The Green Bay Packers will advance to the next round of the NFL’s post-season tournament next week after knocking off the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday by a score of 21 – 16. The Packers led this game from beginning to end, but it was a nail biter. With just 33 seconds left, Tramon Williams intercepted a Michael Vick pass in the end zone to secure the victory.
The Packers’ brain trust came up with a surprise in this game by unleashing rookie running back James Starks. The Packers’ coaching staff obviously thought they could take advantage of opportunities running the ball against the Eagles with the powerful and fast Starks. With their other running backs producing mostly pedestrian numbers this year, Starks was game-planned to get the ball often. Building on his initial success emboldened the coaches’ confidence and he ended up with an impressive 123 yards.
Starks’ productive running was counterbalanced nicely with another superb performance by Aaron Rodgers, who threw for three touchdowns and should have had another except for a drop by James Jones. By halftime the Packers seemed to be in control of this game as they took a 14 – 3 lead, but the momentum changed in the third quarter which put Cheeseheads on the edge of our chairs as the game played out.
Fortunately, this Packer team has a very sound defense and they rose to the occasion once again Sunday. Dom Capers rolled out a new look for the Eagles designed to contain Michael Vick. Charles Woodson got to play the leading role in the nickel “spy.” Inserting a fifth cornerback into the lineup, Woodson then moved closer to the line of scrimmage and almost became a fifth linebacker which confused Vick and proved productive.
Defensive Coordinator Capers’ defensive unit has been playing really well and thus it was poetic justice that Williams’ interception would advance the Pack to meet the Falcons next Saturday in Atlanta. The Packers almost beat the high-flying Falcons back in late November and they now will get another chance next week. Looking back at the first game, Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings turned in big numbers but the running game was abysmal. Starks was inactive for that game but you can bet the farm that he will be active next week.
It is really fun watching the wrinkles Dom Capers rolls out week after week. His creativity makes the games interesting for Cheeseheads who enjoy defensive strategies. Next week Capers must figure out how to corral Michael Turner who is a powerhouse running back whom the Packers did not contain well the last time. If the Packer defense can continue at this high level, and if the newly-found running game can post numbers like on Sunday, the Packers could pull off an upset in Atlanta.
Inexplicably, the Packers’ talented receiving corps had the “dropsys” against the Eagles. That cannot happen again against the Falcons if the Packers hope to advance to the NFC championship game. The good news for Cheeseheads is that the Packers have plenty of talent to beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, if they come with their “A” game.