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Packers finish what they started with a 21-16 victory over Eagles

Aaron Rodgers passes for three touchdowns, Tramon Williams makes clinching interception, and Green Bay wins a wild-card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Packers also defeated the Eagles in the season opener.

January 10, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Packers running back Brandon Jackson, left, celebrates his third-quarter touchdown against the Eagles with teammate Andrew Quarless on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Packers running back Brandon Jackson, left, celebrates his third-quarter… (Gary Hershorn / Reuters )

Reporting from Philadelphia — One career playoff victory, and Aaron Rodgers already has his ring.

That is to say, Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers have taken Philadelphia full circle.

Green Bay beat the Eagles in their opener, then ended their season on the same field four months later, posting a 21-16 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday before a frigid fan base at Lincoln Financial Field.

In the process, the Packers closed the book on the comeback season of Michael Vick, and started a new chapter of their own — on to Atlanta.

"We've got a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence in that locker room," said Rodgers, whose sixth-seeded team clinched the victory with a timely interception.

Cornerback Tramon Williams made an end-zone interception of a deep pass by Vick with 33 seconds to play, sending a packed house back to their cars, left to wonder what might have been.

There would be no breathtaking comebacks on this night, not for a team that was outplayed throughout four quarters but somehow remained within striking distance.

"I just took a shot at the end zone," Vick said of his final pass. "I could have checked it down to the back, and I feel like I got greedy. . . . It's a bad way to go out, but, hey, I went out swinging."

Several times Sunday, the Eagles took swings and missed. Kicker David Akers was off target on field-goal attempts of 41 and 34 yards, the team converted just 38% of its third downs — compared to 62% by the Packers — and the Eagles had to commit all kinds of blockers to the right side in a desperate attempt to stop the furious rush of Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

At one point, as Matthews was whistling past him, overmatched Philadelphia tackle Winston Justice reached out and hooked his arm around the linebacker's neck, bringing him down with a clothesline tackle. Justice and Matthews were once teammates at USC.

"I was the young guy on the scout team," Matthews said, cracking a smile. "I didn't have a lot of friends."

Justice can take solace in this: Matthews is now somebody else's problem. Specifically, Atlanta's. The Packers move on to face the Falcons on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta beat them by three in late November.

There is precious little time for the Packers to savor their latest victory. Coach Mike McCarthy said he planned to start studying the Falcons on the bus ride to the airport Sunday night, and continue on the flight home.

In his first playoff start since losing the 2005 NFC championship game to Philadelphia as Atlanta's quarterback, Vick threw for 292 yards and ran for 33. He had to deal with losing star receiver DeSean Jackson to a left ankle injury early in the game (he would return), and an ankle twist of his own later in the game.

Vick had the Eagles in position to make a dramatic comeback, but the effort was derailed by the interception. He said this playoff loss hurt more than others he has experienced.

"We didn't finish this year the way we wanted to, and I certainly feel like I could have done a lot of things better and I didn't do it," he said. "I guess you just have to learn from it. That's life."

Then, there was Rodgers, who surgically dissected the Eagles with his play-action passes, connecting on touchdown throws of seven, nine and 16 yards.

McCarthy bristled when asked whether Rodgers had reached some sort of milestone by collecting his first postseason victory.

"Milestone?" the coach said, incredulous. "We don't think of it that way, and we don't want to talk about that today. We're just getting started. This is the first round. We've established ourselves as a team, and we won a big game here, and we have the opportunity to go to Atlanta.

"Aaron's still got a lot of football left in front of him."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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