Late charge falls short as Atlanta Falcons fall to Green Bay Packers, 43-37


The Atlanta Falcons traveled to Green Bay on Monday night to take on the Packers in prime-time.  The weather was cold and snow was falling, but don’t tell that to Aaron Rodgers, who dominated the Atlanta defense from the opening snap. In the end, the Packers (10-3) held off the NFC South leading Falcons, 43-37, despite a late charge from the dirty birds.

Green Bay won the toss and promptly drove the ball 81 yards in seven plays. Atlanta would answer with a 9-play, 72-yard drive of their own to make it 7-7, but that’s as close as the Falcons would get to the lead on this night. Aaron Rodgers abused the Atlanta secondary in the first half throwing for 2 touchdowns and over 150 yards. Atlanta’s defense, who came in near the top in the league in takeaways, failed to make a single stop in the first half, allowing four touchdowns and a field goal in the first 30 minutes.

If the Atlanta Falcons were to have any chance to stay with the Packers, Matt Ryan would have to be perfect, and he wasn’t (in the first half).  Ryan made a few bad throws and one of them fell into the arms of Packer defender Morgan Burnett. That interception put the Packers in great field position which they converted into 7 points.  It was a one-sided match-up in the first half as the Packers pounded Atlanta and took a 31-7 lead into the half.

The second half was a different story for the Falcons, but they couldn’t overcome the poor first half. Like the first half, Atlanta came out hot, as Matt Ryan hooked up with Julio Jones for 79 yards on the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd half to put Atlanta first and goal from the Green Bay 3-yard line. It would take Atlanta all four plays, but Matt Ryan would eventually hook up with Eric Weems for a touchdown to make the score 31-14.

The ensuing Packer drive saw the Atlanta defense do something they couldn’t do in the first half, and that is force Mike McCarthy to call upon his punter. After a poor punt and a timely Green Bay face mask penalty, Atlanta was able to drive into field goal range, where Matt Bryant connected from 50 yards to cut the lead to 31-17. After another Green Bay field goal, the Falcons would get the ball with a chance to make it a 10-point game. Julio Jones (again) ensured that happened with a 22 yard catch for a touchdown, making it 34-24 with a reasonable amount of time remaining.

Aaron Rodgers (24-36, 327 yards) was having none of the comeback, as he found a wide-open Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard bomb, which would end up being the dagger, putting it back to a 16 point lead with 10:30 left in the game. The Falcons would manage to make it a one possession game late, but two failed onside kicks in the final moments allowed the Packers were able to run the clock out and continue their perfect record at Lambeau Field.

Julio Jones was simply masterful on Monday night. He broke both personal and franchise records with 259 yards on 11 catches. He found the end zone once and was dominant for the second straight week. He now leads all NFL wide receivers with 1,428 yards on the year, and Jones has clearly put himself as one of the elite players at the position.

The quarterback match-up was also one of the best you’ll see this season as the two signal-callers combined for almost 700 yards and 7 touchdowns. Matt Ryan was as good as you’ll ever see in the second half, and he single-handedly gave his team a chance at one of the best Monday Night comebacks in history. His 375 yards and four touchdowns was good enough for a 116 QB rating in the game.

Despite the loss, the Atlanta Falcons (5-8) remain atop of the beleaguered NFC South, and Mike Smith‘s team will look to get back on track against a Jekyll-and-Hyde Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 15. It will not be a “must-win” game, as all the Falcons need to do is win the final two division games against the Saints and Panthers in weeks 16 and 17, but it would certainly be helpful to grab a victory at home.