Except for the fact that Aaron Rodgers and his doleful mustache were sitting on the bench, everything seemed to be working against the Falcons.
The Packers were hungry after an ugly divisional loss. It was mighty cold at Lambeau Field. Jadaveon Clowney and his lousy attitude beckoned in sultry fashion. Yet all those advantages wound up being overblown by yours truly, among others.
The Falcons simply hung in. There were turnovers, particularly the huge interception return from Weatherspoon and the fumble caused by William Moore, and there was quality offensive play. This team has done too little, too late, but it shows that they aren't as dead to rights as some had pegged them.
In the end, they didn't get a win out of it.
The draft position question was affected, obviously, and for the better. The Falcons will probably move up a spot or two, and I really do understand if you're wildly firing guns into the air because of it. What I've wanted all year is for this team to play like their talent had not been drained from them and used to power another football team, and that happened for about a half. Small victories count as victories in a year like this.
It's fair to say the the Falcons have found a few quality players that will make the transition into next year a little easier. There's plenty of time to debate whether next year willl be any better, but baby steps are still steps. Three weeks left to go before we can start anticipating something new.
Individual breakdowns below.
- The Falcons were able to buy some pass protection against the Packers, and look what happened: Matt Ryan was sharp. On his first three drives, he went 9/10 for 85 yards and two touchdowns. It went downhill a bit from there, but he wasn't bad. That throw on the last play of the game was a poor result on arguably the right read.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ryan needs weapons, but he needs pass protection more. The Falcons need to keep that in mind going forward.
- Steven Jackson suffered an injury but returned and had another fine day. He averaged well over 4 yards per carry and caught a couple of passes, dropped ball notwithstanding.
- It's entirely possible that Drew Davis is only situationally useful, but look: He has 9 catches, 146 yards and two touchdowns on the year. He deserves to be on the field a little more often, because he's proven he can make plays.
- William Moore had the play of the game. He blew into the backfield on a pass rush, took down Matt Flynn and forced a fumble that Malliciah Goodman picked up. It's been an up-and-down year for Moore, but no one should doubt his ability to make a play.
- The pass rush finally got home. Paul Worrilow and Jonathan Massaquoi each got a sack-and-a-half, Corey Peters destroyed Flynn for another and the pressure came early and often, if not as consistently as we'd like. It was a big step in the right direction, even if it was against a weak offensive line.
- Sean Weatherspoon's interception off Paul Worrilow's foot was amazing, and that's to say nothing of the 71 yard touchdown return. Simply fantastic.
- Zeke Motta didn't look like a world beater after taking over for an injured Thomas DeCoud—he did get burned at least once—but he had a pass deflection and looked like a sound tackler. It's entirely possible that this is DeCoud's last year as a starter in Atlanta, and while a seventh-round rookie wouldn't seem like a great bet to turn into something, it's possible Motta's at least a useful backup going forward.
- I'm not sure why the Falcons are still giving Jeremy Trueblood so many snaps. He's basically a rental, he's been decidedly below average all season long and there's a chance to see what Ryan Schraeder and even Lamar Holmes can offer at right tackle. What's the holdup? And yes, I know they were smart enough to get Schraeder in there for most of the snaps.
- I thought the offensive line played better, but they still had their moments. Lamar Holmes' penalty, Ryan Schraeder's sack and fumble and Trueblood's general play were all ugly at times.
- The Lions held the Packers to 10 points on Thanksgiving. The Falcons allowed 13. 'Nuff said.
- Things just shut down in the second half. The missed field goal stunk, but the decision-making by Mike Smith and the coaching staff was just uninspired. Once again, a team came out of the half ready to do something new, and once again, the Falcons weren't able to adjust. For someone who was hoping for a win, that kinda sucks.
Game MVP: Steady ol' Matt Ryan.
Game Theme Song: Insert your close game theme of choice.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons are getting hot at precisely the wrong time, sure, but they've got enough talent to contend when healthy. That's worth something, with 2014 a crucial year.
Final Word: Threemoreweeks.