ATLANTA - Brett who? Aaron Rodgers has turned these NFL playoffs into his own showcase.
Carving up the NFC’s top-seeded team, Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and led the Green Bay Packers to their second consecutive postseason road victory with a 48-21 rout of the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.
The Packers (12-6) will have to win one more on the road to complete their improbable run from sixth seed to the Super Bowl, but nothing looks out of the question the way Rodgers is playing. He’ll lead Green Bay into the NFC Championship Game at either Chicago or Seattle on Jan. 23.
“That’s what you dream about,” Rodgers said. “This just feels so good right now. To be able to put up an offensive performance like that, it’s just incredible.”
Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, more than Brett Favre — the guy he replaced in Green Bay — ever threw for in a playoff game. After knocking off Michael Vick and the Eagles in Philadelphia, then dominating Matt Ryan and the Falcons, Rodgers is creating his own legacy in Titletown USA.
This was the most points scored by the Packers in a playoff game. They could’ve left punter Tim Masthay at home. He was never needed.
Green Bay scored 35 consecutive points, including Tramon Williams’ 70-yard interception return on the final play of the first half that left the Falcons (13-4) and a crowd of more than 69,000 in a state of shock as the teams headed to the locker room.
“It was one of those nights,” Rodgers said. “I felt like I was in the zone.”
Ryan, who beat out Rodgers for a spot in the Pro Bowl, had a miserable game. He also was picked off in the end zone, costing Atlanta another scoring chance early on that might’ve changed the complexion of the game, and lost a fumble attempting a simple sneak. In two career playoff games, Matty Ice is 0-2 with six turnovers and a safety.
The Falcons went into the playoffs as the NFC’s top-seeded team for the second time in franchise history. The result was the same as the first time: one and done.
At least the fans didn’t have to deal with the heartache of blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the fate suffered by the 1980 Falcons in their 30-27 loss to Dallas. This game was pretty much over when Rodgers guided the Packers on an 80-yard drive to open the second half, running the last 7 yards for a TD that made it 35-14.
When Rodgers drove the Packers on yet another scoring drive, capped off with a 7-yard pass to John Kuhn late in the third quarter, thousands of red-clad fans headed for the exits.
Falcons coach Mike Smith tried to make sense of it for his players.
“I know they’re disappointed. I’m disappointed. We’re all disappointed,” he said. “But we will learn from it. That’s the important thing. We will learn from what took place this evening. I also told ’em, as bad as they feel right now, remember the whole body of work we put out there this year. We can’t forget that either.”
The Falcons couldn’t stop Rodgers, who carved up the Atlanta defense on four drives of at least 80 yards.
Time after time, Rodgers ducked a shoulder or pulled off a nifty spin move to get away from a rusher, leaving him grasping at air.
Early on, Rodgers spent plenty of time picking on Falcons nickel back Christopher Owens, who was filling in for injured Brian Williams. Owens was twice called for penalties.
One of the few highlights for Atlanta was Eric Weems’ 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest return in NFL playoff history.