Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jerry is Rooting for Jerry

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On Saturday February 4, the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston, we will find out who the Pro Football Hall of Fame will name to their Class of 2017.

One of the people who might get named to the upcoming class is the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones. Jones is one of two contributor nominees for the Class of 2017. One person who will be rooting for Jones to get a bust in Canton is former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer.

Kramer himself should have been inducted decades ago into the Hall of Fame and until that situation is rectified, there will always be a credibility issue at that venue.

That being said, I talked to Kramer recently and he told me about a brief meeting he had with Jones in Dallas in the early 1990s that he still regrets.

Kramer was at a function in Dallas when the Packers were playing the Cowboys in the NFC playoffs, which the Packers did for three straight years (1993-1995) in Big D.

Anyway, apparently Jones saw Kramer and went to him to say hello and Kramer just kept walking.

Kramer explained how his mindset was working then.

“I had a couple interviews last week where I said some nice things about Jerry,” Kramer said. “I said I thought Jerry was a great owner and has done some great things for the NFL since he has owned the Cowboys.

“I was explaining my ignorance and attitude at that point in time in those interviews. Trying to explain that I was still competing and still fighting against the Cowboys instead of behaving myself like I should have.”

Kramer had reason to be in the competing mode, as he played in two of the most famous NFL title games in NFL history versus the Cowboys in 1966 and 1967.

The 1967 game was especially legendary, as it is better known as the “Ice Bowl” game. It was in this game in which Kramer executed the most famous block in NFL history.

The game was played under brutal conditions, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game.

The situation came down to this: just 16 seconds to go with no timeouts at the Dallas 1-yard line and the Packers trailing the Cowboys 17-14.

Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline, Starr decided to keep the ball due to the slippery conditions near the goal line.

That play selection was called earlier in the week when the team was studying the defensive tendencies of the Cowboys. Kramer actually suggested the play to Lombardi.

“Jethro [Pugh] was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

Starr followed Kramer’s classic block on Pugh (who was high just as Kramer expected) and No. 15 happily tumbled into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

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Those memories stayed strong in the mind of Kramer as he visited Dallas in the 1990s while the Packers took on the Cowboys for the right to move on in the playoffs.

Still, in retrospect, Kramer wishes that he would have been more receptive to Jones in their brief encounter.

Jones has a couple of things in common with Kramer. Besides being named Jerry, Jones also played guard at the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks won the national title in 1964.

Not only did Jones play guard, but he was also a co-captain and was named All-Southwest Conference because of his play.

While it’s not known for sure, I would wager a bet that one of the players Jones looked up to in the NFL while he was playing guard in college was Kramer. After all, Kramer was considered the best right guard in the NFL at the time and ended up on the All-Decade team of the 1960s, not to mention the NFL 50th anniversary team.

While Arkansas and Jones won the national title in ’64, Green Bay and Kramer won five NFL titles in the 1960s, which included the first two Super Bowls.

And it was the Cowboys under head coach Tom Landry who the Packers under head coach Vince Lombardi defeated in the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games to get to those first two Super Bowls.

Landry, who had coached the Cowboys from their infancy in 1960, was fired by Jones shortly after he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and replaced by Jimmy Johnson, who was a teammate of Jones on that national championship team at Arkansas in 1964.

Landry had taken the Cowboys to five Super Bowls and had won two of them. Landry also led the Boys to 270 wins (regular season and postseason), which is currently the third-best mark in the history of the NFL.

Although the firing of Landry was not very popular in Dallas at the time, two straight Super Bowl wins under Johnson after the 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) and 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) seasons deflected the anger in Cowboy Nation.

Two years later, the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, this time under head coach Barry Switzer.

The Cowboys have not been back to a Super Bowl in over 20 years, but Jones has become one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

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One of his greatest endeavors was getting a new spacious and luxurious home for the Cowboys, which is now called AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The stadium, which was built in 2009, is also called “Jerry World” by some. Back in 2009, it was called Cowboys Stadium, and it was at that venue that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31- 25.

The Wisconsin Badgers also just won the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic at that same stadium, when they defeated the then unbeaten Western Michigan Broncos 24-16 on January 2.

“Jerry is a hustler,” Kramer said. “He’s always been a hustler. He’s got that method and that way about him. He’s always talking about his team. To me, that’s sensational. It’s nice to have a love affair like that. It’s nice to have something that is so interesting and important for you to enjoy. Jerry is blessed to have that football team. The Cowboys have been a wonderful thing for him and he’s been a wonderful thing for the Cowboys.

“Bottom line, I’m pulling for Jerry to get into the Hall. I mean, he’s named Jerry and he also played guard. But he’s also good for the NFL, whether you are a Cowboys fan or not.”

Green Bay Packers: Offseason Priorities

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When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was just phenomenal in the 2010 postseason run which led the hoisting of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

In that run of four games that postseason, Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes versus just two interceptions for 1,094 yards. That added up to a 109.8 passer rating, as well as No. 12 becoming the MVP in the Super Bowl.

In the 2016 postseason, Rodgers and the Packers came close to getting to another Super Bowl, but didn’t quite make it. You certainly can’t blame Rodgers for the Packers not getting to Super Bowl LI.

In fact, the stats of Rodgers this postseason are almost identical to what he did in the 2010 postseason.

In the 2016 postseason, Rodgers once again threw nine touchdown passes versus just two picks for 1,004 yards. The passer rating ended up being 103.8.

Rodgers put up those stats in three games in the 2016 postseason, as opposed to four games in the 2010 postseason.

It’s pretty easy to surmise that the play of Rodgers was not the reason why Green Bay isn’t playing in Super Bowl LI.

The reason why is pretty obvious. It’s the inconsistent and mediocre play of the defense for the Packers.

When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the team went into that postseason with the No. 5 rated defense in the league.

The defense played like it that postseason as well. The Packers had 11 sacks, eight interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and four recovered fumbles in four games.

When you add that performance and that of Rodgers and the offense of the Packers, one can see why the team won Super Bowl XLV.

The 2010 season was the last time the Packers have had a top five defense. As a matter of fact, the Packers have not even had a top 10 defense since then either.

In his career, Rodgers has a 9-7 record in the postseason. Why the seven losses? Is it because of his performance in crunch time? No. In 16 playoff games, Rodgers has thrown 36 touchdown passes versus just 10 interceptions for 4,458 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.4.

Those numbers might get a quarterback a NFL MVP award in a particular season.

In the seven losses the Packers have had with Rodgers at quarterback in the postseason, the offense has averaged 26 points a game.  That’s not too shabby. When a team averages 26 points a game in the NFL postseason, the odds should be pretty strong that a victory should be in order.

Not so with the Packers in those seven games. Why? The defense has given up an average of 36 points per game in those losses.

Something has to change this offseason. That means either a coaching change or a concept change in getting talent for the defense. Perhaps even both.

If you saw head coach Mike McCarthy’s postgame press conference after the Packers were beaten 44-21 in the NFC title game by the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, one could see he was not happy at all with the performance by his defense.

McCarthy has been very loyal to his assistant coaches over the 11 years he has been head coach, but he has also made some key changes to his staff as well when he deemed it necessary.

It might be a necessity to move on from defensive coordinator Dom Capers. In his first two years in Green Bay, Capers had top five defenses playing under him. In 2009, the defense was ranked No. 2, while in 2010 was ranked No. 5 in total defense.

But nothing close to that has happened in his tenure in the six years since. Starting in 2011, the defense of the Packers has ranked 32nd, 11th, 25th, 15th, 15th and 22nd.

