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One might assume that a 48-21 loss at home in the playoffs against the conference's sixth seed would be a reason to stop rooting for a team. But if you listen to SB Nation Atlanta's Jason Kirk, the Falcons falling by that margin last night against the Packers actually created new Falcons fans — or, at least, clarified what it is to be a Falcons fan:
Four dogs in the house for our viewing party, but only one actually lives there. People came over, and they brought their dogs. That's just something people do. Which meant one-fourth of our manpower had to be devoted at all times to keeping the dogs from swallowing chicken bones and humping each other and fighting over the right to swallow chicken bones. Because that's the kind of stuff dogs do, even good dogs with good owners, no matter how much time and attention you put in.
Dogs always end up dogs.
Atlanta Falcons fans 25 years of age or less: now you know. You spent the past week and much of the regular season fuming about ESPN and Trent Dilfer and Peter King and the lack of respect afforded your team. You got frustrated when older fans didn't take the slights personally or even dared to doubt the team themselves. You didn't know what was coming.
But now you're in. This was your initiation. You've loved this team, and God bless you for it, but now you're officially a Falcons fan forever, if you're still down, you maniac. It's not too late to become a Panthers fan.
There wasn't much more Aaron Rodgers could've done in the Green Bay Packers 48-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night. With his offensive line giving him all day in the pocket, Rodgers picked apart the Falcons' secondary, completing 31 passes to seven different receivers.
When all was said and done, Rodgers threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns while also adding another score on the ground. He never turned the ball over and only missed on five passes while calmly guiding the Packers down the field time and again. With Rodgers at the helm, the Green Bay offense looked unstoppable.
The Packers' defense also deserves recognition for the job they did on Matt Ryan and the Falcons Saturday night. Tramon Williams did a number on Ryan, intercepting him twice in the second quarter including a game-changing pick-six as time expired in the half.
The Falcons were held in check all night, only gaining 194 yards of total offense while turning the ball over four times. Michael Turner never got going on the ground after his bruising 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter, finishing with just 39 yards on 10 carries.
The defense's ability to lock down the Falcons, coupled with Rodgers outstanding performance on the other side of the ball, turned what looked like a close game early into a blowout as Green Bay rolled to a 48-21 win.
Atlanta might have come into the divisional round of the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but Green Bay showed Saturday night that the Packers are the team to beat. Playing on the road against a team that had defeated them earlier in the season, the Pack pureed the Falcons, 48-21.
Aaron Rodgers shelled the Atlanta secondary all night, going 31-of-36 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. When the Falcons defensive front did get close to Rodgers, he often was able to elude the pressure and complete a pass downfield. Tramon Williams reprised his role as playoff hero for Green Bay, picking Ryan twice.
Matt Ryan was 20-of-29 for 186 yards and a touchdown for Atlanta, but most of those stats were padded with a late-game spark. When it really mattered, Ryan threw two interceptions, one of them a mistake in placing the ball and the other a mistake in throwing it in the first place. The quarterback who had earned the nickname “Matty Ice” while winning 90 percent of his home games seemed to melt when the lights got too bright.
Overall, Green Bay was dominant on defense. The Packers limited Atlanta to 194 yards of offense, slowing down Michael Turner early, with the offense then making him irrelevant as the points mounted.
The Packers will face the winner of Sunday’s showdown between the Seahawks and the Bears, a game in which Chicago will be heavily favored. And while the winner of that game will technically be the higher seed in the NFC Championship Game — yes, even if it’s Seattle — there’s little doubt that Green Bay will be the favorite. After Saturday night’s performance, it would be hard to argue that they shouldn’t be.
The Falcons are not without some degree of fight at this point, putting together a 73-yard touchdown drive with what might be too little time left to make a difference. Matt Ryan is 7-of-7 for 83 yards — there was a ten-yard penalty in there — to cut the deficit to three touchdowns. The touchdown is a six-yard pass to Roddy White.
But there’s very little reason at this point to think that Atlanta can pull off what would be an amazing comeback even if the defense had shown much of an ability to stop Green Bay.
Following the touchdown, Atlanta goes for the onside kick. It’s recovered by an airborne Brian Finneran about half a yard shy of the 40-yard line, which means the ball goes to Green Bay on the penalty.
Then there are a few more glimmers of hope for Atlanta. The defense holds Green Bay to seven yards, and the Mason Crosby field goal clanks off the left upright. There’s not really much of a chance for Atlanta to endanger the Packers’ lead at this point, but those are the only things left for Falcons fans to hold to while the clock runs down.
Rodgers has thrown twice for 13 yards and a touchdown, but that’s not the most impressive part of his running ability. Rodgers has largely avoided Atlanta’s pass rush when the Falcons seem close to shutting him down, and that ability to extend the play has consistently led to long completions that have kept drives alive.
