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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had record 1st half vs. Atlanta Falcons

Jan. 15, 2011
 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws under pressure from Atlanta Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens (21) during the first quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011.Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws under pressure from Atlanta Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens (21) during the first quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011.Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette

First-half fireworks

Green Bay Packers passers who threw for 150 or more yards in the first half of a playoff game.

Yds. Passer Opp. Date
234 A. Rodgers Falcons Jan. 15, 2011
222 B. Favre 49ers Jan. 6, 1996
213 B. Favre Patriots Jan. 26, 1997
210 L. Dickey Cardinals Jan. 8, 1983
190 B. Favre Seahawks Jan. 4, 2004
169 B. Favre Rams Jan. 20, 2002
164 B. Favre Panthers Jan. 12, 1997
163 B. Favre Giants Jan. 20, 2008
161 B. Favre 49ers Jan. 11, 1998

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Who needs a running game with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers?

Rodgers' passing yardage in the opening two quarters of the Packers' 48-21 NFC divisional playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons was the most by a Green Bay quarterback in the team's postseason history.

The third-year starter plucked apart the Falcons’ defense on his way to setting at least three records, and he helped the team to another as Green Bay fed off a 28-14 halftime lead to bury Atlanta 48-21 and advance to the NFC championship game.

First halves don’t come much more exciting than the opening two quarters that unfolded in the Georgia Dome. Great catches, game-changing interceptions and a kickoff return for a touchdown delivered something for just about everyone.

Lacking was a supposed return of a Packers running game. Green Bay managed just 34 yards on 12 first-half carries.

No matter. With a hot hand, Rodgers was the epitome of cool.

Rodgers directed three long scoring drives, two of which covered 81 and 92 yards. It marked the first time in Packers playoff history that the team mounted two first-half scoring drives of more than 80 yards.

Rodgers didn’t let anything deter him, not a turnover or quick points by the Falcons. He twice led the Packers from behind before putting them ahead for good late in the second quarter.

On Green Bay’s third play from scrimmage, linebacker Stephen Nicholas knocked the ball out of receiver Greg Jennings’s hands. Atlanta cashed in that turnover for a 7-0 lead on running back Michael Turner’s 12-yard burst up the middle.

No problem. Rodgers orchestrated a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive capped by a 6-yard toss to Jordy Nelson who tagged the pylon with the football to reach the end zone.

The 7-7 tie, however, held up for mere seconds on the game clock. Eric Weems returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a 14-7 Atlanta advantage with just under 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

If that weren’t enough, James Starks then muffed Matt Bryant’s kickoff and the Packers had to start from their 8-yard line.

No problem. Rodgers needed only 10 plays to move the team 92 yards. John Kuhn tied the score 14-all on a 1-yard run with defensive lineman B.J. Raji inserted for extra bulk.

All this offense from a quarterback whose first pass went incomplete. A blitzing Christopher Owens forced Rodgers to throw quickly on Green Bay’s second snap from scrimmage.

It would be well into the second quarter before No. 12 had another hit the turf.

Starting with the 30-yarder that Jennings fumbled, Rodgers hit 11 in a row. That tied the Packers’ playoff record for most consecutive completions achieved twice previously by Brett Favre.

Rodgers threw short to John Kuhn. He fired to Jennings for 17 despite getting hit by defensive end Kroy Biermann as he finished his delivery.

He threw to James Jones for 34 along the sidelines. He put one up that Jones took away from cornerback Brent Grimes in the end zone to gave Green Bay a lead (21-14) it never lost.

In short, Rodgers and his receivers were nearly unstoppable in the first half. Five players caught at least two passes with Jennings (6-88) and Driver (4-51) leading the charge.

It added up to 18 completions in 21 attempts for 234 yards for Rodgers without an interception. The yardage and number of completions established Packers records for a first half.

With numbers like that, Rodgers emerged with a first-half passer rating of 144.8. Only Lynn Dickey (158.3) and Favre (158.3) did better based on a minimum of at least 10 attempts.

Rodgers established a third record in the second quarter and it come on an incompletion. On a pass to Jennings that caromed off the receivers’ hands, Rodgers broke Favre’s record of 86 straight playoff passes without an interception.

By game’s end, Rodgers had pushed that streak to 104. He finished his evening with 31 completions in 36 attempts for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. E-mail him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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