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This past postseason reflects why the defense needs to get rebooted in 2017. In three games, the Packers had four sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. In the NFC title game, the Packers were shut out in all three categories.

Yes, I know there were multiple injuries this season on defense. But that is where quality depth would come in handy if a certain general manager changed his course of talent additions to the team just slightly.

Yes, I’m talking about Ted Thompson. Thompson’s draft and develop method for acquiring talent has been outstanding for the most part in the tenure in which he and McCarthy have piloted the ship of the Packers.

In 11 seasons, the Packers have had 114-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

A lot of franchises would be thrilled to have a track record like that.

But when you peel back the onion and take a closer look, there are some obvious issues. McCarthy is 10-8 in the postseason as a head coach. But with just a little luck, the record of McCarthy in the postseason could be favorably compared to Bill Belichick.

McCarthy has lost four games in the postseason in overtime, plus lost another one on a last second field goal. His 10-8 record might be 13-5 or better with another Lombardi Trophy or two in the Packers Hall of Fame with some fortunate bounces.

Belichick more times than not gets those fortunate bounces in his postseason wins. In Belichick’s four Super Bowl wins, the victories have been by a combined 13 points.

Bottom line, it’s the defense which is the primary culprit as to why the Packers have had to go home early at times in the postseason in the Thompson/McCarthy era.

So to me, you have two choices. Either you make a coaching change (or at least a philosophy change) or you rectify the way you add talent to the defense. Again, maybe you do both.

Let’s say that McCarthy decides to stay with the status quo and keep Capers as his defensive coordinator. In that case, all of the burden to improve the defense will be put on Thompson, if indeed he stays on as general manager, which may not be a given.

Thompson will have some very difficult decisions to make regarding maintaining, adding and subtracting talent to the defense.

The first thing I would do if I were Thompson, is to look at the great success I have had in adding talent for the team in free agency.

In 2006, Thompson added defensive tackle Ryan Pickett via free agency and then also added cornerback Charles Woodson to the team after he became a free agent after his release by the Raiders.

Both players had excellent tenures in Green Bay, as Pickett was very solid in his run-stopping ability in eight seasons, while Woodson was just tremendous in his time in Green Bay.

In his seven-year career with the Packers, Woodson put together a brilliant resume.  Woodson picked off 38 passes, including nine for touchdowns.  Woodson also forced 15 fumbles, recovering six more.  Woodson had 11.5 sacks to boot.

Add to that: Woodson was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  No. 21 was also named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.

After the signings of Pickett and Woodson, Thompson basically went into the sleep mode in terms of signing free agents for a number of years. Thompson still signed “street” free agents (like Erik Walden) and undrafted rookie free agents (like Sam Shields), but rarely looked at NFL veterans who had solid careers in the league or at least showed flashes.

In 2012, Thompson signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrave and center Jeff Saturday in free agency, but neither made big splashes in Green Bay. Hargrave didn’t even make the final roster, while Saturday ended up losing his starting job at center late in the 2012 season to Evan Dietrich-Smith.

In 2014, Thompson made another excellent free agent signing when brought in defensive end/linebacker Julius Peppers after he was cut by the Chicago Bears.

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Even though he was 34 years-old at the time of his signing, Peppers put together three nice years in Titletown, as he had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and also had two interceptions which  were both returned for touchdowns.

Peppers has also earned his money in the postseason, as he has had 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in three years.

Thompson also really helped the offense by adding tight end Jared Cook via free agency after he was released by the Rams prior to the 2016 season.

So, what should Thompson do this offseason to try and add some defensive talent to the Packers? Definitely utilize free agency, without a doubt.

The Packers are in decent shape currently regarding the salary cap, as the team is 10th in the NFL in terms of cap space available ($9.4 million). The team can add another $9 million approximately after the team releases cornerback Shields due to his concussion issues.

In terms of current players on the Packers who will be unrestricted free agents, I would bring back a number of them, both on offense and defense.

Right now there will be 11 UFAs on the Packers once free agency starts. They are Peppers, Cook, running back Eddie Lacy, running back Christine Michael, guard T. J. Lang, outside linebacker Nick Perry, outside linebacker Datone Jones, longsnapper Brett Goode, offensive lineman Don Barclay, offensive lineman JC Tretter and defensive back Micah Hyde.

On offense, I would certainly re-sign Cook, as his presence was a major reason why the offense clicked after he came back from an ankle injury starting in Week 11.

I would also bring back Lacy with a one-year deal, which will more or less be a prove it to me deal.

Lang also deserves to be rewarded for all he has done on the offensive line through the years, which not only includes great play on the field, but also playing hurt.

I would bring Barclay back, but only at the minimum salary. Mostly because of his versatility to play all the positions on the offensive line.

Goode also has proven to be one of the very best longsnappers in the NFL, so I would bring him back at a minimum salary, just like Barclay.

On defense, re-signing Perry would be my priority. No. 53 was the best player on the defense for almost all of the 2016 season.

I would also bring back Hyde because of all the versatility he can provide in the defensive backfield.

If Peppers wants to come back, I would offer a one-year deal which would amount to about half of what No. 56 currently makes, which would put him at approximately $4 million a year. That would be very fair, especially if Peppers has limited playing time.

My friend Pete Dougherty of USA Network-Wisconsin wrote a piece today about the 11 UFAs the Packers will have.

Dougherty agrees with me on a number of the players I would re-sign, but he wouldn’t bring back Peppers, plus he would re-do the contracts of both Clay Matthews ($11.1 million) and Randall Cobb ($9.5 million). Dougherty brings up an excellent point, as Matthews and Cobb will have the second-and third-highest salaries on the Green Bay roster in 2017.

Time will tell what will occur with both Matthews and Cobb, as injuries have definitely been a major reason why both have not performed up to the level of their pay-grade, but the release of Shields will definitely help to bump up the cap space for the team.

In terms of acquiring players from other NFL teams via free agency, I’m sure Thompson will first focus on players who will get released by their current NFL teams (usually due to cap reasons), looking mostly at defensive players. Again, that is route he took in acquiring Woodson, Peppers and Cook.

Those additions worked out pretty good.

If Thompson wants to look at a “pure” free agent who can help his defense, the No. 1 player I would look at is cornerback Stephon Gilmore of the Buffalo Bills, who was recently named to the AFC Pro Bowl team.

Gilmore is just 26 years-old and already has 14 interceptions on his resume in his five-year career in the NFL. The 6’0″, 190-pound Gilmore, who played his college ball at South Carolina, ran a 4.38 in the 40 at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

I’m sure Cook, who is also a former Gamecock, would put in a good word about coming to Green Bay to Gilmore.

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In the 2017 NFL draft, I would advise Thompson to use the strategy he used in the 2009 draft. That is, trading up to get a player who can definitely help his defense, especially if it’s an elite cornerback or pass-rusher.

In the 2009 draft, the Packers traded back into the first round of the draft to acquire linebacker Clay Matthews with the 26th pick of that particular draft. It cost the team a second-round pick and two third-round picks, but the trade-up tuned out to be a great move by Thompson.

Matthews has been hampered by injuries at times as I mentioned earlier, but he still has had an excellent career in Green Bay, as he has 72.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, six picks (two for touchdowns) and also has been named to six Pro Bowl teams.

Like Peppers, Matthews has also excelled in the postseason, as he has 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Bottom line, something has to change this year with the defense. Either with the coaching philosophy or the means of adding talent to the squad.

Just look at how Albert Einstein defined insanity. It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That is what the Packers have been doing since 2011 trying to improve their defense.

And that’s also a major reason why the Packers have not been in another Super Bowl since the 2010 postseason.

