Falcons fans love to quote the team’s record at home under quarterback Matt Ryan. They likely aren’t as interested in bragging about the team’s record in the playoffs under Ryan.
Widely regarded as the best young quarterback in the game, the man known as Matty Ice goes liquid-nitrogen cold when it counts the most. Two years ago, a superior Falcons team lost in Arizona during the wild-card round. This year, with a 13-3 record and the top seed in the NFC playoff field, the Falcons and Ryan were dismantled by a Packers team that suddenly looks a lot like the Super Bowl favorite that so many thought they would be before the season.
With a 48-21 win in the Georgia Dome, the Packers managed in only six days to knock out the two franchises that seemed during the season to be on a Mike-Vick-returns-to-Atlanta collision course.
The Packers did it with four drives of 80 yards or longer and a pick-six from cornerback Tramon Williams, who lately has emerged as the best playmaking cornerback in the NFL, despite not being named to the Pro Bowl roster. His first pick on the night ended in the end zone a drive that would have continued the back-and-forth scoring fest that had the game knotted at 14.
And they did it with a night to remember from Aaron Rodgers, who has gotten the Brett Favre monkey off his back, stuffed it, mounted it on the wall, and texted a photo of it to Jenn Sterger.
Said Rodgers after the game, to Pam Oliver of FOX: “To be able to put up that kind of performance as an offense, it’s incredible.”
Yes it is. Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers gained 442 yards on offense, holding Atlanta to fewer than 200.
It was the kind of spanking that the top seed in a division-round game is supposed to periodically administer to the visiting team. Instead, it was the worst loss by the NFC’s top seed in the division round since 1987, when the Vikings shocked the 49ers in San Francisco, 36-24.
We’ve got a strange feeling that the Falcons, in a division that features the potent Saints and the up-and-coming Bucs, won’t get another shot at holding serve as the top seed any time soon.