After the Falcons got off to a 4-1 start to this season, I really was filled with optimism. I believed Atlanta’s offense was good enough, and the defense young and athletic enough, to avoid a second half collapse. I still believe that, and while the Falcons made this one ugly and terrifying, they pulled off a 33-32 win against the Packers that showed impressive team resilience.
Atlanta’s now 5-3 at the halfway mark of the season, two games up in the NFC South, and in excellent position going forward, particularly if they can dispatch the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. What a game.
Here’s a brief quarter-by-quarter look at what happened in this game.
The Falcons got off to a hot start on their initial drive, only to be backed up by consecutive penalties that cost them field position. They nearly had a first down on a long Jacob Tamme reception, but Tamme got hurt on the catch and the Falcons were stuck on 4th and 1. Devonta Freeman took a carry outside for the easy first down to keep things going. The Falcons fell short, which put Matt Bryant on for the easy 36 yarder, which gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead.
Things went poorly right away on the next drive, with the Packers bulling ahead on a run play for a first down. Then Aaron Rodgers connected on a long pass to Jordy Nelson, which put the Packers in the red zone in just a handful of plays. Nelson scored over the middle on the very next play.
Fortunately, the Falcons answered too. Taylor Gabriel reeled in a beautiful 47 yard ball from Matt Ryan for a touchdown, and Atlanta took back the lead. Matt Bryant’s extra point made him the all-time leading scorer in franchise history.
The Packers got backed up majorly on the next drive before a short pass turned into a first down thanks to a whiff on a tackle attempt by Keanu Neal. The Packers got into the red zone and had a 3rd down that Rodgers was able to turn into a touchdown with a little dark magic.
The Falcons were able to work on the next drive, with another nice catch by Mohamed Sanu keying a drive that brought the Falcons within striking distance before they struck out. Matt Bryant’s kick put the Falcons within one point at 14-13.
When the Packers got the ball back, the Falcons finally did some quality work on defense, forcing a swift three and out with a sack from Vic Beasley. The Falcons followed that up with a penalty-marred sequence of their own, which ended with a huge Packers punt return that got them inside the 20 yard line. They managed to score, again thanks to Falcons mistakes and a penalty, and took a 21-13 lead.
Atlanta got rolling on offense during the next drive. Missing Jacob Tamme and Julio Jones, they found great success spreading the ball around to the likes of Austin Hooper and Taylor Gabriel, with Devonta Freeman running tough on a touchdown plunge. The Falcons then went for two, and failed. That left it at 21-19, Green Bay.
Then the Falcons screwed up majorly, allowing the Packers to move down the field with the help of penalties and kick a field goal to end the half. That left it at 24-19, Packers.
The Packers started the half with the ball, and the Falcons were able to get the stop thanks to better pressure, including a big third down sack from Adrian Clayborn.
WIth the ball back, the Falcons drove down the field very effectively, getting near the goal line before punching it in on the third try with Devonta Freeman. That led to a 26-24 Falcons lead, which is a thing of beauty. It also chewed up a huge amount of the third quarter.
Green Bay’s next drive died out thanks to Adrian Clayborn (again!), who had a huge third down sack of Aaron Rodgers for the second time in the game. The defense really came on early in the second half, to put it mildly.
The Falcons got the ball back and things went poorly. Ryan was sacked on second down and forced to try to escape the pocket on third down, and Atlanta had to punt it away.
Green Bay took the field again and rolled downfield, in large part thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ legs. The Falcons allowed way too many yards to Rodgers on the ground in this one, and the Packers wound up making their slow, steady way downfield. They also won a challenge that would have set up a short fourth down for Green Bay, and it led to a touchdown and two point conversion for Green Bay that put them up 32-26.
The Falcons got the ball back needing to move swiftly and get themselves into scoring range, and they did it against all odds, effectively passing their way downfield and ending the drive with a touchdown strike to Mohamed Sanu, who enjoyed his best week as a Falcon. That put the Falcons up 33-32 after Matt Bryant hit the extra point.
With one final chance and under a minute to go, Green Bay couldn’t get it done, with Aaron Rodgers failing to connect thanks to quality defense and a couple of errant throws. The Falcons won 33-32!