PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Rodgers simply threw his hands in the air and pumped his fist. No, he doesn’t celebrate like Brett Favre.
Rodgers doesn’t have to worry about the ghost of Favre anymore. He’s made his own name with the Green Bay Packers, even more so with his first playoff victory.
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, seldom-used rookie James Starks ran for 123 yards, and the Packers beat Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in an NFC wild card game Sunday.
“I never felt like there was a monkey on my back,” Rodgers said. “I’m just so proud of these guys.”
Rodgers had to watch from the sideline while Vick nearly led the Eagles back. But Tramon Williams intercepted Vick’s pass for Riley Cooper in the end zone with 33 seconds left to seal the win.
Favre may have run on the field and carried Williams off on his shoulder after that play. Rodgers is a little more subdued than No. 4. He grabbed his helmet and went out to kneel down for the final play.
“We fought hard today,” Rodgers said. “Big interception by Tramon who’s had a great season for us.”
The sixth-seeded Packers (11-6) are heading to Atlanta (13-3) for a divisional playoff game next Saturday.
Rodgers patiently waited three years to become Green Bay’s starter and took over after Favre’s messy departure before the 2008 season. He long ago made Packers fans forget about Favre, and now has punctuated his impressive resume with his first playoff win in two tries.
“Defense played great. They’ve been carrying us a lot this season,” Rodgers said. “We had three touchdowns tonight, it was enough to win.”
It wasn’t Rodgers’ fault Green Bay lost 51-45 in overtime to Arizona last January. These aren’t the same Packers. This patchwork squad has 10 different starters, and a much stronger defense.
Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Co. contained Vick for the most part. Vick threw for 292 yards and ran for 33 in his first playoff start since losing the 2005 NFC championship game on the same field as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
“I feel like I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone,” Vick said about his last pass. “I didn’t throw the ball I wanted and got picked. It’s not the way I wanted to go out, but I went down swinging. I have to learn from it.”