Packers preparing for 'motivated' Falcons

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers runs for a score during the Packers' playoff victory over Atlanta. The Falcons have not forgotten the disappointing end to their season in January.

ATLANTA — The Falcons insist it’s over and done with.


That embarrassing playoff loss to the Packers? A thing of the past. No need to even bring it up.

Aaron Rodgers knows better.

The Green Bay quarterback remembers how it felt ending the 2009 season with a postseason loss.

“They’ve got to be motivated. I would be,” Rodgers said. “I know when we lost to Arizona in the playoffs, that was a big motivator for us coming back the next season to have a good season and make the next step of moving on in the playoffs. I’m sure they’re motivated.”

Tonight, the Falcons (2-2) have a shot at some measure of redemption when they play host to the Super Bowl champion Packers (4-0) at the Georgia Dome, the same place where Atlanta’s season ended with such a thud.

Flash back to January. The Falcons were riding high, having won 13 games and a division championship during the regular season. As the top-seeded team in the NFC, they earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the conference playoffs.

The postseason lasted one game.

Green Bay, a team the Falcons had beaten during the regular season, got hot at the right time. Rodgers carved up the Atlanta secondary with one of the best performances of his career.

He threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. He completed all but five of his 36 passes, finishing with 366 yards through the air. He led the Packers to the highest-scoring playoff game in their storied history. They didn’t even need their punter.

The final: Packers 48, Falcons 21.

“That was a pretty clean game,” Rodgers said nonchalantly.

“We had no mental mistakes. We got the ball to the people we wanted to get it to. We moved the ball pretty effectively. When you combine not turning it over with throwing it where you want, you’re going to have pretty good results.”

Green Bay kept on winning right through the Super Bowl. The Falcons spent a long, restless offseason wondering how it all went wrong.

“It’s one of those things you need to learn from, especially when your last game kind of ends that way,” Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We certainly didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked to, but we ran into a team that was playing really well. It takes a little while to get over, but you have to move past it.”

Even though the Falcons are again the home team, the tables have turned since that last matchup.

Green Bay is the favorite this time, having won 10 in a row since its last loss on Dec. 19 at New England.

Atlanta has yet to hit its stride. There was a blowout loss at Chicago. There was another setback against division rival Tampa Bay. Even last week, when the Falcons got back to .500, they nearly blew a big lead on lowly Seattle before surviving 30-28.

The Falcons are trying to get the focus off the way last season ended.

A victory would be a big step in that direction.

“Last year was last year. It’s over,” Gonzalez said. “But you remember it. I’d be lying if I sat here told you I didn’t remember it. It was embarrassing. At the same time, they’re a new team, we’re a new team.”