Interception Saves Playoff Victory

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and the defense made a final stand with Tramon Williams' end zone interception to save a 21-16 victory at Philadelphia. Up next: at Atlanta on Saturday. We have the player of the game and much more in our new game report.

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and the defense got a season-saving stop with Tramon Williams' interception as the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers beat the host Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in a NFC wild card game on Sunday evening.

The Eagles got the ball at their 34-yard line with 1:45 remaining and no timeouts. On the first play, Michael Vick hit DeSean Jackson on an intermediate route, and Jackson juked safety Charlie Peprah for a 28-yard gain to the Packers' 38.

After a third-and-10 completion to Riley Cooper moved it to the 27, Vick had plenty of time and threw a jump ball to Cooper, a 6-foot-3 rookie, but Williams made a leaping interception in the end zone with 33 seconds remaining.

With that, Green Bay gets a rematch against the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons (13-3) on Saturday night.


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Rookie James Starks topped his full-season production of 101 yards with a Packers rookie playoff-record 123 yards on 23 carries, and Rodgers was an efficient 18-of-27 for 180 yards. The Packers won despite two turnovers on their end of the field.

A huge blunder to open the second half led to the game's key sequence. On third-and-2, Rodgers was stripped and the Eagles recovered at the Packers' 24-yard line. One play later, Vick hit Jason Avant for a touchdown to cut the margin to 14-10 barely a minute into the third quarter.

But Rodgers responded with the drive of his career, considering what was at stake. He converted a third-and-5 with a 6-yard completion to Donald Driver and a third-and-10 with a 20-yard completion to Driver. Starks broke loose for 19 yards and Rodgers hit John Kuhn for 16, setting up first-and-goal at the 9.

A short run and a holding penalty on guard Daryn Colledge set up second-and-goal from the 16. Rodgers hit Brandon Jackson with a screen to the left, and Jackson showed great patience to let Colledge and center Scott Wells get in front of him to lead a convoy to the end zone to make it 21-10.

The Eagles were a casualty of several self-inflicted wounds, including a third-and-8 drop by Avant on the ensuing drive and a missed 34-yard field goal by reliable David Akers on the following drive — his second miss of the day.

Finally, the Eagles made it a one-score game, with Vick scoring on a fourth-and-goal sneak with 4:02 remaining. They missed two shots at the two-point conversion that would have made it a three-point game, the last of which when Erik Walden and A.J. Hawk stormed into the backfield to foil a Vick pass.

The Packers methodically led 14-3 at halftime, with both teams kicking themselves over missed opportunities during those first 30 minutes.

Green Bay got its touchdowns on passes of 7 yards to Tom Crabtree and 9 yards to James Jones, capping drives of 10 and 12 plays, respectively. It could have been three touchdowns had the bad side of Jones not showed up in the final minute of the half. Jones, who beat Pro Bowler Asante Samuel on the first touchdown, beat him again but dropped a perfectly thrown long ball that likely would have resulted in a 63-yard touchdown.

The Eagles blew a chance to take an early lead. After their first drive went nowhere, Sav Rocca's crumby, bouncing punt was about to be downed until the Packers' Brandon Underwood, who was engaged as a blocker, basically tripped over the ball. But with the ball at the Packers' 41, Philadelphia managed just one first down and missed a field goal.

Including the punt, the Packers fumbled three times in the first half but recovered two. Both of them happened on the second touchdown drive, when Kuhn recovered his own fumble after converting on third-and-1 and Rodgers recovering when he reached out to hand the ball to Starks but the ball hit fullback Quinn Johnson.

The moment

The defense saved the game in Week 1 at Philadelphia and it did so again on Sunday. The Packers had contained Michael Vick throughout the game, but all of a sudden, he had the Eagles 27 yards from the winning touchdown. Vick, never the best decision-maker in the game, threw a jump ball to rookie Riley Cooper against Pro Bowl-alternate Tramon Williams. Williams was positioned perfectly for the interception.

The player

Who else but Williams, who was his usually strong self throughout the game and couldn't have played the interception any better. "I got greedy," Vick said. "It's a bad way to go out but, hey, I went down swinging.

The number

123: Of course the Packers ran the ball, and of course it was with rookie James Starks. Who couldn't have guessed that? For the season, Starks had carried 29 times for 101 yards (3.5 average) with a long of 16. On Sunday, it was 23 carries, 123 yards (5.3 average) with a long of 27.

The quote

Williams: "It means a lot to me. Not only me, but everyone in this locker room. I'm just thankful I was given the opportunity to even make that play. And hopefully we continue performing like that and go out and put another performance together in Atlanta."

The next opponent: Atlanta

Green Bay lost 20-17 at Atlanta on Nov. 28. Trailing by a touchdown, Aaron Rodgers led a 16-play, 90-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard pass to Jordy Nelson with 56 seconds remaining. However, the Falcons took over at the Packers' 49 after Eric Weems' kickoff return and a facemask on Matt Wilhelm. That set up Matt Bryant's 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds left.

The divisional schedule: Saturday — Baltimore at Pittsburgh, 3:30 p.m.; Green Bay at Atlanta, 7 p.m. Sunday — Seattle at Chicago, noon; New York Jets at New England, 3:30 p.m.

The other things you might have missed

— The only injury was a knee bruise for Donald Driver.

— In a nugget from De Pere Journal editor/part-time Associated Press sports writer Todd McMahon, the Packers snapped an eight-game road losing streak in which the kickoff temperature was 32 or colder. The skid included the fourth-and-26 game and this year's loss at New England. Their last freezing-weather road win came at Chicago on Dec. 17, 1989. The kickoff temperature on Sunday was 30.

— Unofficially, the offense lined up with Starks and fullbacks John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson in an inverted wishbone on 11 snaps, including Starks' 27-yard run.

— The old record for rushing yards by a Packers rookie in a playoff game belonged to "The Roadrunner," Travis Williams, who ran for 88 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in a 28-7 win at Milwaukee County Stadium on Dec. 23, 1967.

— Rodgers' seven touchdown passes in two playoff games set a league record.

— Really, here's the big stat: The Packers scored touchdowns on all three red zone possessions while the defense held the Eagles out on two of three trips.

— All three of the Packers' touchdown drives had double-digits plays: 10, 12 and 11.

— The Packers' offense had thrived on big plays all season but the longest pass play was 20 yards. The next-longest was 16 yards to Kuhn, with Kuhn doing most of the work.

— Before the game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its finalists for the Class of 2011. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene was not among them. The list: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Marshall Faulk, Charles Haley, Chris Hanburger, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed, Les Richter, Willie Roaf, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe.

— The inactives: Safety Atari Bigby (groin), center/guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, cornerback Josh Gordy, defensive end Howard Green, fullback Korey Hall (knee), Graham Harrell (third quarterback), center/guard Nick McDonald and outside linebacker Frank Zombo (knee).


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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