Everything's a big deal in the playoffs. Recognizing that, we're doing away with the traditional Four Critical Matchups post in favor of four individual, more detailed looks at what lies ahead in the Falcons-Packers game. Joins us through Friday to catch them all.
The story of Aaron Rodgers is one of patience.
Widely considered the second-best quarterback prospect in the 2005 NFL Draft, Rodgers watched future mediocrity Alex Smith go first overall and then plummeted down the draft board. His home was Green Bay, where pundits and Packers fans had to be rubbing their eyes. Was the team really in a position to spend a first round pick on a quarterback, when Brett Favre still dominated the landscape in Wisconsin? Clearly, general manager Ted Thompson felt he couldn't say no to a player with such vast potential, even if it wasn't a true position of need.
As it turns out, it was about the best thing that could have happened for both parties. I don't know that Rodgers would've been successful immediately the way Matt Ryan was, but even with Brett Favre basically taking on the role of terrible hillbilly mentor, he developed over the course of the three years he spent on the bench.
Now 27, Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. When he's got time in the pocket, he's perhaps the most lethal. The Falcons must stop him.
I don't have any enormously illuminating things to say here. Stopping Aaron Rodgers is like stopping any other quarterback. You have to apply pressure, force mistakes and take away his best options. With Rodgers, though, you've got to do it exceptionally well.
The incessant blitzing that harried Drew Brees three weeks ago has to return, giving Rodgers little chance to make his reads and daring him to take off running. He'll burn the Falcons a handful of times, true, but it's better than letting him do it through the air. There's also the chance that he'll take off and get dropped by Jonathan Babineaux, who is unusually good at teleporting for a guy his size.
That kind of pressure forces the occasional bad throw, and when you've got Brent Grimes and William Moore in the secondary, those bad throws can turn into interceptions. Especially if our guys are doing their jobs in coverage.
That's about all the wisdom I can offer. As I see, the Falcons will have to stop or at least slow Rodgers to pull off the win. It'll take one hell of a defensive team effort to do it.