Packers Exorcise Demons With Playoff Triumph

Aaron Rodgers hasn't won in the playoffs? Mike McCarthy can't win a close game? Just call those myths busted in the Packers' biggest victory in almost four years, a 21-16 fight to the finish at Philadelphia.

Aaron Rodgers hasn't won a playoff game?

The Packers can't win a close game?

The Packers can't pull through in a big game under coach Mike McCarthy?

Check all of those off the Packers' List of Nagging Questions.

Green Bay exorcised those demons with a 21-16 victory over the Eagles on Sunday evening at Philadelphia. With that, the Packers will have to exorcise another demon on Saturday night at Atlanta: A 20-17, overtime loss to the top-seeded Falcons from Nov. 28.


Let's get this out of the way: The Rodgers story line all week was either lazy reporting or idiotic, take your pick. With a shameful and embarrassing career postseason record of 0-1, Rodgers entered this game without a playoff win.

That's the supposed line of demarcation between good quarterbacking and great quarterbacking. And sure, if Rodgers had chucked four interceptions and the Packers had lost 51-10 at Arizona last year, there might might have been some merit to the conversation. Instead, he threw four touchdown passes and led the offense to 45 points against the Cardinals. But, hey, whatever.

"Well, in all my time being a football fan, I have never seen one player win a game all by himself," Rodgers tactfully said. "It is a good team win for us and I will let you guys write what you want on that."

"Milestone? That's what you talk about," McCarthy said. "We don't look at it that way, I think you know that. Gosh, I just don't know why we have to talk about that today."

Rodgers wasn't great against the Eagles, not with a careless fumble when he could have hit John Kuhn for the first down. Still, three touchdowns, 66.7 percent accuracy and sound decision-making is exactly what you want from your quarterback, especially when the defense is playing at such a high level.

But when he needed to make a play, Rodgers was huge. Because of his turnover on the first series of the third quarter, the Eagles had gotten back into the game at 14-10. On third-and-5 from the 25, he hit Donald Driver for 6 yards and a first down while getting pasted on a corner blitz.

If there was a time when Rodgers might crumble, this was it. Instead, he hung in the pocket and hit Driver for 20 yards on third-and-10. Later, when the Eagles took away all the options on a play designed to score a touchdown, he went to his fifth read, fullback John Kuhn, for 16 yards and a first down at the 9. Moments later, the Packers led 21-10 on a 16-yard screen to Brandon Jackson.

"That was one of the most important drives of the game," Rodgers said. "(McCarthy) had a good call on third down there and you want to give some time to dial it across the middle. It was an important time of the game. The crowd was just getting into it and we needed to give our defense a break and make it a two-score game again."

And that was the breathing room needed to put a cork the critics.

Close games

After a potential game-winning drive stalled at New England, McCarthy's record in close games (defined by four points of less) had fallen to an abysmal 5-16 — including 0-10 on the road.

Not to absolve McCarthy of all the blame, but the blame-it-on-the-coach banter is simplistic. Take the game at Detroit. Was that McCarthy in the No. 85 jersey dropping an easy touchdown that probably would have sent that game in a totally different direction?

In the last two weeks, though, the Packers have found a way to win close games. Neither were of the four-points-or-less variety but, hey, whatever.

"You have to win the close games in the playoffs," McCarthy said. "We knew we were going to come in here, we knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight. We spent so much time on the overtime rules this week I thought, heck, we might as well go into overtime, too. This is the way it's going to be. We're on the road, you play uphill when you get off the bus and you have to overcome the atmosphere that you're playing in. It feels good."

Big games

It had been a long time since a win of this magnitude — three days shy of four years, to be exact. That's when the Packers rallied from an early hole and routed Seattle 42-20 to advance to the NFC championship game.

A week later, the Packers were stunned by the Giants 23-20 in overtime. In 2008, the Packers had a chance to seize control of the mediocre NFC North. Instead, they were hammered 51-29 at New Orleans and crumbled from there. In 2009, the Packers were swept by the Vikings and were demolished on defense by the Cardinals in the playoffs. Six weeks ago, they lost at Atlanta with homefield advantage possibly on the line.

"No excuses this time," was Charles Woodson's mantra all week, as well as before the game, at halftime and in a victorious locker room afterward.

There had been no excuses throughout an injury-plagued season and there would be no excuses on Sunday night.

Just a return trip to Atlanta.

"This is the time of year where you've got to step your game up," Woodson said. "You know if you don't win this game, you're out of there, you're going home, so everything you've got , leave it on the field and just try to move on. Today, guys went out and played their hearts out."

The Falcons will be favored. They're healthy, they're rested, they're at home and they've been consistently the class of the NFC all season.

But, hey, whatever. After Sunday night, the players and coaches don't care about any of that. They know what they're made of.

"None of it matters when you win," the game's hero, Tramon Williams, said. "When you win, none of it really matters. That's the type of game that you want to be in and come out on top. Once you come out on top, you feel good and you can build off that momentum."

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

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