Falcons start fast but fall to Packers, 25-14
The Falcons' game plan worked - at least for their first two possessions that lasted almost 13 minutes and produced two touchdowns.
The Falcons were keeping Aaron Rodgers on the Green Bay sideline and minimizing the scoring opportunities for the powerful Packers.
Then, said tight end Tony Gonzalez, ''It fell apart.''
Rodgers recovered from his slow start to throw for 396 yards and a pair of touchdowns to rally the Packers from the early 14-point hole, keeping Green Bay unbeaten with a 25-14 victory over Atlanta Sunday night.
As Rodgers regained his momentum, the Falcons' offense disappeared. Atlanta managed only 106 total yards after the touchdown drives.
Even after managing only 19 yards in the second quarter, Atlanta led 14-6 at halftime.
''You've got to like the way you're sitting at halftime,'' said Falcons coach Mike Smith. ''I thought defensively the game plan was executed extremely well. You wanted to limit their opportunities and I thought we did that.''
Atlanta's offense never regained its footing, even after its defense stopped the Packers on three downs to open the second half.
''From that point on, I don't think we played the kind of football we needed to play to win the ballgame,'' Smith said.
The high-scoring Packers (5-0) were held without a touchdown in the first half by Atlanta (2-3), which was trying to make up for an embarrassing 48-21 home loss to Green Bay in the playoffs last January.
Matt Ryan threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White in the first quarter. Michael Turner capped another long drive with a 1-yard scoring run in the second.
The Falcons held the ball so long, Green Bay had only one possession in the first quarter.
Green Bay settled for three field goals by Mason Crosby, closing to 14-9 before Rodgers got rolling. He connected with James Jones on a 70-yard touchdown that gave Green Bay its first lead late in the third. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a 29-yard scoring play that stretched the lead to 22-14.
Crosby clinched it for the Packers with his fourth field goal, a 30-yarder with 1:10 remaining after Rodgers guided the Packers on another long drive, hitting every pass he needed until Green Bay was safely in range to wrap it up.
''We just stayed patient,'' Rodgers said. ''It's just one of those games. The rhythm wasn't there all the time, but we just stayed with it.''
The Falcons again were forced to look at the Packers as a team playing at a level they wish to reach.
''I definitely think we can get to their level,'' said Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson. ''Those guys are still riding high. They finished strong last year and started strong this year. So my hat is off to them. For us, we've got to get to that point. We've got to think about how they closed the game on us and that's the way we've got to close the game.''
Atlanta didn't crack 200 total yards until late in the game. Ryan passed for only 167 yards with two interceptions.
The highlight for Atlanta was its defense. The Falcons had four sacks and hit Rodgers eight more times.
Rodgers completed 26 of 39 passes, including completions to 12 receivers. Jones had five catches for 140 yards.
''It was a tough game,'' Rodgers said. ''I took a lot of shots, had to move around a little bit.''
As if tired of hearing all week how dominant Green Bay was on offense, the Falcons showed off their own arsenal of weapons and plenty of imaginative play-calling the first two times they had the ball.
Taking the opening kickoff, Atlanta went 80 yards in 13 plays to grab a 7-0 lead on Ryan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White. What was more impressive was the way the Falcons drove the field.
Ryan completed four throws to three receivers, and hooked up with Jacquizz Rodgers on a lateral pass that went for 11 yards. Julio Jones ran for 17 yards on a reverse. Michael Turner carried it four times for 21 yards.
The Packers were driving for the matching score when Ryan Grant took a shot from Brent Grimes, knocking the ball loose. Vance Walker fell on the fumble at the Atlanta 40, giving it back to Ryan and the Falcons offense.
Ten more plays, and it was 14-0. Ryan completed four straight passes for 45 yards. Turner finished it off by powering over from the 1.
Key penalties helped prevent the Falcons from maintaining their momentum.
The Falcons were in field-goal range before an illegal use of hands penalty on Tyson Clabo knocked them back, forcing a punt. Rodgers threw the ball on six straight plays before Crosby trotted on again, this time to boom through a 56-yarder that matched the longest field goal in franchise history.
The Packers seized momentum with one big play, Rodgers' 70-yard scoring pass to Jones, who beat Thomas DeCoud.
The Packers' stretched the lead on Jennings' touchdown catch to open the fourth quarter.
The Packers have now won 11 straight dating to last season, including their march to the Super Bowl title. The Falcons have already lost as many regular-season games as they did all of last year.
''There's still a lot of football left to be played,'' Smith said. ''We've just got to get better.''
Notes: The Falcons lost two members of their secondary in the first half. Safety William Moore went out with a shoulder injury, while nickel back Christopher Owens was sidelined by a head injury. ... Charlie Peprah and Jarrett Bush had interceptions for the Packers. ... Jones went out early in fourth with a hamstring injury after running a deep route down the sideline. ... Atlanta RB Michael Turner was held to 56 on 16 carries.