Packers/Falcons reaction

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) watches as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) leaves mid-field after the Packers defeated the Falcons 48-21 in their NFC divisional at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia January 15, 2011. UPI/Mark Wallheiser.

Matthew J. Darnell, Shutdown Corner: Before the 2008 season, [GM Ted] Thompson made the decision that the Packers were better off without beloved longtime quarterback Brett Favre. The decision made him an evil, cut-throat jackass in the eyes of many, but Thompson never once wavered. When Favre made his first retirement announcement, Thompson moved on to Aaron Rodgers as the Packers quarterback, and that was it. Any vindication he needed on that decision, he probably felt the very next morning. He believed that letting Favre walk and putting the franchise in Rodgers’ hands was the right call for the future of the Green Bay Packers. He was right, of course, and he was right before Brett Favre had a miserable 2010 season, and he was right before Aaron Rodgers laid waste to the Falcons secondary yesterday. He was right because he made the decision he felt was right at the time, and he stuck to it.

Kevin Seifert, ESPN: It doesn’t matter to me whether or not Rodgers now stands on a mythical stage with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and maybe Ben Roethlisberger. What’s important is that Rodgers is providing the Packers both the opportunity and the bravado necessary to win the Super Bowl… We’ll find out Sunday whether the Packers will play the Chicago Bears or the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. Regardless of the opponent, the Packers know they have the single-most important ingredient to a championship team: An elite-level quarterback who has elevated his game at the time when it matters most.

Gary D’Amato, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Bart Starr in the 1960s and Brett Favre in the ’90s had impressive playoff games, but if Rodgers’ performance wasn’t the greatest ever by a Packers quarterback in the postseason, it certainly has to be part of the conversation. Rodgers wouldn’t acknowledge it was his best-ever game but admitted it was among his top few. Considering the Packers were playing a top-seeded team with a 13-3 record that was coming off a bye and playing at home, he couldn’t have played much better. Rodgers had total command of the game plan and his improvisational skills were as sharp as could be. Whether he was spinning out of tackles and extending plays with his feet, throwing passes with pinpoint accuracy or changing plays and orchestrating personnel before the snap, he was nothing short of brilliant.

Matthew J. Darnell, Shutdown Corner: Playoff games are what people remember, and it’s true, Ryan’s finest moments have not come in his biggest games. But that can’t overshadow the fact that Ryan, for a third-year pro, is pretty damn good. He posted a quarterback rating this season that landed him between Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. He’s going to the Pro Bowl. He’s also 25 years old and has seen just two playoff games. If the issue is his postseason poise — and it might not be; it could just be that he’s played two pretty good defenses and he’s happened to have two off days at the wrong time — that comes with experience. I see no reasons to be concerned about Matt Ryan’s poise in the long-term. He’ll have plenty more opportunities in the playoffs. And he’ll have better days than he did today.

Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A defense that didn’t yield more than 32 points in any game this regular season was overrun for 42 points — in the first three quarters. The D had made a big early play, Stephen Nicholas forcing a Greg Jennings fumble that Brent Grimes gathered. That enabled the Falcons to take a 7-0 lead. That would also be the last time over the next five Green Bay drives that the Packers didn’t score a touchdown. Five possessions, five scores. The first four came on drives of 81, 92, 80 and 80 yards. (The final series spanned a mere 50.) The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers didn’t complete every pass, but he came close. Through three quarters he had passed 31 times, completing 27. He’d thrown for 330 yards in 45 minutes. Rodgers had treated the Falcons’ secondary as if the signing of Dunta Robinson had never been consummated, as if Brent Grimes hadn’t developed into a big-play cornerback, as if nothing that occurred this regular season had been anything more than a sweet dream. Alas, this was reality, stark and sobering. In a playoff game against a top-class quarterback, the Falcons’ newly tailored defense was made to seem shabby. The pass rush couldn’t get there, and nobody downfield could cover or tackle or do much of anything.

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