After posting 120-plus ratings in each of his first two career playoff starts and throwing for an NFL-record seven touchdowns combined in those games, Rodgers recorded what he admitted was the probably the finest performance of his pro career against the Falcons in Green Bay’s 48-21 NFC Divisional Playoff win, an outing he repeatedly referred to as a “special night” following the game.
Rodgers connected on 31-of-36 passes (86.1 percent) for 366 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a 136.8 passer rating, several times using his mobility to buy himself more time in the pocket. The 86.1 completion percentage was the best in NFL postseason history for a quarterback with 35-plus attempts, topping Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ 82.1 mark (31-of-39) last season in Super Bowl XLIV.
Rodgers was a perfect 10-for-10 on third down for 151 yards, with eight of those throws going for first downs as the Packers finished the night 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) on third down. With his three touchdown passes at Atlanta, his total of 10 in his first three postseason starts set a new NFL record, topping the mark of nine held by three signal-callers, and Rodgers’ 129.4 career postseason passing record is also No. 1 in NFL annals.
“That was unbelievable,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I haven’t seen a performance like that in a very long time, if at all. He was throwing the ball at will on them and he was just dicing them up.
“It was pretty amazing to know that if we gave him the ball, 80 yards, he was driving down and scoring.”
The offense appeared to be off to a good start despite starting the first drive from the Packers’ 11-yard line. Facing a third-and-13, Rodgers found wide receiver Greg Jennings on a quick pass over the middle with a blitz coming for a 30-yard pickup. But linebacker Stephen Nicholas punched the ball out from behind, and cornerback Brent Grimes recovered to give Atlanta possession at the Packers’ 48.
After the Falcons took advantage of the field position to take a 7-0 lead, Rodgers and the offense went to work. Despite taking a hit, Rodgers found Jennings down the middle for 18 yards to convert a third-and-7 to the Atlanta 23. With the Packers in their “Big 5” formation, Rodgers connected with wide receiver Jordy Nelson for an 8-yard gain to convert another third down before finding Nelson again on the next play for a 6-yard touchdown to even the score at 7.
“We kind of did what we wanted to do," Rodgers said. "We wanted to attack the middle of the field early and then once they started taking that away to work the stuff outside, the routes outside.”
After the Falcons appeared to swing the momentum back their way on Eric Weems’ 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing play, Green Bay’s offense found itself backed up again at its own 8 after running back James Starks bobbled the kickoff out of bounds.
But it didn’t take very long for Rodgers to march the offense right back down the field. He connected with Driver for a 24-yard gain on a slant on the second play of the drive, and then followed that up with a 12-yard completion to Jennings. After an incompletion to running back Brandon Jackson on a screen pass, Rodgers rolled to his right to avoid pressure and spotted wide receiver James Jones near the right sideline. Jones tight-roped his way down the sideline, staying in bounds for a 34-yard gain to the 16 on a drive Green Bay would finish off with a 1-yard touchdown run from running back John Kuhn.
The offense got one more opportunity before the half courtesy of cornerback Tramon Williams’ interception of a Matt Ryan pass in the end zone with 2:20 left. Rodgers completed a pass to Jennings over the middle for 20 yards to put the offense into Atlanta territory, and then on third-and-2 at the Atlanta 40, Rodgers again rolled to his right to avoid pressure before finding Driver on a short pass that he took for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, Rodgers lofted a pass for Jones on the right side of the end zone that he made a leaping grab of over cornerback Brent Grimes for the 20-yard touchdown.
“(Rodgers) played absolutely phenomenal,” Jennings said. “The performance he put on tonight, it was a treat if you were watching. It was a treat to play with him.”
And he didn’t do it alone. Green Bay’s top four wide receivers combined for a staggering 331 yards on 26 receptions (12.7 avg.), with Jennings (101), Nelson (79), Driver (76) and Jones (75) becoming the first foursome to all hit the 75-yard receiving mark in a postseason game in NFL history.
“Guys made some big plays,” Rodgers said. “James Jones coming back off his drop (last Sunday at Philadelphia). I know he was the sickest person in the locker room after that last game, but I have confidence in him and he had a great touchdown catch and a couple of other very good plays.
“Donald Driver had a real big game tonight. That was a big key for us, getting him going. He had a number of great catch-and-runs for us.”
The offense found itself in even better position than it could have hoped for at the break after Williams returned a Ryan interception 70 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. Having deferred after winning the coin toss, Green Bay started the second half at its own 20 with a 14-point lead.
Rodgers was sacked on the first play for a 10-yard loss, one of just two sacks allowed by Green Bay on the evening. Facing a third-and-13, Rodgers again spun away from pressure to find Jones on the left sideline for a 15-yard pickup. He would convert another third down later in the series, picking up a third-and-7 with a 14-yard completion to Nelson.
After hooking up with Nelson on the next play for 11 yards to the Atlanta 7, Rodgers kept it himself, tucking the ball and finding the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.
“We knew to start the second half, similar to the Vikings game at the Metrodome (31-3 win over Minnesota in Week 7) when we went and scored late in the half to go up 17-3 and then scored on the first possession out of halftime to go up three scores, we knew that if we were able to take that ball down and score that it would definitely break their will a little bit,” Rodgers said.
That run helped Rodgers become the first quarterback to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while also posting a rushing touchdown in NFL postseason history. It was just one more mark for a signal-caller that seems to adding his name to the record books with each playoff outing.
Now Rodgers and his teammates stand one win away from the ultimate game.
“He is a Pro Bowl quarterback and he deserved to be there,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “He didn’t get that opportunity so I think he is taking that out on everybody. He can’t be in the Pro Bowl then he might as well play in the Super Bowl.”