The calculations for the Falcons regarding their potential NFC championship seemed simple. Take on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the Georgia Dome? Or go to Dallas to face the top seed and its star rookies?
Yet the answer didn’t seem obvious. After the Falcons beat the Seahawks at the Dome Saturday, coach Dan Quinn said he wasn’t sure if he’d pull for the Packers, although he wanted a home game “for the fans.”
“Past that, the coaching side of me and the matchups, I’ll have to go in and find that out,” Quinn said after the 36-20 NFC divisional round victory over Seattle.
It turns out Quinn’s focus will be on the Packers. And it’s possible that, even on the road, they are the tougher foe for the NFC championship. Rodgers, a two-time league MVP, carried the Packers to a last-second 34-31 victory at the Cowboys on Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game.
The NFC championship game is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. As of Sunday night, the Ticketmaster web site indicated that only single seats were available for sale. A Falcons spokesman had no immediate update on additional ticket availability for the game.
The game will feature Rodgers against Falcons counterpart Matt Ryan. Rodgers rallied the Packers to victory at Dallas with a 35-yard pass to North Gwinnett High’s Jared Cook on third-and-20. That set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.
The Cowboys had come back from a 15-point deficit to tie the game twice over the final four minutes. The Packers started the drive from their 25-yard line with 35 seconds left.
“What a game,” Rodgers said during a Fox interview on the field. “We are going to celebrate this and then we are going to move on to Atlanta. Matt (Ryan) has had a heck of a season. They’ve got a good defense. We’re just going to enjoy this right now.”
The Packers have played in five Super Bowls with four victories and also own nine other NFL championships. The Falcons are seeking their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after they lost the 1999 Super Bowl to the Broncos.
In a previous meeting this season, the Falcons beat the Packers 33-32 on Oct. 30 at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons opened as 4-point favorites in the rematch before the betting line quickly moved to 5 points, according to ESPN gambling writer Dave Tuley.
The Falcons had the league’s best offense all season and thrashed Seattle’s third-ranked scoring defense on Saturday. Injuries have hurt their defensive depth but the unit improved as young players developed.
After eliminating Seattle, the Falcons could make a credible case that they weren’t concerned about which opponent they would meet in the NFC championship game.
“For us, it’s just focusing on us,” Falcons safety Keanu Neal said before the Packers advanced. “We are not really focused on who we are going against or anything like that. It was awesome to play here in front of the fans and the crowd. It was an awesome atmosphere but at the end of the day, we are focused on us and the process.”
But Rodgers is in top form and has already won a playoff game at the Georgia Dome. In the 2010 divisional round, Rodgers passed for 366 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-21 victory that continued Green Bay’s path to a Super Bowl title.
On Sunday, Rodgers passed for 355 yards and two TDs at Dallas after he went for 362 yards and four touchdowns in Green Bay’s 38-13 wild-card victory over the Giants. Over the final six regular-season games, Rodgers completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.