Aaron Rodgers' performance in the 48-21 drubbing of the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night was one of the better post season performances by a quarterback in recent history, and although Rodgers richly deserves all the accolades being thrown his way, you could argue the the Packers defense was the biggest factor in the Packers victory.
Tramon Williams, who is in his fourth season after going undrafted out of Louisiana Tech, has become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Williams' acrobatic interception of Matt Ryan in the end zone, helped sway the momentum in the Packers favor, after the Falcons appeared to be driving for what would of been a go ahead score.
And after an 80-yard touchdown drive put the Packers ahead 21-14, Williams again came up big, returning an errant Ryan pass for a touchdown when it again appeared the Falcons would be going in for a late first half score.
Tramon Williams wasn't the only Packer defender to come up big last night, the front runner for defensive player of the year, Clay Matthews, had 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
Matthews' 9-yard sack at the end of the first half put the Falcons at the edge of field goal range, which in turn forced Matt Ryan to make the pass that was intercepted and returned by Tramon Williams for a touchdown as time expired in the first half.
One of things that makes the Packers defense so effective their overall depth and the ability for any player to step up and make plays in a given week. Eric Walden, who was picked up in October after being waved by the Dolphins, had three sacks against the Bears and was named defensive player of the week for Week 17.
Frank Zombo, an undrafted rookie free agent, who Walden has replaced after an injury, had been a solid contributor all season. And Sam Shields, another undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami, has been an incredible find as the Packers nickel corner, a position that was a serious concern going into this season.
The Packers defense is rarely talked about in the same glowing terms as teams like the Ravens, Steelers, Bears or Jets, but there defensive statistics for the year have been every bit as good. The Packers were in the top five in both total yards allowed and passing yards allowed, second in points allowed and had 32 takeaways.
Much of the credit to the Packers' defensive success must go to Dom Capers. Capers, who is in his second year as the defensive coordinator for Green Bay, has transformed the Packers defense into one of the most feared and successful in the league. Capers has done an incredible job of finding ways to overcome injuries on the defensive side of the ball and coming up with defensive game plans that play to the teams strengths.
Capers had a lot of success as a defensive coordinator with both the Steelers and the Jaguars but less success as a head coach with the expansion Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans. Although the details of Capers' current contract are unknown, the Packers would be wise to try to sign him to a long-term extension.
The Packers will have to go on the road next week to face either the Bears or Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, and although Aaron Rodgers and the offense will get most of the attention from the media, it will most likely be the Packers defense that helps get them to the Super Bowl.