Senior writer jclombardi reviews Packers loss to Falcons.
Packers lose chance to join NFL elite: The grim reality for the Packers was that another close defeat had just cost them a chance to prove they were among the elite teams in the league. “We’re not into moral victories,” wide receiver Greg Jennings said after the Packers’ 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in what felt like a playoff. “It’s either we win or we lose, and that’s what really matters.” Matt Bryant’s 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining in the game helped Atlanta (9-2) extend its winning streak to five games and kept the Falcons atop the NFC standings. The loss was the fourth by three points this season for the Packers (7-4). The Packers are now 2-12 in games decided by four points or less since QB Rodgers took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2008, though this defeat could hardly be blamed on him (alone).
Streak Snapped on Late Field Goal (Deja Vu): QB Rodgers led the Packers to a game-tying touchdown drive in the final minutes but a long return and 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff set up Matt Bryant’s 47-yard field goal that won the game, 20-17. Green Bay Packers now face an uphill climb to reach the playoffs in a jumbled conference. The Falcons beat the Packers 20-17 in a hotly contested battle. The Packers saw their four-game winning streak snapped and are 7-4.
Packers stumble on their Achilles’ heel–failures in running game prove fatal–(photo) Packer QB Rogers fumbles the ball on a critical play inside the Falcons’ 1-yard line in the second quarter and Falcons recovered the ball in the end zone. The Packers’ rushing game was an abject failure Sunday. The inability to gain 1 yard on two occasions at or near the Falcons’ goal line cost the Packers 11 points in 20-17 loss. The Packers’ ineptitude on the ground caused coach Mike McCarthy to all but abandon the run in the second half. It also raised legitimate questions about whether Green Bay is capable of making a deep playoff run if the offense continues to be one-dimensional. Subtract QB Rodgers’ 51 yards on called keepers and scrambles and Green Bay totaled 26 rushing yards. It was in short-yardage situations in the red zone where the inability to convert was most glaring. On the Packers’ second possession, they faced a third-and-1 on the Falcons’ 4-yard line, trailing, 3-0. Dimitri Nance, who gained 37 hard-fought yards against Minnesota the week before, took the handoff and was met almost immediately by Falcons linebacker Coy Wire for no gain. McCarthy took the blame for the call on Nance’s run. “That’s a bad play selection on my part, the first third-and-1 down there when we kicked the field goal,” he said. “They substituted their goal-line defense late.” Midway through the second quarter, with the score still 3-3, the Packers started at their own 15 and drove 83 yards on eight consecutive pass plays. But they couldn’t get the final 2 yards on the ground in two tries. On first and goal, Rodgers’ pass bounced off the hands of fullback Quinn Johnson and fell incomplete. Rodgers then kept for 1 yard, making it third and goal at the 1. With Johnson and Jackson lined up behind him, Rodgers kept again and was hit at the goal line. He tried to reach for the end zone, and linebacker Curtis Lofton knocked the ball out of his hands and into the arms of teammate Mike Peterson.
Packers special teams suffer regression–coverage unit botches kickoff coverage in final minute: It was all there for the taking for the Packers. And then it was all gone. Cover a kickoff. Force overtime. Then maybe Crosby applies the finishing touches to a momentous, memorable comeback. Fifty-six seconds remained Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Packers and Atlanta Falcons were tied, 17-17. The Green Bay sideline was alive with energy because the offense had just driven 90 yards in 16 plays, overcoming two false-start penalties along the way, to score the equalizer on fourth and long. Crosby’s kickoff had excellent distance and desired hang time. KR Weems fielded the ball and crashed forward to the 36, a return of 40 yards, before linebacker Wilhelm brought him down by the face mask. As the Packers watched officials march off the 15 yards to their 49, they undoubtedly had a sick feeling. DC Capers rushed at least five on the Falcons’ ensuing five passes, but it made no difference. Matt Ryan completed four for 20 yards, positioning Matt Bryant for a 47-yard field goal and sending Green Bay to a crushing defeat.
Mistakes prove costly: KR Weems came out of the end zone and returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards – and drew a 15-yard facemask penalty on Matt Wilhelm – to set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning 47-yard field goal in the Falcons’ 20-17 victory over the Packers at the Georgia Dome. Wilhelm admitted that his penalty was a mistake, but at the same time, it likely saved a touchdown. Weems had nothing but green FieldTurf in front of him had Wilhelm not stopped him. Wilhelm’s penalty wasn’t the only one, though. After committing only eight penalties combined during their four-game winning streak, the Packers were flagged eight times Sunday for 66 yards. The one defensive penalty, a holding call on CB Woodson in the first quarter, helped the Falcons to a field goal on their opening drive. The offense overcame its two penalties, false starts on left guard Daryn Colledge and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, on its game-tying touchdown drive. The other five penalties were on special teams, including a personal foul on an extra point try on defensive end Cullen Jenkins and a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty on kick returner Sam Shields for what seemed to be a legal stiffarm.