Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the Packers’ divisional playoff game against No. 1 seed Atlanta at the Georgia Dome Saturday evening:
Packers OLT Chad Clifton vs. Falcons DRE John Abraham
While Clifton has had a very respectable season, all things considered, there are many league observers who questioned his Pro Bowl selection. As if on cue, the 11th-year veteran has responded to those detractors by elevating his game the past two weeks, coming up with excellent efforts against two of the best ends in the business in the Bears’ Julius Peppers and the Eagles’ Trent Cole. Looking back at his regular season, Clifton displayed a knack for playing up to his competition, for the most part.
But Abraham, a fellow Pro Bowler who finished the regular season fifth in sacks with 13 (in 15 games), gave Clifton a pretty hard time in Atlanta’s 20-17 victory over Green Bay in Week 12, registering a sack, a forced fumble and four tackles. Although it’s hard to find fault with those numbers, Abraham is on record as saying he and his fellow linemen believe they could have done a much better job getting to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who escaped for 51 yards and a TD on 12 carries in Week 12.
At the age of 32, Abraham has lost some of his burst, but he has an excellent assortment of moves that he has refined over the years and is by far Atlanta’s best defensive player. With 17 QB hits, 17 tackles for loss, an interception, a pair of forced fumbles and four pass breakups to go with his 13 sacks, Abraham is guaranteed to keep Clifton on his toes Saturday night. And the reserves who spell Abraham, former first-rounder Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis, who had a 26-yard interception return for a TD in the Week 16 loss to the Saints, are hardly slouches.