The hopes and dreams of an entire city were pinned on the high expectations for the Atlanta Falcons this year. It ended Saturday night in the most heartbreaking of ways. Aaron Rodgers and the sixth-seeded Green Bay came into the Georgia Dome, riding high on weeks of building momentum, and left with a 48-21 victory and a trip to the NFC Championship
Rodgers came into the Georgia Dome and put on a clinic. One of the biggest keys to Saturday's game was to get some sort of pressure on Rodgers and force him into making quick — and hopefully, bad — decisions. There was pressure at times, but Rodgers is just that good that he can escape even the most certain of sacks. Rodgers' numbers against the Falcons were gaudy as he went 31-of-36 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers are impossible to beat when Rodgers has that kind of day.
Sack or First Down?
There were three instances Saturday night when the Falcons looked to be moments away from regaining possession as third downs for the Packers turned into what looked like sure sacks. On those three occasions, Rodgers was able to make something happen and turn the plays into first downs. That trend gave life to a Packers' offense that didn't really need the help, but would gladly take it. The Falcons struggled with the same situation against the Saints in a Week 16 loss.
Kick returner Eric Weems provided a shot of energy just when the Falcons needed it early on. Green Bay had just gone down the field to tie the score at 7 when Weems took the ensuing kickoff and bolted up the field for a 102-yard touchdown to put Atlanta ahead. The kick return was the longest in NFL playoff history.
If you had listened to the national media at all this week, you might have gotten the impression that rookie Green Bay running back James Starks was the best running back in NFL history. Starks had an impressive game last week when he rushed for 123 yards in a win over Philadelphia, but he wasn't nearly as big a factor against the Falcons on Saturday night. Starks rushed for 66 yards and no touchdowns.
While most of the game didn't give Falcons fans a whole lot to be loud about, Project 115 was successful in that fans inside the Georgia Dome early on passed the mark of 115 decibels. The loudest the crowd got Saturday night was 117.8 decibels, just .01 decibel short of the highest mark in three years. That reading came during Brent Grimes' fumble recovery and return. Fans also reached just more than 116 decibels during Falcons player introductions.