That’s one reason why Rodgers is 27-of-31 for 330 yards and three touchdowns, his latest completion a seven-yard strike to John Kuhn to give the Packers a 28-point lead late in the game. Atlanta has not scored a touchdown since the second quarter, and seems like it will be out of the playoffs after its first game for the second straight trip to the postseason.
Tramon Williams is quickly becoming the bane of Matt Ryan’s existence. First, he picked off the famously cool Atlanta quarterback in the end zone to turn a promising Falcons drive into a Green Bay scoring possession. Then, he picked Ryan near the end of the half and cut out the middleman, returning the ball 70 yards for a touchdown.
Ryan is 9-of-13 for 87 yards, which isn’t quite so bad if two of the incompletions aren’t interceptions or one of those interceptions hasn’t been returned for a touchdown at the end of the half. Michael Turner has carried the ball nine times for 37 yards, which gives him more rushing yardage than the entire Green Bay backfield. Then again, that does Atlanta little good when the quarterback is handing the ball to the other team.
Atlanta is headed for what looks like its third scoring drive of the game when the Falcons get flagged for a false start, then Matt Ryan is sacked at the Green Bay 26, setting up a 3rd-and-21. Then there’s the questionable, late throw by Matt Ryan, which is doomed when Michael Jenkins falls trying to get back to the ball. The pass is picked off by a leaping Tramon Williams for a touchback.
Meanwhile, the Falcons defense is facing issues of its own. Atlanta pass rush is having a tough time getting to Aaron Rodgers, in part because of the Packers offensive line and in part because of Rodgers’ ability to move around in the pocket. Rodgers goes 5-of-6 for 74 yards, including a 20-yard strike to James Jones for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Falcons, generally a disciplined team during the season, have already committed five penalties for 22 yards. So far tonight, the extra downs have been hurting them more than the yardage.
Can Aaron Rodgers win the game on his own? Just maybe, if that’s what it takes — and it’s looking like that might be just what it takes. Packers running back James Starks is having trouble reprising his success from last week, carrying the ball nine times for 14 yards so far.
No problem. Rodgers is dissecting the Falcons’ secondary, which is doing him plenty of favors along the way. Rodgers missed his second pass out of 15 attempts on the last drive and already has 160 yards on the night. John Kuhn got the one-yard carry for the touchdown on the latest Packers drive, led into the end zone by nose-tackle-turned-fullback B.J. Raji.
As for the Atlanta secondary … The Falcons committed two pass-defense fouls in the red zone on the drive, one a pretty blatant pass interference penalty on Chris Owens on the goal line. With the success that Green Bay is already having on offense, the Falcons really don’t need to help them out.
One of the key questions for the Falcons coming into this game was whether the defense could slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Give the early advantage to Green Bay on that one. Now the question for Green Bay is whether that will make that much of a difference.
After Greg Jennings fumbles a first-down reception away to give the Falcons a touchdown opportunity, the Packers get right back to driving easily down the field. Rodgers is 7-of-7 for 48 yards and the six-yard touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson to tie the game. It’s a 14-play drive, with some uneven success for the Packers’ running game.
The lead lasts for all of one play. Eric Weems runs the ensuing kickoff back 102 yards for the touchdown to give the lead back to the Falcons. It’s a playoff record for the Falcons and a season long for Weems, who’s a pretty solid return man for Atlanta.
The game starts with a typical Atlanta drive, lasting much longer than you would think based on the results, and the Falcons are forced to kick the ball back to the Packers. And that’s where the typical part of the first quarter kind of ends.
On 3rd-and-13 from the Green Bay 8, Aaron Rodgers hits Greg Jennings for an easy first down, until Stephen Nicholas knocks the ball out and it bounces into the waiting arms of Brent Grimes, who returns it to the Green Bay 48.
The ensuing drive features Mike Smith’s usual decision-making: Go for it on fourth down, resulting in a first down at the Green Bay 12. After that, the Falcons turn to Michael Turner for the 12-yard touchdown run and the game’s first points. Turner already has 25 yards and a touchdown on six carries, which is not exactly how the Packers defense wanted to start out against him.
Early this week, when we looked at the odds for tonight's Packers-Falcons tilt, it seemed that the Falcons were favored by anywhere from 1 to 2.5 points at home in the Georgia Dome. That's changed, and the NFL playoff game already predicted to be the closest of this divisional round looks even closer now.
Check the current odds for Packers vs. Falcons in Atlanta, and it's hard to find the Falcons favored by more than a single point. Could this be a case of Las Vegas liking Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' resurgent running game enough to make the spread more or less irrelevant for tonight's NFC divisional round? Possibly.