A Scout’s Take on the Packers vs. Falcons NFC Championship Matchup

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When the 12-6 Green Bay Packers take on the 12-5 Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome, many are expecting a shootout type of game.

You can put NFL scout Chris Landry into that crowd. I concur with Landry and the others who see a track meet taking place in Atlanta. It might come down to who doesn’t stub their toe heading to the finish line in terms of which team will represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston on February 5.

Sportsbook.com has the over/under number in the game set at 61 currently. That is unheard of. That being said, a number of us see the over as the probable outcome of this game.

Why is that? There are a number of reasons.

First, let’s take a look at the two quarterbacks in this game.

Both Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Matt Ryan have put together fabulous seasons in 2016.

Rodgers threw 40 touchdowns passes (led the NFL) versus just seven interceptions for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2.

Ryan threw 38 touchdown passes versus seven picks for 4,944 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 117.1.

Those are NFL MVP type of years for both quarterbacks. Earlier this week, Ryan was given that honor by the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA). The Associated Press honor will be announced the night before Super Bowl LI.

Not only have both quarterbacks had fantastic seasons overall, but both played outstanding down the stretch as well.

It’s been well-publicized that Rodgers thought that the Packers could run the table after a 4-6 start to the season. Rodgers put his money where he mouth was in those final six games of the year.

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In those six games, Rodgers threw 15 touchdown passes without a pick for 1,667 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 121.0.

Not only did the Packers win all six games, but they also won the NFC North title and the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Ryan also played well in those final six games of the season. Ryan threw 14 touchdown passes versus two interceptions for 1,697 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 121.5.

The Falcons were 5-1 in those six games and ended up as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs as they finished 11-5 and were champs of the NFC South.

Both quarterbacks have stayed on a roll in the postseason as well.

In two games, Rodgers has thrown six touchdown passes versus one pick for 717 yards. That is a cumulative passer rating of 110.9.

In one game, Ryan has thrown three touchdown passes without a pick for 338 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 125.7.

In terms of Rodgers, it’s becoming difficult to come up with the proper way to describe the play of No. 12 over the past eight weeks. Superlative is just one description that comes to mind.

Rodgers creates big plays out of the pocket better than anyone in the history of the NFL. Landry had this to say about Rodgers last week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show  before the divisional round game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“They [the Packers] have the most talented quarterback in the league. No one, I mean no one, throws the ball outside the pocket better than Aaron Rodgers, ever, in the history of the game. Better than [Fran] Tarkenton. Better than anybody.

“It’s uncanny, and we talk about getting your feet under you and squared away [as a quarterback], this guy does things with his body in unsound ways that just puts it in spots that are unbelievable. He can extend plays as well as he can with his protection.”

Again, Landry said that before the game against the Cowboys. Boy, was Landry spot on in his analysis. Just look at the play Rodgers made with just 12 seconds to go on his own 32 in a third and 20 situation and the score tied 31-31.

Rodgers rolled to his left by design, moved up a bit before he threw, spotted tight end Jared Cook running through the zone and delivered a pass across his body on a dime for 36 yards, as Cook toe-tapped the sideline before going out of bounds.

The result? A first down with three seconds to go. Kicker Mason Crosby took care of the rest with a game-winning 51-yard field goal which put the Pack into the NFC title game.

When looking at Rodgers and Ryan, we also need to look at how they performed earlier this year in Week 8, when the Packers and Falcons faced each other again at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 246 yards. His quarterback rating in the game was 125.5.  Plus, those numbers occurred without Randall Cobb, Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery in the lineup.

No. 12 also added 60 yards rushing.

Ryan meanwhile, threw three touchdown passes without an interception for 288 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 129.5. This occurred without running back Tevin Coleman in the lineup.

The Falcons won the game 33-32 in shootout fashion.

Historically, Rodgers likes playing against the Falcons and Ryan likes playing against the Packers.

In five regular season games versus Atlanta, Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 1,626 yards. That adds up to a 118.0 passer rating.

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In six regular season games against the Packers, Ryan has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus five interceptions for 1,427 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.7.

The only time Rodgers and Ryan met each other in the postseason was the in the NFC divisional round in 2010 also at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers had a whopping 136.8 passer rating in the game.

No. 12 also did not throw a pick, plus rushed for another touchdown.

Ryan did not have his best game that night in Georgia. No. 2 threw for 186 yards and a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions to Tramon Williams, one of which was returned for a pick-six by No. 38.

Ryan also lost a fumble in the game.

The result? A resounding 48-21 victory by the No. 6 seeded Packers over the No. 1 seeded Falcons.

So, what will happen Sunday afternoon when the Packers take on the Falcons in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome?

Rodgers will be facing the 28th-ranked pass defense of the Falcons, while Ryan will be facing the 31st-ranked pass defense of the Packers.

Landry appeared Wednesday again on Duemig’s show on 620 WDAE and had this to say about the high over/under number.

“I think it’s inviting,” Landry said. “There is always a chance that getting a running game going against these defenses could keep the point total down a little, but I expect it to be in the high-30 to 40 point game (per team) and may have a three to six point (differential) game.”

Landry then discussed the overall matchup.

“I do think that Atlanta is more of a complete team,” Landry said. “I think their pass-rush is better. Not great, but better. It’s just whether you can you do a better job of getting Aaron Rodgers to release the ball quicker. That’s going to be the whole key.

“They (the Falcons) are at home. They have a better running game. They have backs that can run it and can work the short passing game. They have more ways to beat you, where as with Green Bay, it’s Aaron Rodgers…it’s all Aaron Rodgers. Which is pretty good thing to have by the way!

“Listen, I think it’s going to be a great game. I do think it’s going to come down to this. What defense can create a turnover or steal an extra possession for their offense? Guess what, that’s going to be golden if you can do that.

“Making a big play on special teams. Not giving up key points or getting a shorter field. All of those things are pivotal.”

On his website, Landry ventured a prediction regarding the game.

Both quarterbacks are playing as well as any passers have heading into the final couple games of a season, but Ryan has a healthier crew and home-field advantage.

OUR PICK: Falcons, 35-31.

I see a similar score, but I see the Packers being the winner and advancing to Super Bowl LI.

Why? Because I simply believe Rodgers will make more big plays than Ryan.

The History Between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons

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In my last story, I wrote about the inaugural game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons which was played in 1966.

The Packers won that game 56-3 versus the expansion Falcons at Milwaukee County Stadium. I was among the 48,623 folks who attended the game that October 23.

All told, the Packers and Falcons have played each other 28 times in the regular season, with Green Bay holding a 15-13 edge over Atlanta.

In the postseason, the two teams have met three times, and all have occurred over the past 21 years. The Packers lead that series two games to one.

The fourth postseason game will occur this Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome, as the Packers and Falcons will meet in the 2016 NFC title game.

In the regular series history between the two teams, the Packers and Falcons played each other seven consecutive years to start, beginning in the expansion year of the Dirty Birds in 1966.

The Packers won the first five games of the series before Atlanta finally beat Green Bay 28-21 in 1971 at Fulton County Stadium.

The Packers and Falcons have had some very memorable games over the years and most of those have occurred in the last 20 years or so.

But in 1983, the offense of the Packers was truly outstanding. 1983 was the year when the Packers beat the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins 48-47 at Lambeau Field on Monday night football.

Yes, the offense of the Packers was very potent in 1983, but so too was the very porous defense the team had then.

That led to another memorable game between the Packers and Falcons at Fulton County Stadium that year on November 27.

Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Unfortunately, Dickey also threw three picks, the last of which was returned for a score in the 47-41 loss by the Pack in overtime.

