Stark Reality: Pack Gets Rematch With Falcons

They made us sweat. Of course they did. Nothing's come easy all season and so we held our breath until the final 30 seconds, when Tramon Williams pulled in a Vick pass in the end zone to give the Pack their first road playoff win since San Francisco in '98.

There is one singular reason the Packers knocked off the Eagles 21-16. Well okay, two reasons: Pro Bowler David Akers missed two easy FGs, but the real reason was the commitment and effectiveness of the running game. James Starks had a coming out party and it was his performance that turned this game in the Packers' favor.

The Packers caught a break early when DeSean Jackson got hurt and was largely ineffective all game--catching his first pass in the fourth quarter. That took one playmaker off the field and the Pack didn't allow Vick to beat them with his feet; LeSean McCoy was also held in check. The Eagles are an even worse short yardage team than Green Bay and The Pack stuffed them for several key stops.

It's a credit to how far this team has come that they could win a road playoff game against a dynamic team, despite some key mental errors: McCarthy's poor clock management at the end of the half; Jones' drop on what could have been a 21-3 halftime lead, Rodgers' fumble early in the third quarter that led to a quick score, the inability of Greg Jennings to get involved.

Ultimately, it was something we've seen very little of this season: a balanced offense, that won this game. James Starks wiped my first Packer hero Travis Williams' name from the record book with 123 yards: the top playoff performance by a rookie in Packer history. It was a long time coming, but maybe the Pack has found the magic elixir to making a deep playoff run--at precisely the right time. He has six days to come down from the clouds and get ready for the NFC's top seed.

I remember the moments following the last second loss in Atlanta on Thanksgiving weekend, thinking that I would love another shot at those guys. They've since lost at home to the Saints, so the Georgia Dome mystique is fading. But the Packers match up well with the Falcons, who have trouble defending the pass.

Rodgers now has seven TD passes in his first two playoff starts--that's an NFL record. No more can critics say he hasn't won a big playoff game.

He can add an exclamation point next Saturday night in Atlanta.

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