So. Very. Close.
After a back-and-forth game that saw the Falcons build a 21-10 halftime lead, they were driving the field late in an attempt to complete a comeback win. Matt Ryan led the team to the Green Bay 33-yard line with Atlanta trailing 22-21, and at the 2-minute warning, the Falcons were facing a 4th-and-6. Normally, this would be an automatic decision by Mike Smith to send Matt Bryant for what could be the game-winning field goal, but on this crazy, snowy day in Green Bay, Bryant had already fell short from 52 yards just a few moments prior to this decision.
Smith elected to go for it, and when Ryan’s pass to future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez fell to the ground after multiple bobbles, it was effectively the end of the game. Gonzalez simply couldn’t bring it in this time, and despite a 3-and-out from the Packers on the ensuing drive, Atlanta wasn’t left with enough time to make a serious dent again.
This was virtually a tale of two different games for Atlanta, as they were absolutely lights-out in the 2nd quarter, and thoroughly mediocre during the rest of the day. Matt Ryan found Drew Davis for a 36-yard touchdown to begin the 2nd quarter binge for the Falcons (tying the game at 7-7), and the aforementioned Gonzalez found the end zone from 2 yards out to give Atlanta a 14-7 lead.
After a Green Bay response, the biggest single swing of the game occurred, as Sean Weatherspoon intercepted Matt Flynn in the closing seconds of the first half. ‘Spoon took the ball back 71 yards for a huge touchdown with 11 seconds remaining, and the Falcons held all of the momentum with a 21-10 lead at the half. From there, though, Green Bay’s slow pursuit of the lead took hold, and once they took it on an Andrew Quarless touchdown early in the 4th, they held on for dear life.
Due to the conditions, this was a less-than-stellar offensive display. Matt Ryan was perfectly solid, throwing for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the Falcons managed less than 300 total yards in defeat. Green Bay wasn’t much better at 334 total yards, but the much-maligned Flynn did manage over 8 yards per attempt against a struggling Falcons secondary.
There were a few points of encouragement, however. The Falcons allowed only 1 sack in the game (a huge improvement), and the high-profile skill players had nice games. Roddy White continued his resurgence with 8 catches (on 10 targets) and 74 yards, while Steven Jackson ran the ball hard, notching 71 yards on just 15 carries.
For the proponents of “tanking”, this was the perfect scenario. The Falcons played respectably well, but lost a close decision, and thus, kept alive their “quest” for a top-flight NFL Draft pick. For the more traditional fans, it was a disappointing margin at the end, but losing to the Packers on the road (even without Aaron Rodgers) isn’t a crime, and the team battled valiantly, even in the crazy weather.