Meanwhile, the Packers allowed a little-known quarterback by the name of Mike Moroski to throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

The next really memorable regular season game between the Packers and Falcons occurred on December 18, 1994 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The game was memorable for a number of reasons. For one, the game was the last Green Bay game ever played in Milwaukee, as the Packers decided to play all eight home games each season at Lambeau Field starting in 1995.

Up until then, the Packers had played five home games at Lambeau and three at County Stadium when there was a 16-game schedule.

In a 14-game schedule starting from 1961 through 1977, the Packers played four home games in Green Bay and three in Milwaukee.

The Packers first started playing games in Milwaukee starting in 1933 and that association lasted through this game versus the Falcons in 1994.

On this December day in Milwaukee, the Packers were fighting for their playoff lives. A victory would clinch the team a Wild Card spot, but it didn’t look good with just seconds remaining in the game and the Packers down 17-14.

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The Packers had no timeouts and were at the nine-yard line of the Falcons with a third down and two situation with 21 second left. Quarterback Brett Favre was told not to run in that situation by head coach Mike Holmgren during their final timeout, because time would run out if he was tackled in the field of play.

So, what did Favre do? He ran of course. No. 4 first went back to pass and then broke to the right and headed up field and dove into the end zone for the game-winning score as the Packers won 21-17 and clinched a playoff spot.

The Packers and Falcons played another very unforgettable game at Lambeau Field on opening day of the 2002 season. The Packers ended up winning 37-34 in overtime, as Favre threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Michael Vick of the Falcons threw for 209 yards and a score, plus rushed for 72 yards and another score.

Vick and the Falcons would get the last laugh at Lambeau later that postseason. More on that later.

Since Aaron Rodgers has become the starting quarterback of the Packers and Matt Ryan has done the same with the Falcons, the two teams have played in a number of memorable games.

In the five games that Rodgers and Ryan have faced each other in the regular season season, the Falcons have won three of those contests. But in all three wins by the Falcons during that period, the deciding margin was by three points or less each time.

Rodgers seems to love playing against Atlanta. In those five regular season games, Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 1,626 yards. That adds up to a 118.0 passer rating.

Conversely, Ryan also likes to play against the Pack. In six regular season games against the Packers, Ryan has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus five interceptions for 1,427 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 99.7.

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Plus, while Rodgers was out in 2013 with a broken clavicle, the Packers were led by backup quarterback Matt Flynn versus Ryan in a very memorable 22-21 win by the Packers at Lambeau Field that kept alive the NFC North title hopes for the Pack that year.

Before we talk about the postseason history of the two teams, let’s take a look at the Week 8 matchup between Rodgers and Ryan this year, when Atlanta won 33-32 at the Georgia Dome.

Both Rodgers and Ryan were simply outstanding in the game, which may be exactly what we see this Sunday in the NFC title game, also at the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 246 yards. His quarterback rating in the game was 125.5.  Plus, those numbers occurred without Randall Cobb, Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery in the lineup.

No. 12 also added 60 yards rushing.

Ryan meanwhile, threw three touchdown passes without an interception for 288 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 129.5.

The very first postseason game between the Packers and Falcons occurred in the 1995 postseason at Lambeau Field on New Year’s Eve.

The Falcons started fast, as quarterback Jeff George threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Eric Metcalf. Metcalf would later have have another not so great moment in another postseason game between the two teams.

But the Packers roared back by outscoring the Falcons 28-3 through the end of the third quarter. Favre threw two touchdown passes, while rookie Antonio Freeman returned a punt 76 yards for another score during that period.

Favre threw a third touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to running back Dorsey Levens, as the Packers went on to win 37-20.

But the next time the Falcons played at Lambeau in the postseason, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience for Packer Nation.

Up until that 2002 postseason game played on January 4, 2003, the Packers had never lost a home playoff game in the state of Wisconsin, as they were a perfect 13-0.

The Packers were beat up going into the game with injuries and quickly fell behind 24-0. Special teams didn’t help as the Falcons blocked a Josh Bidwell punt for a touchdown, plus Metcalf, who by that time was a Packer, muffed an Atlanta punt which led to another touchdown.

When it was all said and done, the Packers were throttled by Vick and the Falcons 27-7 in a very ugly loss.

The next postseason game between the Packers and Falcons would pit Rodgers and Ryan against each other in a 2010 divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome.

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That very memorable game may have been the greatest game ever played by Rodgers (both in the regular season and postseason). Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers had a whopping 136.8 passer rating in the game.

No. 12 also did not throw a pick, plus rushed for another touchdown.

Ryan did not have his best game that night in Georgia. No. 2 threw for 186 yards and a touchdown, plus tossed two interceptions to Tramon Williams, one of which was returned for a pick-six by No. 38.

Ryan also lost a fumble in the game.

The result? A resounding 48-21 victory by the No. 6 seeded Packers over the No. 1 seeded Falcons.

Time will tell what will occur this Sunday afternoon in the NFC title game, a game which will be the last game ever played in the Georgia Dome.

I will be doing a scouting report on the game later this week, but I do expect both Rodgers and Ryan to play well.

That being said, whoever plays the best in the matchup between Rodgers and Ryan will most likely be the quarterback who will lead his team to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons: Their First Game in 1966

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The Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons have played each other 28 times in the regular season and three times in the postseason since the two teams first met in 1966.

The Packers lead the regular season series 15-13 and also have a 2-1 edge in the postseason.

I’ll be doing a story later this week about the history between the two teams, as the Packers and Falcons will be meeting this Sunday in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the right to play in Super Bowl LI.

I’ll also be doing a scouting report piece on the big game, as well as another story comparing Aaron Rodgers versus Matt Ryan and how they have fared against each other, both in the regular season and the postseason.

But this story is about the first time the two teams met in 1966.

1966 was an expansion year in the NFL and it was the first year of existence for the Falcons.

I happened to be in attendance at Milwaukee County Stadium when the two teams first met on October 23, 1966.

The Falcons of 1966 had quite a connection to the Packers. For one thing, the head coach of the Falcons was Norb Hecker, who had been a long-time assistant under Vince Lombardi in Green Bay from 1959 through 1965.

The Falcons also had a number of former Packers on their 1966 roster, which included quarterback Dennis Claridge, running back Junior Coffey, guard Dan Grimm, wide receiver Gary Barnes and wide receiver Alex Hawkins.

All five of those players had been drafted by the Packers, but Hawkins never played a down for the Packers, while Claridge, Coffey and Barnes received very limited playing time.

Grimm started a number of games for the Packers at right guard in 1964 and 1965, while Jerry Kramer was out due to intestinal issues which needed nine medical procedures to resolve.

The Packers showed little mercy on the Falcons that sunny day in Milwaukee, as Green Bay won 56-3.

Quarterback Bart Starr only played part of the game in the blowout, but his eight completions went for 220 yards (27.5 yards per completion average), plus he also threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Carroll Dale. Starr’s passer rating for that game was a whopping 131.1.

Backup quarterback Zeke Bratkowski also threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Max McGee.

Fullback Jim Taylor rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown in the game, but the thing I remember the most about the game was the first real appearance of the season by the two highly-paid rookie running backs of the Packers, Jim Grabowski and Donny Anderson.

Grabowski and Anderson were known as the “Gold Dust Twins” because of the rookie contracts each player signed in 1966.

Before the 1966 season, the NFL and AFL were battling each other in terms of signing college prospects, as well as attempting to sign players from other teams in each league.

That led to the merger of the two opposing leagues, as well as the creation of the Super Bowl.

But before the merger, the two leagues would bid against each other for college prospects and that led to Anderson receiving a reported $600,000 contract, while Grabowski reportedly received a $400,000 contract.

