(Sunday, January 9th)
Final Score: Green Bay 21, Philadelphia 16
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Aaron Rodgers threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 21-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC Wild Card game.
The Packers barely sneaked into the playoffs, clinching a berth with a 10-3 victory over Chicago in the regular-season finale. They entered the postseason as the sixth seed in the NFC, but a high-quality sixth seed, and are now moving on to face the top-seeded Falcons on Saturday in Atlanta.
Rodgers got his first playoff victory after completing 18-of-27 passes with no interceptions. The Packers got a big boost from running back James Starks, who rushed 23 times for 123 yards -- more than the rookie had in three games during the regular season.
Green Bay won its first playoff game since the 2007 season and first road playoff victory since the 1997 NFC Championship Game. The Packers had dropped a 51-45 decision to Arizona last season, when Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns before his fumble in overtime was returned for a touchdown.
On Sunday, Rodgers didn't have quite the offensive output he did in his first playoff start, but was effective and walked off the field a winner.
Green Bay benefited from two missed field goals by Philadelphia's David Akers, and also kept Michael Vick in check. While Vick threw for 292 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score, he didn't make the sort of game- breaking plays he often did during the regular season.
Vick also threw an interception in the end zone in the final minute with the Eagles threatening to score, securing the Packers victory. Philadelphia's season ended with a first-round playoff loss for the second consecutive year.
The interception and the loss ends a massive comeback season for Vick. More than three years since pleading guilty to felony dog fighting charges and about a year and a half since he was released from prison, Vick again became a star player in the NFL.
He began the season as Kevin Kolb's backup, but got a shot to be the team's starter when Kolb sustained a concussion in the Eagles' season-opening loss to Green Bay.
Vick passed for a career-high 3,018 yards while accounting for 30 touchdowns in 12 games, and turned in a number of memorable performances, including a 38-31 comeback victory over the Giants in Week 15.
The Eagles trailed by a 31-10 score in the fourth quarter of that contest before Vick led the comeback.
Philadelphia faced a 21-10 deficit entering the fourth quarter on Sunday, and after Akers missed a 34-yard try with 13 minutes left, Vick needed to come up with more heroics to extend the Eagles' season.
After Philadelphia forced Green Bay to punt, the Eagles got the ball back at their own 25 with a little less than nine minutes to go. Vick threw eight passes during the 75-yard drive, including a 16-yard strike to Brent Celek that brought the ball to the Green Bay three.
Philadelphia failed on three attempts to get into the end zone, but on fourth down Vick got the necessary yard on a dive up the middle. The Eagles failed on their first two-point try because Celek stepped out of bounds before catching the ball in the corner of the end zone.
The penalty allowed Philadelphia to take a second try, only backed up five yards, but the Packers pressured Vick and broke up the play, keeping it a 21-16 game with 4:02 to go.
Vick suffered an apparent ankle injury on the play, but was back under center after the Eagles forced a punt. They nearly took the lead on the first play, when Vick found DeSean Jackson over the middle, but Desmond Bishop prevented the touchdown, bringing Jackson down after a 28-yard gain.
Then, Vick completed an 11-yard pass to Riley Cooper to convert a third down and get the ball to the Green Bay 27 with under a minute to play. The Eagles ran another play immediately and Vick went for the win, but the pass to Cooper was a little low and short, allowing cornerback Tramon Williams to grab it.
"I could have checked it down to the back, and I feel like I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone and didn't throw the right ball I wanted to throw," said Vick. "It's a bad way to go out, but hey, I went out swinging."
The contest occurred almost exactly seven years after the Eagles beat the Packers in an overtime playoff game. Akers kicked the tying field goal and the game-winner in that contest, but his struggles in windy conditions Sunday were a big factor in Philadelphia's loss.
The Eagles went three-and-out on the game's opening possession but got the ball back when Green Bay's Brandon Underwood accidentally touched the ball on the punt.
However, Akers missed a 41-yarder a little more than four minutes into the first quarter. Akers made 32-of-38 field goals during the regular season, including 19-of-23 between 30 and 49 yards.
The usually reliable kicker, who was emotional after the loss, said the wind was shifting in different directions throughout the game.
"You just go out and feel it as you feel it at the time," said Akers, who recognized that he has played many games at Lincoln Financial Field. "Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong."
The Packers scored with eight seconds left in the first quarter, when Rodgers found first-year tight end Tom Crabtree in the right flat for a seven-yard score.
Rodgers made it a 14-0 game with 5:21 left in the half with a nine-yard touchdown to James Jones. Rodgers scrambled to his right and Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel took several steps toward the quarterback in response, freeing Jones to make the catch.
Both drives were extended marches, totaling 22 plays and nearly 13 minutes.
The Packers held a 14-3 lead at the break after Akers made a 29-yarder late in the first half, but the Eagles got back into the game shortly into the third quarter.
On the third play from scrimmage, Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp knocked the ball away from Rodgers and Juqua Parker recovered at the Green Bay 24. On second down, Vick threw a touchdown strike over the middle to Jason Avant.
But the Packers responded with another long scoring drive -- 11 plays and 80 yards. They scored when Rodgers threw a short pass to Brandon Jackson, who picked up several key blocks to complete the 16-yard play.
Rodgers called it the most important drive of the game.
"The crowd was just getting back into it," Rodgers said. "We needed to give the defense a little bit of the break and get it back to a two-score game."
The Packers totaled 138 rushing yards. They ranked 24th in the league during the regular season, when they averaged 100.4 rushing yards per game...Green Bay allowed the second-fewest points per game (15) during the regular season...Avant led all receivers with seven catches for 93 yards...The Eagles gained just 82 rushing yards. LeSean McCoy had a team-high 46 on 12 carries.
01/09 22:18:57 ET
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