Both of the NFC Divisional Playoff Games are rematches at the same site, with Green Bay trying to advance to the NFC title game and avenge a three-point regular-season loss to Atlanta in the Georgia Dome.
The game features a team many thought would be the NFC’s Super Bowl representative, Green Bay, against Atlanta, one of the league’s toughest home teams.
It’s a battle of two quarterbacks who have become the respective faces of their franchises — Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, and a pair of defenses which finished the regular season ranked in the NFL’s top 10.
Green Bay went into Philadelphia last Sunday and solved the Michael Vick Experience in the NFC Wild Card Game with a 21-16 victory. It was the first road playoff victory for the Packers since the 1997 NFC Championship Game over San Francisco. It will be the first time since 1993 that Green Bay has played two postseason road games in the same season.
Atlanta (13-3) used an early-season victory over defending Super Bowl champ New Orleans to grab control of the NFC South. The Falcons won eight straight from late October through mid-December, and Atlanta held off a late Saints charge to win both the division and the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns, RB Michael Turner rushed 1,371 yards and 12 TDs and WR Roddy White caught 115 of Ryan’s passes for 1,389 yards and 10 scores. The Falcons were 7-1 at home in 2010.
The teams met in the regular season in the Georgia Dome on Nov. 28. The Falcons won 20-17 on Matt Bryant’s 47-yard field goal with nine seconds left in one of the more entertaining games of the 2010 regular season.
The last time the clubs met in the playoffs, Atlanta beat the Packers 27-7 in the 2002 NFC Wild Card Game on Jan. 4, 2003. The Falcons forced five Green Bay turnovers and held the Packers to 289 total yards in the dominating victory.
Thanks to the game notes produced by the two clubs’ PR staffs and notes provided by the NFL PR staff, here is a look at the key notes for the Packersand Falcons going into the first NFC Divisional Playoff Game.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
HEADING INDOORS: For the second straight season and just the fifth time in franchise history, the Packers will play in a dome in the postseason, an environment they have had some success in during Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure.
- Green Bay has had plenty of experience playing indoors, especially of late. Including playoffs, Saturday’s contest at Atlanta will be the Packers’ ninth dome game in the past two seasons.
- Since McCarthy took over in 2006, the Packers are 10-5 (.667) in regular-season dome games. That winning percentage ranks tied for No. 1 in the league among teams with eight or more road regular-season dome games. Philadelphia and the N.Y. Giants are both 6-3 (.667) over that span.
- McCarthy won his first six dome games as a head coach before the Packers fell just short at Minnesota in a 28-27 loss on Nov. 9, 2008.
- Green Bay’s offense has been productive indoors, averaging 370.2 yards of total offense and 28.5 points in the 15 regular-season dome games compared to averages of 357.7 yards per game and 24.2 points per game in outdoor contests over that span. In 10 of the 15 dome games, the Packers posted at least 370 yards of total offense. QB Aaron Rodgers has a 106.4 passer rating in 10 career starts in domes, with 2,645 passing yards, 18 TDs and just five INTs on 205-of-307 passing (66.8 percent).
- Rodgers has registered four 300-yard games in domes in his 10 starts, and has averaged 264.5 passing yards per game despite playing less than a half at Detroit this season in Week 14 (concussion).
- His 106.4 passer rating indoors since 2008 ranks No. 1 in the NFL. He leads the league in yards per attempt at 8.62 and ranks No. 2 in interception percentage at 1.6 (min. 200 attempts).
- The Packers’ defense has done its part as well, posting 31 takeaways (2.1 per game) and six touchdowns in dome games since ’06, including five contests with at least three takeaways. That has contributed to Green Bay’s plus-10 turnover ratio in dome games since 2006.
- What made the Packers’ Week 11 win at Minnesota more impressive was that it came against a Vikings team that entered the game 17-3 (.850) at home over the past three seasons. The Vikings allowed just 268.2 yards per game and 16.8 points per game in those 20 contests, and the Packers posted 374 yards and 31 points. Green Bay gave up just three points in the game, the fewest ever by a Packers team at the Metrodome.
STAT OF THE WEEK: With his three-touchdown performance Sunday at Philadelphia in his second career playoff start, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers etched his name in the NFL postseason record books.