Anderson (Texas Tech) had been the No. 1 pick of the Packers in 1965 as a future pick. That aspect of the college draft was allowed in the NFL at the time, even if the prospect still had a year left in college (like Anderson did), while Grabowski (Illinois) was one of two first-round picks for the Packers in 1966, along with guard Gale Gillingham.

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Those contracts led Taylor to play out his option after the 1966 season and then to sign with the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967.

In fact, Taylor announced that intention of playing out his option to a reporter in the locker room after the game against the Falcons at County Stadium.

That did not sit well with Lombardi, as he and Taylor hardly spoke the rest of the 1966 season.

Taylor’s long-time running mate, halfback Paul Hornung, didn’t play in the game against the Falcons, as he was dealing with a pinched nerve issue in his shoulder which hampered him during the 1966 season.

The 1966 season was also the last year for Hornung in Green Bay, as he was first selected by the Saints in the expansion draft in 1967, but soon retired to his shoulder injury.

Grabowski led the team in rushing against the Falcons that October day, as he rushed for 52 yards on just seven carries. Anderson rushed for a touchdown in the game, plus returned a punt for 77 yards and another score.

I also recall how stifling the defense of the Packers was that day, as it seemed like quarterback Randy Johnson was under pass-pressure all day long. In fact, Atlanta quarterbacks were sacked eight times during the game, as Claridge also played in relief of Johnson.

The Packers picked off four passes in the game, including two interceptions which were returned for touchdowns. The first was by Herb Adderley on a 68-yard return, while the second was by Doug Hart on a 40-yard return for a score.

Ironically, Hecker was the defensive backs coach for the Packers under Lombardi in Green Bay.

The Falcons did win three games in their expansion year of 1966 and finished 3-11 under Hecker.

The Packers were a dominating 12-2 that season, as their two losses were by a combined four points. Green Bay went on to win their second straight NFL title that year, as well as winning the very first Super Bowl.

A Scout’s Take on the Packers vs. Cowboys NFC Divisional Round Matchup

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When the No. 4 seeded Green Bay Packers take on the No. 1 seeded Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon in the NFC divisional round, it will be the eighth postseason meeting between the two iconic teams.

That ties the Cowboys with the New York Giants as the two opponents the Packers have played the most in their postseason history.

It all started on January 1, 1967, when the Packers defeated the Cowboys 34-27 in the 1966 NFL title game at the Cotton Bowl. Dallas came very close to forcing overtime as the Cowboys were at the 2-yard line of the Packers and had a first and goal situation in the final moments of the game.

But on fourth down, quarterback Don Meredith of the Cowboys, who was facing heavy pressure from linebacker Dave Robinson of the Packers as he rolled to his right, had his pass in the end zone intercepted by safety Tom Brown with 28 seconds to go, as the Packers escaped with a victory.

Green Bay went on to win Super Bowl I two weeks later on January 15, when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

Coincidentally, when the Packers and Cowboys meet this Sunday afternoon, it will be on the 50th anniversary of the very first Super Bowl.

The two teams met again in the 1967 NFL title game on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field, which is better known as the legendary “Ice Bowl” game.

The Packers were down 17-14 to the Cowboys with just 4:50 remaining in the game. It was extremely cold, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero. The offense of the Packers had to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It came down to this: just 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. Quarterback Bart Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with head coach Vince Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.

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Starr followed right guard Jerry Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown, as the Packers won 21-17.

Two weeks later the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II.

The next time the Packers and Cowboys met in the postseason would be in the 1982 postseason, when they played in a NFC second-round playoff game at Texas Stadium on January 16, 1983.

The Packers rolled up 466 total yards in the game, but quarterback Lynn Dickey also threw three interceptions (all made by Dennis Thurman), one of which was a pick-six, as the Cowboys won 37-26.

This game set a trend in the postseason series between the two teams, as the Packers would lose three more games at Texas Stadium to the Cowboys in the 1990s.

The first occurred in the 1993 postseason in a NFC divisional round game on January 16, 1994. Led by three touchdown passes by quarterback Troy Aikman, the Cowboys beat the Packers 27-17. Brett Favre also threw for 331 yards for Green Bay and had two touchdown passes, but it wasn’t enough to beat Dallas.

The Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XXVII two weeks later by beating the Buffalo Bills 30-13.

The Packers and Cowboys met again the very next year in another NFC divisional game on January 8, 1995 at Texas Stadium, but Dallas got off to a quick start and never looked back, as the Boys won 35-9. Aikman threw for 337 yards and had one touchdown pass in the game.

The two teams met again a year later, but this time the stakes were higher, as it was the NFC title game, played on January 14, 1996.

The Packers led 27-24 in the fourth quarter, but two Emmitt Smith touchdowns in the fourth frame led to a 38-27 victory by Dallas over Green Bay. Smith rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns, while Favre threw three touchdown passes for the Packers.

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The Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXX two weeks later as they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.

The last time the Packers and Cowboys met in the playoffs was in the 2014 postseason, when Dallas traveled to Lambeau Field. This game had plenty of controversy. The Cowboys were faced with a fourth-and-two at the Green Bay 32-yard line trailing 26-21 with just under five minutes left in the game, when quarterback Tony Romo connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant on a 31-yard pass play to place the ball at the 1-yard line of the Packers.

The play was initially ruled a catch, but after head coach Mike McCarthy of the Packers challenged the play, the pass was ruled incomplete since the replay official deemed that Bryant did not maintain possession when he hit the ground.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in the Green Bay win.

In the seven games that the Packers and Cowboys have played in the postseason, four times the winner of the game went on to win the Super Bowl.

Although the Packers never fared well at Texas Stadium in the postseason, Green Bay has found the new home venue of the Cowboys to their liking.

The Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV at the stadium, when it was then called Cowboys Stadium. Rodgers threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the game and was named MVP.

The Packers also played at AT&T Stadium versus the Cowboys in the 2013 regular season, when backup quarterback Matt Flynn engineered a stellar comeback against Dallas, as the Packers overcame a 26-3 halftime deficit and shocked the Cowboys 37-36 in a thrilling victory.

The Cowboys became the No. 1 seed in the 2016 NFC playoffs mostly because of the play of two rookies. The rookies are quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

One of those two players will definitely be named the 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year and both are in the discussion for the 2016 NFL MVP award.

In leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the NFC East title, Prescott threw 23 touchdown passes versus just four interceptions for 3,637 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.9. Prescott also rushed for 282 yards and six more scores.

Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards and he also scored 15 touchdowns. The rookie also caught 32 passes for 363 yards and another score.

Speaking of MVP candidates, Rodgers of the Packers is certainly one. After the Packers stumbled to a 4-6 start in the 2016 regular season, Rodgers led the Packers to six straight wins and the NFC North crown.

Rodgers had another stellar season, as he threw 40 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2. Rodgers also ran for 369 yards and had four rushing touchdowns.

In the last seven games of the season, Rodgers threw 18 touchdown passes without throwing a pick for 1,788 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 120.1.

In addition to that, Rodgers was simply marvelous in the 38-13 victory over the Giants at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card playoff game last Sunday, as he threw four touchdown passes without a pick for 362 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 125.2.

The game this Sunday looks to be another classic confrontation between these two storied franchises in the NFL. I wanted to make sure that I was able to get an opinion on the game from one of the very best in his business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

I was able to speak with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show this past Wednesday.

Before Landry gave his take on the game, Duemig interjected and asked me how the Packers would be able to overcome the loss of Nelson. That was an excellent question, at least based on how sorely the team missed Nelson in 2015 when he tore his ACL in the preseason and then how Rodgers and the offense of the Packers struggled at times in the passing game throughout the season without No. 87.

