Packers clip the Falcons
The Falcons started strong, but were unable to sustain their momentum with a 25-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons offense was shut out in the second half, and now the team’s record drops to 2-3.
Matt Ryan completed 18 of 32 passes for 167 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Both picks came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons trying to mount a comeback. Michael Turner led the ground attack with 16 carries for 56 yards and a score. Julio Jones added 17 yards on a single carry, as well as Jacquizz Rodgers adding a 11 yards on his lone carry of the night. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White tied for the team lead with 6 catches for 60 and 50 yards, respectively. White had a touchdown as well. Jones only caught 1 pass for 16 yards. He would leave the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 37.8 yards with 1 kick inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems had a lone punt return for 3 yards and a kickoff return for 28 yards.
Defensively, the Falcons held the NFL’s top scoring offense to its lowest outing of the season. The Packers entered this game averaging 37 points per game, but were held to 25 points, including only 6 first half points. However their defensive success relented in the second half, allowing 268 total yards in the latter half of the game. The Falcons held the Packers without a touchdown in the 3 redzone attempts, but could not capitalize. Sean Weatherspoon led the team with 11 stops on defense, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage and also had a sack. Thomas DeCoud (8 tackles); Ray Edwards (3 tackles, 1 sack); Brent Grimes (7 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble); Curtis Lofton (10 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss); James Sanders (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Lawrence Sidbury (1 tackle, 1 sack) had noteworthy performances.
The Falcons began the game with a long, methodical scoring drive. Ryan hit a wide open White in the endzone on a 13-play, 80-yard drive to start the game. Michael Turner rushed for 21 yards on his first 4 carries, and Jones and Rodgers each had their successful runs for a combined 28 yards. Ryan connected with Tony Gonzalez twice and Harry Douglas once to convert third downs to extend the drive for 6 minutes and 45 seconds to get the Falcons on the scoreboard first. The Packers were moving the ball on their drive, but Brent Grimes forced a fumble on Ryan Grant which Vance Walker recovered to give the Falcons the ball back at their own 40-yard line with 3:31 left in the first quarter. The Falcons bled another six minutes off the clock before Michael Turner burst up the middle for a one-yard score with 12:29 to go in the second quarter. The Packers responded by moving the ball on their own time-consuming drive. But a pair of sacks by Sean Weatherspoon and Lawrence Sidbury in the redzone forced the Packers to settle for a field goal from Mason Crosby to get their first points of the night. On the next drive, Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a 47-yard gain on third down, but the play was called by due to a hold on Tyson Clabo. The Falcons failed to convert the 3rd & 20 and Matt Bosher’s short 35-yard punt gave the Packers prime real estate to start their next drive inside Falcon territory at the 44-yard line. The Packers once again pressed near the goalline, but Jermichael Finley dropped what would have been a 17-yard touchdown catch in the endzone, and once more the Packers were forced to settle for 3 points, cutting the Falcons lead to 14-6 at halftime with a 35-yard field goal from Mason Crosby.
The Falcons defense got off to a good start in the second half, forcing a three-and-out on the Packers opening drive of the third quarter thanks in large part to a first down sack on Rodgers by Corey Peters. The Falcons tried to move the ball on the ground with a 7-play drive that had 4 rushes for 12 yards, but ultimately were forced to punt again. A 30-yard pass to James Jones on the ensuing Packers drive allowed them to venture in Falcons territory, but once more the defense held and Mason Crosby booted a 56-yard field goal that split the uprights. The Falcons failed to capitalize with a three-and-out, and on the first play of the Packers next offensive series, Rodgers hit Jones for a 70-yard scoring strike to take their first lead of the game. A botched two-point conversion attempt kept the score now at 15-14 with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Falcons had another three-and-out, and the Packers quickly capitalized with a 7-play, 68-yard scoring drive to start the fourth quarter with a 29-yard scoring strike from Rodgers to Greg Jennings. The Falcons offense failed to respond with another three-and-out, as a 21-yard catch by Harry Douglas on third down was overturned and ruled in an incompletion due to the ball coming lose as he hit the ground out of bounds. And the Falcons had to punt. Bosher had his first big kick of the night, connecting on a 45-yard punt, and the Falcons defense held. The Falcons got the ball back with 11 minutes remaining in the game at their own 16. A 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag on Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk helped them out on first down. Ryan connected on his next 3 passes, including a 23-yarder to Gonzalez to put the Falcons in Packer territory. But two plays later Ryan was dropped for a 11-yard loss on a Desmond Bishop sack forcing a 2nd & 21 from the Packers 40. Ryan threw deep to Gonzalez on the next play, which was slightly overthrown and tipped into Charlie Peprah’s hand. With 7:32 left on the game clock, the Packers began to chew clock down, as the Falcons defense could not get off the field on two third down tries, and used up their final timeout before the two-minute warning. With 1:14 left on the game clock, the Packers put the game out of reach with another 30-yard field goal from Crosby. With 1:10 left in the game, the Falcons got the ball back hoping for a miracle. Ryan was successful in moving the ball to midfield before a deep throw to Roddy White was intercepted off a ricochet. Aaron Rodgers ended the game on the next play with a kneel down.
The Falcons hope to rebound this week with another home outing against divisional foe, the Carolina Panthers (1-4). The Falcons swept the Panthers last year, and have won their last three home games against them as well. This will be their first test against new head coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers have lost 10 straight road games, including twice this year. They have in fact only won 1 of their last 14 road contests. The Falcons have lost 3 out of their last 4 home games going back to last season and including the playoffs. Now Matt Ryan’s home starting record now is 20-3 in the regular season. The only time they have lost two straight home games came in 2009 in the two games that Chris Redman started.