RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The volume of run plays stayed higher than normal for the second straight week, as Green Bay amassed 28, not including two scrambles (for 13 yards) by Rodgers and a game-ending kneel-down for Flynn. Yet, the production wasn't nearly as substantial as rookie James Starks provided in his 123-yard performance against the Eagles. The Packers accumulated just 96 yards on the ground. Starks rushed for only 14 yards in nine carries in the first half Saturday before the lopsided score that was established in the third quarter enabled him to rack up the carries for a final output of 25 for 66 yards. Starks ran with authority, speed and power on a few cutbacks with a long of 13, but he also was driven back for two minus runs. Brandon Jackson matched Starks with a 13-yard burst in his lone carry. A newly installed play featuring nose tackle B.J. Raji beside fullback Quinn Johnson paved the way off right tackle for a 1-yard touchdown plunge by John Kuhn to tie the score at 14-14.
Tramon Williams was a hero.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus — The rout that broke out in the third quarter rendered the Falcons' powerful rushing attack null and void. All but three of their meager 14 run plays came before halftime, and they totaled just 45 yards. Michael Turner was headed toward another 100-yard performance against the Packers with 37 yards in nine attempts, highlighted by a 12-yard touchdown run up the middle in which he plowed through five would-be tacklers. Turner, however, had only one carry the last 33 1/2 minutes and finished with 39 yards. The Turner touchdown, which started the scoring after the Jennings fumble, came on the next play after Green Bay gave up a fourth-and-1 conversion to fullback Ovie Mughelli on an inside handoff. Jenkins dropped Turner for a 2-yard loss earlier in the game. Matthews struck again with a recovery of a bungled center exchange on what had the appearances of a sneak by Ryan on third-and-1 in the final quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Tim Masthay, who wasn't needed to punt once, was off the hook from a lot of blame to go around with another lousy performance by the special-teams units. Eric Weems added to Green Bay's malaise in the early going with a record-setting 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put the Falcons up 14-7 in the second quarter. The Packers had three missed tackles, the latter by kicker Mason Crosby, on Atlanta's side of the field as Weems jetted up the middle. Starks then inexplicably tried to field the ensuing kickoff as it sailed toward the sideline, and the ball glanced off him out of bounds inside the Packers' 10. Starks averaged just 10 yards in two runbacks, and the Packers also tried Pat Lee on another kickoff. Williams didn't have a punt return with two fair catches. Crosby rallied after a 50-yard field-goal attempt hit off the left upright with makes of 43 and 32 yards in the second half.
COACHING: B — Maligned special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum can thank his colleagues for bailing him out with a dominating performance by the offense and defense when Weems' touchdown return and other miscues throughout the game could have spelled a season-ending loss. The Packers' 48 points are the most in franchise history during the playoffs, and the 27-point margin of victory is the greatest in postseason team annals since a 37-0 rout of the New York Giants in the 1961 NFL Championship. Given the magnitude of the game, which put Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game for the first time in four years, fifth-year coach Mike McCarthy had his finest three hours in orchestrating the offense from the sideline. McCarthy unleashed Rodgers and the deep stable of receivers on an injury-marred secondary in uptempo fashion. What's more, McCarthy didn't abandon the previously effective running game to do so, intermixing runs here and there to soften up the Falcons even more on play-action. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers applied the full-court pressure in the indoor venue, shaking, rattling and rolling Ryan out of his unflappable tendencies in the pocket with a heavy dose of blitzes from all angles.
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