The Altanta Falcons came into this game with questions of legacy and success swirling around them. They left it as the NFC champion, and one of the greatest (if not the greatest) Falcons team I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
They won this one handily. They won this one going away. Every concern I had about Aron Rodgers taking over this game or the Green Bay defense coming up with a key turnover melted away by the second quarter, and the fourth quarter brought official confirmation that this is not your father’s or your grandfather’s Falcons team. They are the real deal, and they are headed to the Super Bowl for just the second time in team history. It’s wonderful, astonishing, and everything I hoped this season would but never dared dream it would be.
Here’s a brief look at the action, quarter-by-quarter. Congratulations to every Falcons fan, who has endured a lot to get to this point, and to the Falcons, who worked their asses off to earn one of the sweetest victories they’ll ever enjoy. One more to go.
The Falcons elected to start the game with the football. Their first drive was an 80 yard thing of beauty that reached third down on three separate occasions but kept rolling, and ended with a third down flip touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu. 7-0, good guys.
The Packers got rolling immediately, too, with two big catches by Jordy Nelson, who frankly should probably not be playing football at all with his injuries. They got close to the red zone and then got stopped by a relentless pass rush, with Mason Crosby missing a 41 yard field goal to snap a streak of 23 consecutive field goal conversions. That still left it at 7-0, Falcons.
The following drive looked amazing, with Mohamed Sanu doing fantastic work. It stalled out in the red zone, though, with a false start by Andy Levitre backing things up and keeping the Falcons from scoring. Matt Bryant hit the field goal to make it 10-0, which was still a mighty fine lead.
The Packers got all the way into the red zone on their next drive, but then Aaron Ripkowski fumbled it away and gave the Falcons back the ball.
They made the most of it. The drive was marked with a couple of huge Julio Jones reception and a great Matt Ryan touchdown scramble against a zone look, which put the Falcons up 17-0.
The Packers stalled out on the next drive, winding up having to punt and give the ball back to Atlanta.
With a chance to put things away, the Falcons made an uncharacteristic mistake. They attempted a play to Taylor Gabriel that resulted in a fumble, fell short, and were forced to punt. It was still 17-0, but Green Bay legitimately had a chance to climb back in it at this point.
Their next drive did not go swimmingly, with the Packers forced to heave it on third down and Rodgers throwing an interception that gave the Falcons another chance to score.
The Falcons (surprise!) took advantage of that, driving down the field with smart usage of timeouts. A Julio Jones touchdown grab sealed it up, leading to a 24-0 Falcons lead that endured into halftime.
The Packers took all of 11 seconds to punt, thanks to two drops from Jared Cook.
The Falcons, of course, SCORED. Julio took it 73 yards to the house and the Falcons got themselves out to a ridiculous 31-0 lead, at which point it seemed like things must be over.
Of course, the Green Bay Packers finally managed a score on the next drive to make it 31-7, which meant it wasn’t quite over yet.
In years past, maybe it would have been a game in question. In this year, with this team, it was not. Atlanta was moving insanely fast on the next drive, with Julio and Devonta Freeman ensuring they moved crisply. They stalled out late in the red zone...or so it seemed, until Devonta Freeman’s goal line catch was called a touchdown on review, and the Falcons went up 37-7. At this point, I declared the game over.
The Packers tried to stay in it on the next drive...and succeeded, getting eight points on a short Jordy Nelson touchdown grab after a long drive. 37-15.
Atlanta could have just let off the gas, let Green Bay wander their way back into respectability, and called it a day. They did not do that, with the team marching back down and punching it in on an outside Tevin Coleman run. 44-15 at that point.
Rodgers tried to keep things going, and at times on the subsequent drive, it seemed like he would need to do everything himself. He and his decimated supporting cast managed to get the score to make it 44-21 with under 7 minutes to go, and at this point, it really seemed done.
The Falcons wanted to salt it away on the next drive, and they managed to erase more than three minutes off the clock and get Matt Bryant in position for a long field goal try before deciding against it and punting.
The Packers conceded the point on the drive, throwing backup Brett Hundley into the game on the final drive. 44-21 would be the final. Atlanta would win. History was made!