Atlanta 27, Green Bay 7

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GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN (TICKER) Michael Vick began building his playoff resume with a historic win.

In his postseason debut, Vick passed for a touchdown and created havoc with his feet as the Atlanta Falcons rolled to a 27-7 NFC wild card victory over the Green Bay Packers, who suffered the first home playoff loss in franchise history.

The NFL’s youngest quarterback at 22, Vick outplayed three-time Most Valuable Player Brett Favre, who had been 35-0 at Lambeau Field when the game-time temperature was 34 degrees or less. Saturday’s temperature was 28 and the contest was played through light snow.

The Packers (12-5) also were 13-0 all-time at home in the playoffs, including an 11-0 mark at storied Lambeau Field. They were the only unbeaten team during the regular season with an 8-0 record.

None of that bothered the Falcons or Vick, who played mistake-free in his playoff debut.

“I feel great,” Vick said. “This is the thing we’ve been talking about all week - the winning streak in the playoffs and one day it had to come to an end. And why not let us be the team to do it?”

“I feel good about this whole organization having an opportunity to break their record,” Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan said. “Green Bay is a tough place to play, but we came in here and beat the big bully. Maybe some other teams will come in here now and start winning playoff games.”

The field conditions did little to affect the electrifying Vick, who completed 13-of-25 passes for 117 yards. He also carried 10 times for 67 yards.

“We all have to play in the same conditions, so I don’t believe it was to my advantage,” said Vick, who grew up in Virginia. “That was the first time I ever played in those type of conditions.”

“Mike Vick did a tremendous job,” Falcons coach Dan Reeves said. “He’s amazing. It seems the tougher the situation, the better he is.”

Vick also drew praise from Packers coach Mike Sherman.

“Michael Vick is a great player who makes great plays,” he said. “We couldn’t tackle him, but their whole team played well. Coach Reeves did a great job of preparing his team. It wasn’t just Vick.”

Sparked by Vick and their defense, the Falcons (10-6-1) advanced to the divisional round and will visit Philadelphia (12-4) next weekend.

The Packers squandered a chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with an embarrassing 42-17 loss to the New York Jets last week.

On Saturday, Green Bay never was in the game as it fell behind 24-0 at halftime and was booed off the field.

“I am very disappointed about the outcome of this football game and how little we did in any phase of the game,” Sherman said. “I expected us to play better than we did today and we didn’t. To say it is disappointing is as big as understatement as I could ever make.”

In the first half, the Packers had a punt blocked that resulted in a touchdown, muffed a punt that led to another TD, missed a field goal and could not convert a 1st-and-goal at the Falcons 1. Favre also threw an interception in the opening quarter.

Favre never was able to get into a rhythm and finished 20-for-42 for 247 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a lost fumble. Afterward, he exited Lambeau Field without addressing the media.

It was the second straight playoff struggle for Favre, who threw six interceptions in last season’s 45-17 divisional round loss at St. Louis.

Playing well at Lambeau Field was nothing new for the Falcons, who won here last season and suffered a 37-34 overtime loss in Week One this season.

Once again demonstrating that they were not intimidated by the surroundings, the Falcons were impressive from the very outset, taking the opening kickoff and moving 76 yards in 10 plays.

Quentin McCord had an 18-yard run on an end around and Vick completed a 17-yard pass to running back Warrick Dunn to move Atlanta into Green Bay territory. Vick also kept the drive alive with a four-yard run on 3rd-and-2 to the 16.

Two plays later, Vick rifled a pass over the middle to Shawn Jefferson for a 10-yard touchdown, giving Atlanta a lead it would not relinquish.

During the season, the Falcons were the only team that never scored a touchdown on its first possession.

“On our first possession, we score a touchdown and that made a statement when we first came out,” Vick said. “I think that let them know we were here to play.”

The mistakes started for the Packers on their initial possession. On 3rd-and-7, Favre badly overthrew wide receiver Terry Glenn and free safety Keion Carpenter came up with the first of his two interceptions at the Green Bay 38.

After the Packers stiffened on defense, their special teams committed a blunder that helped the Falcons extend the lead.

Punting from his own 2, Josh Bidwell fumbled the snap and watched Mark Simoneau come unblocked up the middle. Simoneau blocked the kick and Artie Ulmer recovered in the end zone, giving Atlanta a 14-0 advantage with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

“I didn’t really see it, I’m so focused on the ball,” Bidwell said. “It was about the time that I dropped it that I noticed there were a couple of guys there, and by the time I kicked it, obviously I was pretty aware that there was somebody blocking it.”

Things continued to go bad for the Packers. After they stalled in Falcons territory on their next possession, Ryan Longwell pushed a 47-yard field goal to the right.

But the special teams miscues continued early in the second quarter.

After forcing the Falcons to punt, the Packers quickly gave the ball back. Atlanta’s Kevin McCadam blocked Tyrone Williams into returner Eric Metcalf and the ball hit Williams in the back. George Layne recovered for the Falcons at the Packers 21.

Following a penalty, Vick had nine-yard passes to Dunn and tight end Alge Crumpler. On 3rd-and-1, rookie T.J. Duckett rumbled up the middle for seven yards to the Green Bay 6 before going up the middle again on the next play for a touchdown, giving Atlanta a 21-0 lead with 12:06 left in the first half.

While Dunn provided the speed to the outside, Duckett pounded the middle. Dunn carried 15 times for 64 yards, while Duckett gained 45 yards on 17 attempts, doing a majority of his damage through the interior of the Green Bay line.

Favre finally appeared to get things going on the Packers’ ensuing drive, moving his club to the Falcons 1. But things quickly unraveled again.

On first down, Favre threw incomplete into the end zone looking for tight end Bubba Franks. Running back Ahman Green was stopped for a loss and Favre threw another incompletion on third down.

On 4th-and-goal from the 2, defensive tackle Ellis Johnson burst up the middle and tackled Green for a four-yard loss.

Green carried just 11 times for 34 yards before leaving early in the second half with a bruised left knee. The Packers also were without Glenn (concussion) in the second half, and wide receiver Donald Driver left in the third quarter after aggravating a shoulder injury.

After Johnson’s big defensive play, the Falcons cashed in on the momentum, going 90 yards in 16 plays to extend the lead. Vick had the highlight of the drive, scrambling away from defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila for an 11-yard run on 3rd-and-3 to the Green Bay 28.

Duckett also had 15-yard run to the 13 and Vick a six-yard connection with Brian Finneran to the 1. But with time running out, the Falcons settled for Jay Feely’s 22-yard field goal and a 24-0 advantage at intermission.

Atlanta dominated the half, holding a 210-108 advantage in total yards and amassing 14 first downs to seven for Green Bay.

The Packers had their best success on their first drive of the second half, going 73 yards in 10 plays. Favre capped the march with a 14-yard touchdown toss to Driver, pulling the Packers within 24-7.

But the Falcons anwsered with a 12-play, 73-yard drive that Feely capped with a 23-yard field goal for a 27-7 cushion.

The Falcons’ defense shut things down the rest of the way. On their final six possessions, the Packers had three turnovers and Longwell missed a 44-yard field goal.

“We decided defensively we were going to make our mark today,” Falcons cornerback Gerald McBurrows said. “No matter what happened in the past, we were going to come in here and focus on every play like it was our last. We did that, and we were successful.”

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