Hall.

Green Bay linebacker Frank Zombo is inactive with a knee injury. Erik Walden is replacing Zombo at outside linebacker.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
 

6:03 p.m.
We know the Packers have changed since November 28th, with their increased success in the running game.  How much has Atlanta changed?  Matchups can be insanely different than first meetings.  Ask the Jets and Patriots: Jets win early on, a 43-point Patriots win the second meeting.

Pregame Story

ATLANTA (AP) -- Bart Starr. Lambeau Field. Ray Nitschke. Titletown USA. Reggie White. Heck, they even named the Super Bowl trophy after Green Bay's most famous coach.

Yep, the Packers are just oozing with tradition.

The Atlanta Falcons? Not so much.

"We're fairly new on the block," said Roddy White, the Falcons' Pro Bowl receiver. "We're still trying to prove ourselves. You've got to go out there and win playoff games. That's what this league is all about."

The Falcons (13-3) are the top seed in the NFC playoffs heading into Saturday night's divisional game against Green Bay (11-6).

Atlanta merely needs to win two more games -- both at the Georgia Dome, where the team is 20-4 over the last three seasons -- to reach the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history.

Up first, Atlanta will have to get by a franchise with a much more impressive resume over the long haul.

The Packers have won a record 12 NFL titles, three more than any other franchise, a bounty that includes three Super Bowls victories. Compare that with the Falcons, who have managed just four division titles in 45 years and lost their lone Super Bowl appearance in 1999. In fact, Atlanta had never put together back-to-back winning seasons until its current run of three in a row.
 

When it comes to star power, Green Bay is about as good as it gets. The franchise boasts 21 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and surely has at least one more on the way with Brett Favre, who actually began his career with the Falcons but was traded away in one of the game's great personnel blunders.

The Packers' list of greats includes coach Vince Lombardi, whose influence on the game was so profound the NFL put his name on its championship trophy shortly after his death in 1970.

No one has considered naming a trophy after anyone from the Falcons. Heck, the team has yet to send even one player to Canton; the best it can do is Eric Dickerson and Tommy McDonald, two Hall of Famers who played briefly for Atlanta late in their careers. And when it comes to coaches, the team with the odd-looking bird logo can't come close to Lombardi or Curly Lambeau, who guided the Packers to their first six NFL titles in the 1930s and '40s.

OK, the Falcons did hire one of Lombardi's assistants, Norb Hecker, as their first head coach in 1966. But his record was a very un-Vince-like 4-26-1, which pretty much sums up the divide between these two franchises.

"That organization over there, they've been doing it for a long time," Roddy White said. "They've pretty much got the Super Bowl trophy named after their squad and their coach. So, they've got a lot of good tradition. They've done a lot of good things in this league."

The Packers insist they're looking forward, but there's no doubt they've got an eye on their legacy. Green Bay hasn't won a Super Bowl since the 1996 season. Longtime Packers such as receiver Donald Driver figure that's long enough.

"We all know exactly what sits in front of us," Driver said. "We want that trophy. It's named after us. We need to get it back home, where it belongs."

Even though he grew up in Georgia, Packers defensive lineman Jarius Wynn never really cheered for the Falcons. There wasn't much reason, given their track record.

"It would have been REAL tough to be a Falcons fan," Wynn said.

He played his college ball for the Georgia Bulldogs, a team with plenty of history and titles. Still, it didn't match up to what he found in Green Bay.

"We had tradition, going back to Herschel Walker and winning the national championship," Wynn said of his college team. "But here, it's a whole new level."

Thankfully for the Falcons, Saturday night's game won't be played in a history book. They've earned home-field advantage for only the second time and intend to take advantage of it. They won't have to worry about Lombardi calling one of his famous sweeps. Or Starr sneaking into a frigid end zone for the winning touchdown.

This game will be played indoors in the 72-degree comfort of the Georgia Dome, contested by players who weren't even born when those guys were dominating pro football, in front of a mostly red-clad crowd that has helped turn the Falcons into a virtually unbeatable squad on its own field.

"None of that matters," Falcons safety William Moore said. "When those lights come on, those players from the past ain't playing that night. It's just about who's going to come out and play ball that night."

Atlanta has played some good ball ever since the new regime -- general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith -- took over in 2008. Quickly bouncing back from a miserable season in which franchise quarterback Michael Vick went to prison and coach Bobby Petrino abandoned the team after just 13 games, the Falcons made the playoffs as a wild card in Year 1 of what everyone figured would be a multiseason rebuilding job.

Injuries scuttled a return trip to the playoffs in 2009, but the Falcons removed another stigma from their sad history by winning the final three games to go 9-7 -- the first consecutive winning seasons for the franchise.

Now, it's three in a row, with the best record in the NFC for good measure. Anything less than a Super Bowl title will be considered a disappointment for a team loaded with offensive stars (White, quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez, running back Michael Turner) and plenty of up-and-comers on defense.

"That sure would look good on a banner in the Dome," Moore said.

Even with all their success, the Falcons still feel a bit overlooked and certainly under-appreciated. Sure, they're favored against the Packers, but plenty of people are picking Green Bay in an upset.

"I can't even turn on the TV without someone saying we're going to be an underdog. We're a 13-3 underdog," Falcons Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli said. "I love it. I love being the underdog. I love not getting all the credit. Force them to respect you out on the field with your play."

That's the way to build a tradition.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)