I avoided watching this game for a couple of days, and going through it again was kind of like what I imagine having teeth being pulled. I knew it had to be done, and I was dreading it this morning. But knew it was best to get it over with, and I was hurrying through it hoping it would be over quickly. And now I feel like I’m better for it, but there is still some lingering pain.
This game was lost in the second quarter. Too many mistakes and not enough plays were made there, and the Falcons gave up too much to the Packers, who were too good a team to give it back in the second half.
The Falcons took the 14-7 lead on Weems kickoff return score, and had the defense made a stop on the next drive then this game should have been a lot different. But then when they gave up another touchdown, allowing the Packers to tie the score, the Falcons had opportunity to push the lead further, but blew it with Ryan’s interception in the endzone.
On that drive, the false start by Harvey Dahl really hurt them as a 2nd & 9 became a 2nd & 14. Then the sack given on the next play where Ryan should have hit Douglas in the flat but held onto the ball too long led to the 3rd & 21. Then with the underthrow, and Jenkins slipping in the endzone, you basically had the same 14-point swing costing the Falcons this time, that essentially won them their previous matchup against the Packers. Then when the Falcons got the ball back later in the quarter, Dahl gave up a sack which forced them into the situation on 2nd & 19 with 10 seconds left to try and get back some yards to get a makeable field goal. Had that sack not been given up, the Falcons could have had an easy 43-yard field goal for Bryant to make. But another poor throw by Ryan led to the pick six.
The Falcons had opportunities to get back into the game in the third quarter, but the reversed call on the Jenkins catch pretty much killed any chance they had, leading to a punt instead of a first down. The missed opportunity on the onside kick also hurt them. Their chances of winning at that point were extremely low, but if they had gotten the onside and then scored, the game would have at least been more interesting down 14 points with most of the fourth quarter to play.
Ryan didn’t have a particularly bad game, but the few mistakes he did make were critical. The sack he took on the blitz, and the two interceptions on underthrown balls, and then the botched snap in the third quarter were really the only mistakes he made. But they were huge ones. And had those been less consequential mistakes like poor throws, this could have been a very different game.
The running game was doing well early on, but the poor defensively play by the Falcons and their need to pass the ball practically every down from the second quarter on took Turner out of the game. Tony Gonzalez was a non-factor in this game, and I’m still not sure if it was because Charles Woodson & Co. did such an excellent job or just because Ryan wasn’t looking to him. It seemed like in past games that there would have been opportunities for Gonzo that Ryan would have forced in there. But I have the suspicion that for the most part, Ryan chose not to challenge Woodson out of fear and respect.
The blocking and pass protection were not particularly good. Surprisingly, Sam Baker was the lone Falcon blocker that did not get credited with giving up a sack. Relative to the rest of the unit, he had a good game. Clabo had his struggles early on, and Dahl and McClure had troubles adjusting on some stunts by Clay Matthews. Throw in Dahl’s penalties, and it was a very forgettable game for the front five.
The defense was the true culprit in this game. They just could not get off the field and make the necessary plays to make this game a lot closer. As I said earlier, this game was lost in the second quarter. William Moore had an opportunity to make a sack on Rodgers, but he escaped and hit James Jones on the sideline for a 34-yard gain instead. Three plays later, Babs and Biermann got to Rodgers for a sack on a 3rd & 3, but an illegal contact (called on Grimes, but perpetrated by Owens it seems) wiped that out. The Falcons would have forced the Packers to a field goal, but they were given new life and instead of a 14-10 lead midway through the 2nd quarter, it became a tied game at 14. Then after the two-minute warning, Abraham missed a sack on Rodgers which led to a 6-yard scramble. The Falcons didn’t get a ton of pressure on Rodgers, but the few times they did had they been able to finish those plays, we could have had a very different game. Then at the start of the third quarter with the Falcons needing a stop to get back into the game, Nicholas whiffed on another sack on a 3rd down that extended the Packers drive. And then the next series, Abraham missed a sack on another 3rd down.
The pass rush simply wasn’t there for much of the game. All three corners had their struggles, although to be fair all three had one blown coverage credited to them on three plays where the aforementioned pass rushers missed sacks on Rodgers, allowing him to extend the play and find the open receiver. Owens struggled and had several opportunities to make a play on third down. Robinson didn’t do much either. Grimes was decent, but also was beat his fair share of times by the likes of Jordy Nelson. DeCoud did not play particularly well, and Moore besides a big hit on Starks late in the game wasn’t much of a factor either. Lofton struggled in this game, as did Weatherspoon. Peterson was able to pick up some stuffs late in the game which made his earning total look better than it really was. Babineaux and Peters were able to get some penetration up the middle at points during the game, but not enough to where it could swing the game in the Falcons direction.
Weems gets credit for his play on special teams. Koenen didn’t do much, and his shanked punt following the reversed catch by Jenkins on the sideline didn’t help the defense much, giving the Packers the ball at the 50 instead of deep in their own territory, ultimately leading to a score. Special teams was about the only facet of the game where the Falcons could say they won. By the way, Smitty’s decision to go for the onside at the start of the fourth quarter was a good move.
Advanced Stats from Week 19:
Poor Throws (4): Ryan
Drops (2): Finneran, Turner
Key Blocks (4): Baker, Clabo, Mughelli, Svitek
Sacks Allowed (5): Blalock (2), Dahl (1), Ryan (1), Clabo (0.5), McClure (0.5)
Missed Blocks (1): Clabo
QB Pressures Allowed (0)
Tackles for Loss (8): Peters (2), Peterson (2), Nicholas (1), Owens (1), Biermann (0.5), Babineaux (0.5), Grimes (0.5), Anderson (0.5)
QB Sacks (2): Abraham (1), Babineaux (0.5), Biermann (0.5)
QB Pressures (2): Anderson, Owens
Passes Defended (1): Owens
Blown Coverages (14): Owens (4.5), Robinson (2.5), Grimes (2), Nicholas (1.5), Coleman (1), DeCoud (1), Weatherspoon (1), Lofton (0.5)
Missed Tackles (3): Lofton (2), DeCoud (1)
Key Blocked (6): Babineaux, Davis, Lofton, Owens, Peters, Peterson