By Paul Newberry
ATLANTA (AP) Brett who? Aaron Rodgers has turned these NFL playoffs into his own showcase.
Carving up the NFC’s top-seeded team, Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and led the Green Bay Packers to their second straight postseason road victory with a stunning 48-21 rout of the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night.
The Packers (12-6) will have to win one more on the road to complete their improbable run from sixth seed to the Super Bowl, but nothing looks out of the question the way Rodgers is playing. He’ll lead Green Bay into the NFC championship game at either Chicago or Seattle next weekend.
Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, more than Brett Favre – the guy he replaced in Green Bay – ever threw for in a playoff game. After knocking off Michael Vick and the Eagles in Philadelphia, then dominating Matt Ryan and the Falcons in Atlanta, Rodgers is creating his own legacy in Titletown USA.
Green Bay scored 35 consecutive points, including Tramon Williams’ 70-yard interception return on the final play of the first half that left the Falcons (13-4) and a crowd of more than 69,000 in a state of shock as the teams headed to the locker room.
Ryan, who beat out Rodgers for a spot in the Pro Bowl, had a miserable night. He also was picked off in the end zone, costing Atlanta another scoring chance early on that might’ve changed the complexion of the game, and lost a fumble attempting a simple sneak. In two career playoff games, Matty Ice is 0-2 with six turnovers and a safety.
The Falcons went into the playoffs as the NFC’s top-seeded team for only the second time in franchise history. The result was the same as the first time: one and done.
At least the fans didn’t have to deal with the heartache of blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the fate suffered by the 1980 Falcons in their 30-27 loss to Dallas. This game was pretty much over when Rodgers guided the Packers on an 80-yard drive to open the second half, running the last 7 yards for the TD that made it 35-14.
When Rodgers drove the Packers on yet another scoring drive, capped off with a 7-yard pass to John Kuhn late in the third quarter, thousands of red-clad fans headed for the exits, not even bothering to hang around for the final period of a magical season than turned into a green nightmare in the playoffs.
The Falcons simply couldn’t stop Rodgers, who carved up the Atlanta defense on four drive of at least 80 yards.
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