I answered by saying that the Packers would be better off because of the play of Adams, who in my opinion had a breakthrough year in 2016 (75-997-12) and who now would be the No. 1 receiving option on a number of NFL teams.

Coincidentally, Rodgers was asked a similar question at his locker on Wednesday after noon.

“We’re doing a lot of different things than we were last year, a lot of things better,” Rodgers said. “I think our offensive line is playing better. Our scheme has advanced, and we’re getting more contributions from the tight end at this point, and Richard [Rodgers] and Jared [Cook] are making plays for us, and I think we’re a little deeper at receiver now with the emergence of Geronimo [Allison]. Davante [Adams] is a legit receiver in this league, and obviously Randall Cobb, who is established as well.”

It’s also important to know that the 38 points the Packers put on the Giants last week came after Nelson left the game with the rib injury. Rodgers was on fire from late in the second quarter on, as he threw for 362 yards  and four touchdowns.

Adams had eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown, while Cobb had five catches for 116 yards and three scores.

Landry then weighed in with his analysis of the game.

“Well, I felt going into last week, that Green Bay would win last week and Green Bay would also beat Dallas this week,” Landry said. “I felt that is was going to be Atlanta hosting Green Bay in the NFC championship game. That was the way I felt before the playoffs started.

“I would feel a little more comfortable with that, had Jordy Nelson didn’t get injured. That’s a big factor. This game to me is pretty simple. If it gets into a shootout, Green Bay is going to win it.

“They [the Packers] have the most talented quarterback in the league. No one, I mean no one, throws the ball outside the pocket better than Aaron Rodgers, ever, in the history of the game. Better than [Fran] Tarkenton. Better than anybody.

“It’s uncanny, and we talk about getting your feet under you and squared away [as a quarterback], this guy does things with his body in unsound ways that just puts it in spots that are unbelievable. He can extend plays as well as he can with his protection.

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“Last week the Giants lost a corner early, I get that, but they still had great cover ability. But you just can’t cover when this guy can run around and scramble. So if it’s a shootout, Green Bay wins.

“But it comes down to this. Dallas wants to make it a short game. To use a basketball analogy, a half court game. They want to run the football. So if they can run the football and keep Green Bay’s defense on the field, and obviously keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, than that’s a big advantage for Dallas.

“To me, it’s look at the style of the game, the flow of the game. It’s two different styles. You have one team which clearly excels one way, while the other in another way. To me, it’s real simple how you deal with that.

“If Dallas can control the football, protect it and not turn it over, and they can keep Green Bay off the field, than it’s a huge advantage and a great chance of shorten it and make it simple. Not succumb to any of the pressure and all that.

“But if they get into a matchup where it’s a shootout, I’m telling you, Green Bay, Atlanta, whoever Dallas plays, they [the Cowboys] will not win a shootout type of game. Because their defense will get exposed. They haven’t been exposed, because Dallas has been able to control the football on the offensive side.

“It’s going to be interesting to see. I like Green Bay’s chances. I liked them better with a healthy Jordy Nelson, but I still think their chances are pretty good. But again, the style is the key as to who is going to win. The style will determine [the winner].”

When the Packers hosted the Cowboys in Week 6 at Lambeau Field, the Packers had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL going into the game. But you wouldn’t have known it, based on the way Elliott ran that day. Elliott rushed for 157 yards that day (a 5.61 average) and just kept gashing the Green Bay Front 7.

I asked Landry how he thought defensive coordinator Dom Capers would try and stop the run in this game.

“Well, they have to load the front, there’s no question,” Landry said. “They are going to play some more Bear fronts. I think that they are going to be very aggressive bringing in an extra guy in the box. Particularly on early downs. Force them into the air and that’s where Dallas will have to make plays.

“I think if Dallas is going to have success throwing the football, as they can, it will be because they [the Packers] will have removed the safety out of the middle of the field. And they are going to have one on one on the outside, outside of the hashes. Plus they will be able to work the middle of the field to [Jason] Witten.

“Again, the run game will dictate it. There can be big plays by Dallas in the passing game, but that will be because the Packers are overplaying for the run. You have to stop the run. If you don’t stop the run, you have no shot. And if you can, you have to hope that maybe you can create enough pressure and force enough bad throws where you can make enough plays on the back end.

“You just can’t let them [the Cowboys] get into a rhythm in the running game. You are going to have to switch things up a little bit. But again, you are going to have to crowd the front most of the day.”

Bottom line, the game between the Packers and Cowboys looks to be a classic battle between two teams who will attempt to try and impose their will versus their opponent.

Which ever team accomplishes that goal will be playing in the 2016 NFC title game.

A Scout’s Take on the New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers Matchup in the NFC Playoffs

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There is no doubt that the marquee game of the week in the NFL on Wild Card weekend is the one which has the 11-5 New York Giants going to Lambeau Field to face the 10-6 Green Bay Packers late on Sunday afternoon.

The G-Men and the Packers are the hottest teams in the NFC right now, as Green Bay won six games in a row to close out the regular season, while New York won nine out of their last 11 games.

The NFC North champion Packers did beat the Giants by a score of 23-16 in Week 5 of the regular season at Lambeau Field, but the G-Men went on a six-game winning streak of their own after that.

Although the Giants did not win the NFC East, they did beat the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys twice in the regular season.

When it comes to meeting in the postseason, this will be the eighth time that the Packers have played each other.

The Packers defeated the Giants in the 1939, 1944, 1961 and 1962 NFL title games, while the G-Men beat the Packers in the 1938 title game and the 2007 NFC title game.

The only time the Giants and Packers played in the postseason without a championship on the line was in the 2011 playoffs, when New York defeated Green Bay at Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

In both the 2007 and 2011 postseason games, it was quarterback Eli Manning who led the Giants to victory.

Overall in his career against the Packers in the regular season, Manning is 2-4. But the game on Sunday afternoon is not in the regular season. No, that’s the postseason. That’s the time of year when Manning has shined against the Packers, as he a perfect 2-0 at Lambeau Field.

Plus, after each one of those victories over the Packers, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl and each time it was against the New England Patriots.

Rodgers is 3-1 against the Giants in the regular season, but 0-1 in the postseason. In the 2011 playoff game which matched Manning versus Rodgers, No. 10 got the best of No. 12.

Manning threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 330 yards. That adds up to a 114.5 passer rating.

Rodgers, who was coming of a 2011 NFL MVP season, threw two touchdown passes versus one pick for 264 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 78.5. That being said, Rodgers was victimized by a number of dropped passes that day by his receivers.

Overall in the postseason, Rodgers has done quite well overall, as he is the fifth-highest ranked quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 98.2. In 13 starts in his career in the postseason, Rodgers has thrown 27 touchdown passes versus eight picks for 3,454 yards.

Manning is ranked 12th in that category, as he has a career passer rating of 89.3 in the postseason. In 11 games, Manning has thrown 17 touchdown passes versus eight interceptions for 2,516 yards.

at Lambeau Field on October 9, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It goes without question that the quarterback play will be a key factor in determining who will win on Sunday afternoon. Based on the way each of the quarterbacks have performed during the 2016 regular season, the advantage has to lie with Rodgers.

Rodgers had another NFL MVP-type season, as he threw 40 touchdown passes versus just seven picks for 4,428 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 104.2.

Manning meanwhile, threw 26 touchdown passes versus 16 interceptions for 4,027 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 86.0.

Then there is the mobility and the running skills of Rodgers compared to Manning.

Rodgers is very elusive in the pocket, while Manning is almost like a statue at times, although he can step up in the pocket and has a quick release.