But it's also worth noting that Vegas doesn't think this is going to be a shootout. The over-under for Packers-Falcons is in the low 40s — 44.5 according to Bodog — meaning that a hypothetical great game that ends at 24-21 would reward over bettors.
Then again, when the two teams met in the regular season, the Falcons won by 3, 20-17. That wouldn't hit the over, but, then again, the Packers didn't have James Starks then.
When he retires, there's no doubt that Tony Gonzalez will be lauded as one of the best tight ends in NFL history. But there's a line on his resume that remains blank, because Gonzalez has yet to enjoy a victory in the NFL playoffs.
Today, Gonzalez and the Falcons will aim for that first win in their divisional round game against the Packers — and there might be some Chiefs fans cheering along, like the folks at SB Nation's Chiefs blog, Arrowhead Pride:
Tony Gonzalez was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997 and promptly saw his team go 13-3 and secure a first round bye in the playoffs. Of course, the Chiefs went on to lose that game to the Denver Broncos, 14-10.
TG's next playoff chance wouldn't come until the 2003 season when the Chiefs started the season 9-0, finished 13-3 and again secured a first round playoff bye. They were one-and-done once again losing to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, 38-31.
His third career playoff game came following the 2006 season when the Chiefs backed into the playoffs before losing in the wildcard round to the Colts, 23-8.
Three chances, three playoff losses.
Now that the Chiefs are out, I have to admit I'm cheering for the Falcons. I want TG to get his win.
One of the keys to stopping the Packers is shutting down Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, or at least slowing it down. Our Falcons blog, The Falcoholic, thinks that the guy who can do that in their divisional round NFL playoffs game might be athletic cornerback Brent Grimes.
But it's Brent Grimes who ultimately stands the best chance of turning this game with a single play. No other cornerback on the roster is as capable of getting his hands on the ball, and once he does, that ball is either heading the other way through the magic of an interception or being batted harmlessly to the turf.
Grimes didn't have a pick against Rodgers last time out, but if the Falcons apply the heat, he's got a great chance to get it done this time. I remain firm in my belief that the outcome of this game will turn on turnovers, so an interception could make all the difference in the world.
Watch Grimes closely. He won't disappoint you.
The Green Bay Packers have a knack for keeping their games close, especially this year when their biggest loss of the year came by just four points. Their two four point losses this year came when Aaron Rodgers was out with a concussion.
How Rodgers does against the Atlanta Falcons defense will be a key part of their playoff game this weekend. SB Nation's Acme Packing Company says Rodgers' past performance suggests he'll do well though the Falcons have been better lately.
Based on their performance last November, when Rodgers threw for 344 yards (9.8 yards per pass attempt), the Packers should be able to move downfield through the air. And while the Falcons are about as healthy as any team in the NFL, their nickel CB Brian Williams is still injured even after two weeks of rest. In their previous meeting, Rodgers didn't rely heavily on WR Greg Jennings (his 119 yards receiving is padded by a last second desperation play), and he spread the ball out instead. Seven different receivers had two or more receptions. There was even a sighting of No. 5 WR Brett Swain. However, the Falcons have been outstanding against the pass over their past five games.
We've already argued that this game will simply come down to which quarterback plays better. They're both similar teams and close matchups usually come down to which quarterback can make a big play. So really the question is Matt Ryan or Rodgers? Two of the best young quarterbacks in the game is a tough call.
The Green Bay Packers will travel to Atlanta this weekend to play the Falcons in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Falcons are favored by two points at the moment and it's easy to see why some folks are picking them to win.
The Packers on the other hand have a knack for keeping games close. They lost five games this year -- three by three points and two by four points. Two of those five losses came in a game in which Aaron Rodgers was injured and another he missed.
The Falcons have been pretty healthy all year and they're just a solid team from head to toe. They don't have any major weaknesses but they're beatable.
Even though the Falcons are slightly favored, I'm taking the Packers 24-20.
The Atlanta Falcons went 13-3 on the season and earned the top overall seed in the NFC for the NFL playoffs. After the upset in Philadelphia on Sunday evening, the Falcons will host the Green Bay Packers next Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (ET) on FOX.
The Falcons are a tough team to beat because they don't have any glaring weaknesses. They're very good on both sides of the ball ranking fifth in offense and fifth on defense. They're consistent and they're lead by one of the best young quarterbacks in the game in Matt Ryan.
The Packers have their own quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and they're also a balanced team ranking 10th in offense and second in defense. The Packers have kept every game they've played this year close so I wouldn't expect a blowout on either side.
The Falcons already beat the Packers once this year, 20-17, in Atlanta.
The Falcons are small favorites over the Packers right now sitting at 1-2.5 points depending on where you look. It's hard to pick a line in this game because with the way both teams have played all year you know it's going to come down to a one possession game.
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