- Combining Sunday’s outing with his four-TD passing game last season at Arizona in an NFC Wild Card contest, Rodgers’ seven touchdown passes in his first two postseason starts are the most in NFL history. It tops the mark of six that was held by five other quarterbacks.
- Rodgers connected on 18-of-27 passes (66.7 percent) for 180 yards and three TDs with no INTs against the Eagles on Sunday for a 122.5 passer rating.
- Along with his 121.4 passer rating against the Cardinals in the playoffs last season (28-of-42, 423 yards, four TDs, one INT), Rodgers became the first quarterback in league history to register 120-plus passer ratings in each of his first two playoff starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
- Rodgers’ 122.5 passer rating on Sunday was the third best posted against the Eagles in their playoff history, trailing only Arizona’s Kurt Warner (145.7, Jan. 18, 2009) and Oakland’s Jim Plunkett (145.0, Jan. 25, 1981). Rodgers’ rating was the best ever at Philadelphia in the postseason, topping the previous high posted by Detroit’s Don Majkowski (93.5, Dec. 30, 1995).
- Rodgers’ career postseason passer rating of 121.8 ranks No. 1 in NFL history among players with 50 or more attempts. He also ranks first in league history with a 98.4 rating in the regular season.
GAMEDAY STORYLINE: This week’s matchup marks the Falcons second playoff appearance under Head Coach Mike Smith. It is also the third time that the team has played in the NFC Divisional round since 2002. Atlanta’s 13-3 record in 2010 was the second best record in franchise history behind the 1998 team which went 14-2 and captured the NFC Championship. Saturday’s contest also marks the Falcons first home playoff game since 2004. The Falcons are 2-0 in the playoffs at the Georgia Dome, including a 47-17 win over the St. Louis Rams in the 2004 Divisional Playoff and a 20-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the 1998 Divisional Round. This week’s game is the third time the Falcons and Packers have met in the playoffs.
SPECIAL STARTING POINT: Special teams play an integral role in putting the offense and defense in position to have success. The Falcons rank among the League leaders in a number of important statistical categories in the third phase, particularly those related to the battle for field position in 2010. This season, Atlanta led the NFL in kickoff return average as Falcons returners averaged 26.5 yards per return and recorded 35 returns of over 20 yards.
On the other side in 2010, Falcons P Michael Koenen led a kickoff unit that held opponents to an NFL-best average starting position of their own 22.2-yard line after kickoffs. The Falcons also led the League in overall opponent field position, as Atlanta’s opponents had an average drive start of the 24.3-yard line on 180 offensive possessions
PACKERS-FALCONS FROM THE NFL PR OFFICE: TEAMS MEET for 3rd time in postseason. Packers won 1995 WC (37-20) & Falcons won 2002 WC (27-7). Clubs met in Week 12 (Atl. 20-17). All-time series, incl. playoffs, is tied 13-13.
PACKERS: Have won 12 NFL championships, most all-time. Packers have 26 postseason victories, 3rd-most in NFL history. Last week’s win was 1st road playoff victory since 1997 NFC Champ at SF. Team’s .619 postseason winning pct. (26-16) is 3rd best in NFL annals. Packers have advanced to postseason in 13 of past 18 seasons. Club had 5 players selected to Pro Bowl: T Chad Clifton (2nd), S Nick Collins (3rd), WR Greg Jennings (1st), LB Clay Matthews (2nd) & CB Charles Woodson (7th) … QB Aaron Rodgers threw 3 TDs last week & has 7 pass TDs in 1st 2 playoff starts, most by QB in 1st 2 postseason games in NFL history. Had 122.5 rating last week & is 1st QB with 120+ rating in each of 1st 2 playoff starts in NFL history. Led NFC with 101.2 rating. Is 1st Packers QB with consecutive seasons with 100+ rating (103.2 in 2009). Has 2 of top 3 marks in franchise history, trailing HOFer Bart Starr’s 105 rating in 1966. Had 3,922 pass yards & his 12,394 yards since becoming starter in 2008 are 2nd most by QB in 1st 3 years as starter (Kurt Warner, 12,612). Aims for 3rd start in row vs. Atl. with 300+ yards & 100+ rating … Rookie RB James Starks rushed for franchise playoff record 123 yards. Starks (6th round) is 1st rookie drafted in 6th round or later/undrafted to rush for 100+ yards in playoff game. RB Brandon Jackson had rec. TD last week. RB John Kuhn scored career-high 6 TDs (4 rush, 2 rec.) … Packers had 3 WRs with 50+ catches each for 1st time in franchise history: Jennings (76), Donald Driver (51) & James Jones (50). Jennings tied for NFC lead with 12 rec. TDs. Had 5 catches for 119 yards in Week 12. Driver has longest TD catch (90 yards) in team postseason history (2007 NFC Champ vs. NYG). Jones aims for 3rd playoff game in row with TD. WR Jordy Nelson had TD catch in last game vs. Atl. TE Tom Crabtree had 1st career TD last week … Since joining GB in 2006, CB Woodson leads NFL with 8 INT-TDs. Has INT-TD in each of 5 years with GB & is only player in NFL history with INT-TD in 5 consecutive seasons. S Collins ties for 2nd with 4 INT-TDs in that span. CB Tramon Williams had INT last week to seal win. Led club with career-high 6 INTs & tied for 2nd in NFC. LB Clay Matthews had sack last week. Finished 2nd in NFC with 13.5 sacks & is 1st Packer to start career with consecutive 10-sack seasons (10 in 2009). DE Cullen Jenkins played in 11 games & had career-high 7 sacks. LB Desmond Bishop & DE Jarius Wynn each had sack last week.
