Sunday, January 16, 2011

Still Flying High

"I've been following football for 50 years. This was the greatest individual performance in a playoff game I have ever seen."
Mike Ditka, on Aaron Rodgers' performance in routing the Falcons last night, 48-21, on Sunday's NFL Countdown on ESPN. That is a hell of a statement from our old rival, Da Coach.

As of eight days ago, Aaron Rodgers' playoff record was 0-1 and some TV talking heads were suggesting that he can't win big games. Eight days later, his record is 2-1, and he has racked up some of the gaudiest playoff statistics imaginable for a young player who is really just coming into his own. And he did it in three games, all on the road, and (in the case of the two games this year) without two players who were expected to be among his most potent weapons this year, Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley.

If he stays healthy, Aaron Rodgers could be fun to watch for a long time to come. And the Packers may have the best quarterback transition since Joe Montana gave way to Steve Young. Here are a couple of interesting stats. In all his playoff games, Brett Favre threw for over 300 yards 4 times, and the most yards he ever had in a playoff game was 331, in a loss to Dallas after the 1993 season. Rodgers has thrown for more yards than that in 2 of his 3 playoff games. Meanwhile, in all his playoff games, Brett Favre threw 44 touchdowns, as against 30 interceptions. No, it was not just our imagination that he threw an awful lot of interceptions. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1 interception in his 3 playoff games.

Aaron Rodgers Career Playoff Statistics







@ Arizona






@ Philadelphia






@ Atlanta












And then there was Tramon Williams. He sealed the win last week against Philadelphia with a leaping interception on the left side of the end zone. Last night, he had a mirror-image interception on the right side of the end zone late in the second quarter, to keep the game tied at 14-14. The Packers took the ball, went on one of their four touchdown drives of 80 yards or more, and went ahead by the score of 21-14. The Falcons tried hard to tie it up or at least get a field goal before the half, aided by a couple of defensive penalties against the Packers. They got as close as the Packers' 26, but a very timely Clay Matthews sack backed them up to the 35, and forced the Falcons to use their last time out. With 10 seconds left in the half, the Falcons decided to try to get a few extra yards on an out pattern, to make the field goal attempt a little shorter. The problem was, everybody knew the pass had to go to the sideline, including Tramon Williams, who recognized the formation, read the play perfectly, intercepted the ball at the 30, put a move on Matt Ryan and one other Falcon, and took the ball in for a 70 yard touchdown return on the final play of the half. Now that is a prime time play by a prime time player.

All in all, you could say that Aaron Rodgers and Tramon Williams have made a pretty good case for why they should have been selected to the Pro Bowl. Then again, with one more win, they would not be able to play in the Pro Bowl this year anyway.

More on the NFC Championship Game later this week. But here is a great little fact I just heard on the NFL Network. If the Packers play the Bears in the Championship Game next week (which I expect - this article is being wrapped up just as the Bears game is about to start), it will be the first playoff game between the Packers and the Bears since the 1941 Western Division Championship Game.

A family note. My brother Bruce and his family decided to go down to Atlanta for the game, and evidently had a fabulous time - much better than when they went to the last Falcons game down there. I await his pictures from the game.

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