The Green Bay Packers hung on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 21–16 on Sunday in an absolute thriller at Lincoln Financial Field in the second NFC wildcard game.
Trailing 21–16 with less than a minute remaining in the game, quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles almost pulled off the comeback after going on a five-play drive for 35 yards with a chance to win. But just as Vick floated the ball to receiver Riley Cooper in the end zone, cornerback Tramon Williams jumped up and intercepted it, putting an exclamation point on an outstanding effort by the Packers defense.
For quarterback Aaron Rodgers it was his first playoff win. Rodgers finished the game completing 18-of-27 passes for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In addition to the passing attack, Green Bay also had a productive running game spearheaded by rookie running back James Starks who rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries.
The Packers jumped out in front late in the first quarter as Rodgers hooked up with receiver Tom Crabtree for a seven-yard touchdown on the right side of the end zone at 0:08.
At 5:21 in the second quarter, the Packers struck again as Rodgers found a wide open James Jones on the right side for a nine-yard score.
Philly managed to put points on the board at 1:11 as kicker David Akers connected on a 29-yard field goal and scored again early in the third quarter after Michael Vick hit receiver Jason Avant for a huge 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle at 13:50, making it a four-point game.
But just as Philadelphia seemed to take back the momentum, Green Bay marched 80 yards downfield on an 11-play drive that was capped off with a 16-yard touchdown from Rodgers to running back Brandon Jackson at 7:33.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles answered by going on a 70-yard, 13-play drive that resulted in a Vick touchdown from the 1-yard line at 4:02—Philly failed on the two-point conversion making the score 21–16 in favor of Green Bay.
With no timeouts and less than a minute remaining, the Eagles marched down the field with a chance to win it but their hopes were dashed by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams.
After the interception, Aaron Rodgers took a knee and the game was over.
The Packers now move on to the NFC Divisional round where they will face the No. 1-seeded Atlanta Falcons.
Rodgers spoke after the game on FOX Sports saying, "It was a huge win for us, and now we go to Atlanta. The defense played great and they’ve been carrying us a lot this season."
Regarding Atlanta, Rodgers knows they'll be a tough opponent. He said, "They're a great team and a No. 1 seed for a reason."
The two teams met on Nov. 28 in Atlanta where the Packers lost a very close one 20–17.
Game time: Sat. (Jan. 15), 8:00 ET at the Georgia Dome
Seahawks Shock and Awe
In the first NFC wildcard game on Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks did the unthinkable and beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints 41–36 at Qwest Field.
With the win, Seattle made NFL history becoming the first team ever to win a playoff game with a losing record.
In what could have been his last appearance as a Seahawk (due to free agency), veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played lights out, completing 22-of-35 passes for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns, and earned a passer rating of 113.0.
Running back Marshawn Lynch joined Hasselbeck in the highlight reels, gaining 131 yards on 19 carries—Lynch also made the play of the game after busting through seven tacklers en-route to a 67-yard touchdown run at 3:22 in the fourth quarter.
With the score 34–30 at the time, and New Orleans mounting a comeback, his touchdown nailed the coffin in the Saints season and sent the home crowd into absolute bedlam.
Equally impressive was the fact that Seattle's offense, which was near the bottom of the league in 2010, did it against a Saints defense which allowed only 19 points per game and ranked seventh overall.
Coming into the game, no one could have expected the Saints defense to play as softly as they did in allowing 415 total yards. But at the same time, their performance shouldn't detract from what the Seahawks were able to accomplish.
On the biggest stage, the “12th Man” helped inspire them to play beyond their expectations regardless of their 7–9 record.
Seattle now advances to the NFC Divisional round where they will face the second-seeded Chicago Bears.
Game time: Sun. (Jan. 16), 1:00 ET at Soldier Field