FALCONS: Are NFC’s top seed for 1st time since 1980. Are 3-1 in postseason at home. Team was 7-1 at home in 2010 & is 20-4 (.833) at home under head coach Mike Smith. Club has posted 3 consecutive winnings seasons, 1st time in franchise history. Team won division for 4th time in franchise history (1980, 1998, 2004). Club had 7 players selected to Pro Bowl: DE John Abraham (4th), TE Tony Gonzalez (11th), FB Ovie Mughelli (1st), QB Matt Ryan (1st), RB Michael Turner (2nd), ST Eric Weems (1st) & WR Roddy White (3rd) … Team had 3,000-yard passer (Ryan, 3,705), 1,300-yard rusher (Turner, 1,371) & 1,300-yard receiver (White, 1,389) for 3rd time in franchise history (1981, 2008). Ryan (3,440), Turner (1,699) & White (1,382) accomplished feat in 2008. QB Ryan has 33 wins as starter, tying HOFer Dan Marino for most wins by QB in 1st 3 seasons since 1970. Is 20-2 (.909) as starter at home. In career, has posted 100+ rating 16 times & Falcons are 16-0 (7-0 in 2010). Had team-record 357 completions. Is 2-0 vs. GB with 104.8 rating. In Week 12, tied team record with 85.7 comp. pct. (24 of 28) … RB Turner led NFC with 1,371 rush yards & tied for 1st with 12 rush TDs. Since joining Atl. in 2008, has 39 rush TDs, 2nd most in NFL. His 39 rush TDs are most by Falcon in any 3-year span. Aims for 3rd in row vs. GB with 110+ rush yards & TD … WR White set club records for most receptions (NFL-best 115) & rec. yards (NFC-best 1,389) in season. Owns top 2 rec. yard seasons in team history (1,382 yards in 2008). In only postseason game, had 11 catches, most by Falcon in playoff contest. TE Gonzalez was named to 11th Pro Bowl, most by TE. Had 70 receptions & is only player in NFL history with 60+ catches in 12 consecutive seasons. Has TD catch in all 3 meetings vs. GB. Has 100+ yards in 2 of those 3. WR-KR-PR Weems had franchise-record 102-yard KR-TD & 55-yard PR-TD, only player in team history with both in season. Only NFC player with KR-TD & PR-TD in 2010 … DE Abraham ranked 3rd in NFC with 13 sacks & is only Falcon to register 13+ sacks in 2 seasons (team-record 16.5 in 2008). Has 102.5 sacks since entering NFL in 2000, 2nd most during span. Aims for 3rd in row vs. GB with sack. LB Curtis Lofton led club in tackles for 2nd consecutive season. CB Brent Grimes & S William Moore tied for team lead with 5 INTs. Marked 1st time since 2001 2 Falcons had 5+ INTs in season (Ashley Ambrose, 5 & Ray Buchanan, 5). Grimes had 6 INTs last year & is 1st Falcon since Buchanan (2000-01) with 5 INTs in back-to-back seasons. Led team with 23 passes defensed.