That being said, Rodgers was sacked 35 times, but most of those sacks came as No. 12 held the ball too long going through his progressions. That and his receivers just not getting open at times earlier in the season. Manning, on the other hand, was sacked just 21 times, but is also prone to throwing an interception when the pass pressure is heavy.

When it comes to running with the football, there is no comparison. Rodgers ran for 369 yards in 2016 and had four touchdowns toting the rock. Manning almost never takes off and runs with ball and had -9 yards rushing this season.

Comparing the two offenses, the Packers are ranked eighth (368.8 yards per game) in the NFL in total offense, while the Giants are ranked 25th (330.7 yards per game).

Both the Packers and Giants have struggled running the football this year.

The Packers have been hit hard by injuries at the running back position with Eddie Lacy being put on injured reserve in October with ankle injury. Green Bay has tried to fill the void with Ty Montgomery (457 yards, 5.9 average and three touchdowns), as the converted wide receiver has given the running game a boost.

The Packers rank 20th in the NFL in rushing, as they average 106.3 yards per game.

The G-Men are ranked only 29th in rushing in the NFL, although the ground game has gotten a bit better recently. Still, the Giants only average 88.2 yards per game on the ground.

As of late, New York has been using both Rashad Jennings (593 yards and three touchdowns) and Paul Perkins (456 yards) at running back.

In the passing game, both teams are much better in that aspect of the offense.

The Packers are ranked seventh in the NFL in passing offense. A lot of credit for that has to go to the offensive line’s ability to protect Rodgers. In fact, Pro Football Focus named three offensive linemen on the Packers as the best pass-blockers in the NFL at their various positions.

Those players are left tackle David Bakhtiari, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

Rodgers has plenty of weapons in the passing game to use at his disposal as well.

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Wide receiver Jordy Nelson led the way in 2016, as No. 87 had another banner year, just a year after an ACL tear, with 97 receptions for 1,257 and 14 touchdowns.

Wide receiver Davante Adams had his best year as a pro in 2016, as he had 75 catches for 997 yards and 12 scores.

In addition to that, wide receiver Randall Cobb had 60 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns, while Montgomery chipped in with 44 catches for 348 yards.

Both Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers each had 30 catches at the tight end position and combined for three scores.

Aaron Rodgers has gone out of his way to say that the reason for the success of the passing game for the Packers over the past seven games is the presence of Cook and his seam-stretching ability down the field.

The Giants are ranked 17th in passing offense in the NFL.

The offensive line has issues on the outside with the pass-blocking, as both left tackle Ereck Flowers and right tackle Marshall Newhouse are prone to allowing pass-pressure.

In terms of weapons for Manning in the passing game, he has one of the very best receivers in the game with Odell Beckham Jr. No. 13 had 101 receptions for 1.367 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016.

Rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard had a nice first year in the NFL, as he had 65 catches for 683 yards and eight touchdowns.

The salsa dancer, Victor Cruz, chipped in at wide receiver with 39 catches for 586 yards and one score, while tight end Will Tye had 48 receptions for 395 yards and one touchdown.

Jennings and Perkins combined for 50 catches for 363 yards and one score.

While the Packers have the advantage over the Giants on offense, the G-men definitely have the advantage over the Pack on defense.

New York is ranked 10th in total defense in the NFL, while the Packers are ranked 22nd.

Both teams are solid against the run, as the Giants are ranked third in rushing defense, while the Packers are ranked eighth.

It’s in the passing game where both defenses can be exploited, but more so with the Packers.

Green Bay was ranked 31st in passing defense, as they allowed 32 touchdown passes and opposing quarterbacks to have a 95.9 passer rating.

New York was ranked 23rd in passing defense, as they allowed 15 touchdown passes and opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 75.8.

Both teams had 17 interceptions in 2016.

The Packers strength in the secondary is at the safety position, led by Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (a combined 173 tackles and seven picks). Injuries have taken their toll on the Packers at the cornerback position and this is where most of the damage is being done.

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Losing Sam Shields (concussion) after the first game of the season has had a devastating affect on the position. Both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins have played  through groin injuries in 2016 and their play has suffered because of it.

Rollins doesn’t look like he’ll play versus the Giants due to a concussion he suffered against the Lions in Week 17. Randall was in and out of the game because of shoulder and knee issues, but he looks like he’ll be able to play against the Giants.

The Packers desperately need an effective pass-rush to help the secondary out. Not so much to sack Manning, but to get him off his spot and force bad throws or interceptions.

The Packers were tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks with 40. Nick Perry led the way with 11, while Julius Peppers had 7.5 and Clay Matthews had five.

The Giants started out very slow in rushing the passer in terms of sacks this season, but ended up tied for 14th in the NFL with 35.

Olivier Vernon led the way with 8.5 sacks, while Jason Pierre-Paul had seven. Pierre-Paul recently had hernia surgery and it doesn’t appear that he will play versus the Packers.

The secondary of the Giants is very strong, led by Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (nine combined interceptions) at the cornerback position.

Safety Landon Collins led the Giants with 125 tackles, plus had four sacks and five picks.

In terms of special teams, both teams have very solid placekickers. Mason Crosby continues to be one of the best in NFL, as No. 2 had 122 points and converted 26 out of 30 field goals, including six of eight from 40 yards or more out.

For the Giants, Robbie Gould took over for Josh Brown as placekicker after five games and has been perfect in field goal attempts, as he was 10 for 10 in 2016. As a team, the Giants were 21 out of 22 in field goals this past season.

The Giants have a clear advantage over the Packers in the punting game, as they were ranked third in the NFL in punting overall in 2016, while the Packers were ranked 30th.

Punter Brad Wing of the Giants has a big leg and has averaged 46.2 yards a punt, plus has a 40.9 net average. Wing also placed 30 punts inside the 20.

Meanwhile, punter Jacob Schrum of the Packers is hot and cold. Sometimes he hits some beauties and at other times, he hits some real ugly ducklings, like he did with his last punt in the Detroit game last Sunday night.

Schrum had a an average of 43.1 per punt and a net average of 39.1. Schrum also placed 19 punts inside the 20.

The good news for the Packers in the punting game is that they were ranked fourth in the NFL in covering punts over the 2016 season, while the G-Men were ranked were ranked 23rd.

In terms of covering kickoffs, the Packers were dead-last in that category in the NFL in 2016, as they gave up an average of 26.1 yards per return and allowed one score.

The Giants weren’t much better, as they were ranked 25th in that category in the regular season, as they allowed 22.8 yards per return.

The Packers have used a number of players for both the punt returns and kickoff returns this past season. As of late, the Packers have used both Christine Michael and Jeff Janis on kick returns, and Micah Hyde on punt returns.

The Packers were ranked 24th in kick returns and 20th in punt returns in 2016.

The Giants utilize Dwayne Harris for the most part in both punt and kickoff returns. The G-Men were tied for seventh in the NFL in kick returns and were 11th in punts returns this past season.

With NFL Wild Card weekend right around the corner, specifically the game between the Giants and Packers, I wanted to get some insight from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.

I try and talk with Landry each week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, but I didn’t have the opportunity earlier this week. Still, Landry and Duemig did talk about all the Wild Card games this weekend, which included the Giants-Packers matchup.

Landry also talked about how he thinks things will unfold in the NFC playoffs.

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“These are two teams [Giants and Packers] going in who are playing well,” Landry said. “The whole key to this game and the whole key to playing the Packers, is you have to keep Aaron Rodgers contained.

