ATLANTA - Bart Starr. Lambeau Field. Ray Nitschke. Titletown USA. Reggie White. Heck, they even named the Super Bowl trophy after Green Bay's most famous coach.
Yep, the Packers are just oozing with tradition.
The Atlanta Falcons? Not so much.
“We’re fairly new on the block,” said Roddy White, the Falcons’ Pro Bowl receiver. “We’re still trying to prove ourselves. You’ve got to go out there and win playoff games. That’s what this league is all about.”
The Falcons (13-3) are the top seed in the NFC playoffs heading into tonight’s divisional game against Green Bay (11-6). Atlanta merely needs to win two more games – both in the Georgia Dome, where the team is 20-4 over the last three seasons – to reach the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history.
Up first, Atlanta will have to get by a franchise with a much more impressive résumé over the long haul.
The Packers have won a record 12 NFL titles, three more than any other franchise, a bounty that includes three Super Bowls victories. Compare that with the Falcons, who have managed four division titles in 45 years and lost their lone Super Bowl appearance in 1999. In fact, Atlanta had never put together back-to-back winning seasons until its current run of three in a row.
When it comes to star power, Green Bay is about as good as it gets. The franchise boasts 21 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and surely has at least one more on the way with Brett Favre, who actually began his career with the Falcons but was traded away in one of the game’s great personnel blunders. The Packers’ list of greats includes coach Vince Lombardi, whose influence on the game was so profound the NFL put his name on its championship trophy shortly after his death in 1970.
No one has considered naming a trophy after anyone from the Falcons. Heck, the team has yet to send even one player to Canton; the best it can do is Eric Dickerson and Tommy McDonald, two Hall of Famers who played briefly for Atlanta late in their careers. And when it comes to coaches, the team with the odd-looking bird logo can’t come close to Lombardi or Curly Lambeau, who guided the Packers to their first six NFL titles in the 1930s and ’40s.
OK, the Falcons did hire one of Lombardi’s assistants, Norb Hecker, as their first head coach in 1966. But his record was a very un-Vince-like 4-26-1, which pretty much sums up the divide between these two franchises.
“That organization over there, they’ve been doing it for a long time,” Roddy White said. “They’ve pretty much got the Super Bowl trophy named after their squad and their coach. So, they’ve got a lot of good tradition. They’ve done a lot of good things in this league.”
Green Bay at Atlanta
When: 5 p.m., Ch. 13, 950-AM
2010 regular season: Green Bay 10-6, Atlanta 13-3
Head-to-head: Series is tied, 13-13. The teams split a pair of postseason meetings (Packers won in 1995; Atlanta won in 2002). Atlanta beat visiting Green Bay in Week 12 with a field goal in the waning seconds.
Point spread/over-under: Atlanta -21/2. Total is 431/2.
Fun prop line: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 20:1 to score the game’s first touchdown.
About the Packers: Rodgers picked up the first postseason win of his career last week, but it’s rookie running back James Starks who opened the Falcons’ eyes. “He came out of nowhere,” said Atlanta linebacker Curtis Lofton. “I’d never heard of Starks.” ... LB Clay Matthews had 13.5 sacks in the regular season.
About the Falcons: Quarterback Matt Ryan is 20-2 at the Georgia Dome ... Only the Patriots (eight) had more players selected to the Pro Bowl than the Falcons (seven) ... Roddy White led the NFC with 1,389 receiving yards and led the NFL with 115 catches.
Philadelphia Daily News