Aaron Rodgers played one of the finest games in postseason history, but it was another “not good enough for the Pro Bowl” Packer who literally stole the show on Saturday night. Tramon Williams let the rest of the country in on a little secret that people in Wisconsin have been aware of all season – he’s the best corner in the conference. The former Louisiana Tech star intercepted a pair of passes, including one breathtakingly returned for a touchdown to end the first half. Minutes before that, Williams saved points by picking off Matt Ryan in the end zone. And when you factor in his season-saving interception last Sunday, it’s safe to say the unheralded 27-year-old made more impact plays in a 31-minute span than most corners will make in their entire careers.
Williams was hardly the only star who shined brightly inside the dome. The aforementioned Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and 3 TDs. He also ran for a score. It was a performance that rivaled what the Giants’ Phil Simms did in Super Bowl XXI and what San Francisco’s Steve Young did in Super Bowl XXIX, which have been the benchmarks for postseason excellence for years. Greg Jennings caught 8 passes for 101 yards. Chad Clifton kept pass rusher John Abraham from being too big of a factor. Clay Matthews had two sacks and recovered a fumble. Charles Woodson had 6 tackles and a sack. B.J. Raji had a sack. And Nick Collins joined the fun late in the game by breaking up a pass that helped snuff out any hope the Falcons may have had of coming back.
Teams win championships when great players play great and when secondary players step up and do more than they did in the regular season. The latter is also happening for the Packers. James Starks’ final numbers might not look all that good (25 carries for 66 yards), but the rookie was extremely impressive in only his fifth career game. He ran hard and showed the type of power and wiggle that bodes well for his future – not to mention next week’s game against either Chicago or Seattle. James Jones and Jordy Nelson combined for 12 catches and 2 TDs. And C.J. Wilson had 4 tackles and a sack.
While the players will get much of the credit for last night’s incredibly impressive win, don’t forget about Mike McCarthy. He was a surprising and fairly controversial hire five years ago, and he’s still one of the most anonymous coaches in the league. But FOX’s Troy Aikman is correct in stating that nobody – including Bill Belichick – has done a better job than the 47-year-old native of Pittsburgh. With the help of a GM who provides him with quality players and a staff that has done a terrific job of teaching, McCarthy has his team peaking at the perfect time. Despite 15 players on IR, Green Bay is one win away from the Super Bowl and two wins away from bringing the Lombardi Trophy back home.
The Packers can now sit back, relax and wait to see where they’ll be playing a week from today. The Bears are heavy favorites to beat the surprising Seahawks, and should that happen, the two longtime rivals will meet in the NFC Championship game. How cool would that be? The teams split a pair of hard-fought games during the regular season. A Seattle victory would send Green Bay to the Great Northwest and a reunion with former executive John Schneider and about a million ex-teammates. That wouldn’t be quite as intriguing a story nationally, but it would be pretty cool in its own right. Either way, the Packers will match up pretty darn well with their opponent. And if the stars keep shining, the role players keep rolling and the coaches keep making all the right calls, this magical ride has a chance to extend into next month. That, my friends, would be one of the coolest things ever.
*Thanks to Twitter follower hitokirizac for the word “Tramondous”