“He is the best I have ever seen outside the pocket. Better than Tarkenton. Because he throws the football so accurately. He’s throwing receivers open outside the pocket, that he paralyzes your ability if you have a good pass rush, because he can extend it and the pass rush can’t get to him and the coverage can’t hold long enough, that he just beats you with enough big plays.

“If you can do that [containing Rodgers], you have a much better chance of beating them. The Giants are confident and have done it before. Eli has done it before at Lambeau. This Giants defense is really good. It can cause problems for you and this is where the matchup is most intriguing.

“I like Green Bay. I think Green Bay and Atlanta will end up in the NFC Championship Game, more than Dallas. We’ve got time to address that because we have another week before we get there. I like Green Bay at home here, but they [NFL] certainly have these matchups lined up correctly, because I think this is the best matchup of the four. And certainly the most intriguing with two hot teams.

“I can see both of these teams causing a lot of damage and going deep into the playoffs. Outside of Pittsburgh, those are the only three teams playing this week, Pittsburgh, the Giants and the Packers, who can do some damage going further past this weekend.”

Jerry Kramer Talks About Boyd Dowler

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Once again, the Green Bay Packers will be hosting the New York Giants at Lambeau Field in the postseason. Sunday’s late-afternoon game will be the fourth time the G-Men have played in the historic stadium on Lombardi Avenue in win or go-home scenario.

The Packers have lost the last two times (2007 and 2011 postseason) quarterback Eli Manning and his Giants have come to Lambeau, but it was a different story when the Packers hosted the Giants for the 1961 NFL title game at the stadium which was then called City Stadium.

That game was the first time the city of Green Bay had ever hosted a championship game. In that contest, the Packers dominated the Giants and won going away 37-0. It would be the first of five NFL titles that the Packers would win under head coach Vince Lombardi.

Halfback/kicker Paul Hornung was the big star in the game, as he scored 19 points just by himself in this championship setting. Another player who played a key role in the game was wide receiver Boyd Dowler.

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Dowler caught three passes for 37 yards and a touchdown in the game. The Packers were fortunate to have Hornung and Dowler play in that championship game, as well as middle line backer Ray Nitschke, as all three were activated as military reservists by the Department of Defense because of the escalation of the Cold War in 1961.

I wrote about that scenario in a story which talks about how the friendship between Lombardi and President John F. Kennedy helped to make sure that all three of those players were eligible to play in the NFL championship game.

The Packers won that title game and Titletown was born.

But it was just the first of five titles for the Packers under Lombardi, which included the first two Super Bowls. Dowler played a big role in a number of those games.

Besides the touchdown pass he caught in the 1961 NFL title game, Dowler also had four more pass-reception scores in the postseason, which includes two in the legendary “Ice Bowl” game versus the Dallas Cowboys on New Year’s Eve in 1967.

Two weeks after that classic game, Dowler also caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Bart Starr in Super Bowl II, when the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14.

It was a different story for Dowler however in Super Bowl I. Just two weeks before that game in the 1966 NFL title game in Dallas, No. 86 had caught 16-yard touchdown pass from Starr in the third quarter, when he was upended by safety Mike Gaechter of the Cowboys two yards into the end zone.

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The cheap-shot by Gaechter injured the shoulder of Dowler as he crashed to the surface of the end zone. The remnants of that shoulder injury were still apparent early in Super Bowl I, when Dowler was forced to leave the game after re-injuring his shoulder.

That opened the door for the entrance of Max McGee as his replacement, as No. 85 had a banner game with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Dowler was an imposing receiver at 6’5″ and 224 pounds. When No. 86 available to play, he was a clutch performer, both in the regular season and the postseason.

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Dowler had 448 receptions for 6,918 yards and 40 touchdowns. In the postseason, Dowler also had 30 receptions for 440 yards and five scores.

In his rookie year in 1959, Dowler was named Rookie of the Year by UPI (United Press International). The former Colorado star was also named to two Pro Bowls in his career.

In addition to that, Dowler was named to the NFL 1960s All-Decade team, plus was named to the second team on the NFL’s 50 Anniversary team.

In 1978, Dowler was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.

I had a chance to talk about Dowler with Jerry Kramer recently and he told me why he fit in so well and so quickly with the Packers.

“Boyd was a mature kid,” Kramer said. “He understood the game and what we were doing and he was just a bit ahead of most rookies. I think his father coaching him played a part in that.”

Dowler played under his dad at Cheyenne High School in Wyoming.

After high school, Dowler went to play college ball at  Colorado, where he did everything for the Buffaloes except sell programs in the stands.

Kramer talked about that scenario.

“Boyd was a very talented athlete,” Kramer said. “He led Colorado in passing, running, receiving and punting. But when you think about that, how the hell could you lead the team in both passing and receiving? You can’t throw to yourself! But Boyd told me that he played in a single-wing offense at Colorado and sometimes he threw the ball and sometimes he caught the ball.”

Dowler was strictly a receiver in Green Bay, as he never threw a pass and had just two rushes for 28 yards in his career as a Packer. But Dowler did share punting duties with McGee from 1960 through 1962, when his punting average was 43 yards a punt.

Dowler also punted once in 1969, which was his final season in Green Bay. After becoming an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 1970, Dowler became a player coach for the Washington Redskins in 1971, when he had 26 catches for 352 yards.

Dowler stayed on as a coach for the Redskins through 1972 and then later became an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-1975), Cincinnati Bengals (1976-1979) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1980-1984).

Kramer also talked about another important attribute that Dowler had.

“I think Boyd’s confidence was one of the big reasons why he was accepted so quickly and completely,” Kramer said. “There were no excuses from Boyd. If he screwed something up, he would be the guy to tell you. But he very seldom screwed things up and made very few mistakes.”

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That confidence led to a memorable scene in Cheyenne one night that Kramer heard about from Dowler.

“There is this wonderful story about Boyd racing a quarter horse down the street in Cheyenne,” Kramer said. “Boyd was at this bar and this guy was talking about how his quarter horse could start so quick. Boyd told the guy that he could beat the horse in a short race like 50 feet.

“The guy didn’t believe Boyd, so they ended betting several hundred dollars to have a race between Boyd and the horse. So Boyd went home and got his running shoes and sure enough beat the horse in that short race in Cheyenne!”

When it came to playing big in big games, Kramer certainly could relate to that. All one has to do is look at the performances by Kramer in the 1962, 1965 and 1967 NFL title games.

No. 64 had a huge role in all of those championship victories by the Packers.

But as I mentioned earlier, Dowler quietly did the same thing in championship games as Kramer explained.

“Boyd was always there and always capable in big games,” Kramer said. “He was almost invisible. Like the two touchdowns that he had in the “Ice Bowl” game. He just did that very quietly and very professionally.

“He just scored his touchdown and handed the ball to the official. Sans a dance, he just went to the sidelines. He was just Boyd doing his job. He was always in his position and where he supposed to be.  He was also available too. He also rarely dropped a pass. If the ball was near him, he almost always caught it.”

As I related in a recent story about Fuzzy Thurston, Kramer related to me that he, Thurston and Dowler used to go out together quite often after practice. They called themselves, the Three Muskepissers.

Kramer talked about how that scenario used to go down.

“Fuzzy and Boyd would start the festivities early,” Kramer said. “I would go golfing or something and then catch up with them later. I wouldn’t start with them. I couldn’t keep up with them. So I would wait to around 6:00 and then I would track them down  and hang out with them for the rest of the evening.”

Kramer then had some final thoughts about his friend Dowler.

“Boyd not only had a great grasp of the game, but his execution was also phenomenal,” Kramer said. “I don’t believe Boyd made a mistake a year. He was always aware of the situation and he was about as steady as they come when he played with us.”