The Packers defense appeared to be in for a long night. Matt Ryan and the Falcons marched down the field and into the endzone on their first two possessions.
Atlanta covered 145 yards in 23 plays and had a 14-0 lead. They had kept the Packers offense off the field, eating up 12:50 of game clock. It appeared Atlanta had figured something out.
"They had a good plan," Aaron Rodgers said. "They shut us down pretty good, they held on to the football, and it was clear they wanted to limit the possessions in the game and let their offense run the clock down."
But that plan fizzled out. After two straight scores, they had six possessions which resulted in five punts and an interceptions. During that span the Falcons offense went 1-for-7 on third downs and totaled just 106 yards. The Falcons tremendous receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones were kept in check, combining for seven catches and 66 yards in the game.
The Packers recovered nicely even after, left tackle Chad Clifton left the game with a hamstring injury with 9:45 left in the second quarter. Rookie Derek Sherrod (who some believed the Pack were disappointed in, unofficially) came in to the game and played right tackle while Marshall Newhouse (filling in for Bryan Bulaga) moved to left tackle. There is no word yet on the severity of Clifton's injury.
"I can’t say enough about Marshall and Derrick and the way they stepped up to the plate against a very well coached football team," Mike McCarthy said after the game.
"It’s something we are going to watch on the way back and see how proud we are of these two players. We still played with open edges throughout the second half. That is a real credit to Aaron Rodgers to trust those guys and make it happen.”
The Packers pass protection could be better, but credit has to be given to a strong Atlanta front who sacked Rodgers four times.
The Packers ran for a total of 57 yards on 20 carries. But as you would expect, Rodgers made up for it on the air. He sold the play action well despite the lack of the run game. The Packers executed tremendously well on third-down going 9-for-15 in the game and 4-for-7 in the second half.
Rodgers finished with 396 yards on 26 of 39 completions and two touchdowns. He completed passes to 12 different receivers, tying a franchise record.
"There was no panic," said McCarthy. "We just knew that in the last couple of games we’ve played, they’ve started fast. They’ve got the momentum, they get the crowd involved, and we just withstood that wave of attack from them. Once we do, we settle into the game and start making some plays."
McCarthy said after the game he's "not too concerned" about the lack of the run game, explaining, "a lot of this has to do with the defense. We did a lot of things at the line of scrimmage."
Tight end Jermichael Finley who exploded for three touchdowns in Week 3 against Chicago, had a rough game for his standards, dropping two passes at critical junctures of the game, one at the goal line which was right on his numbers at the end of the first half.
James Jones caught five passes for 140 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown in the third-quarter to give the Packers the lead. Jones was targeted seven times by Rodgers, just a few weeks removed from expressing his displeasure about not being a part of the game plan. Prior to Sunday night Jones had been targeted 13 times with nine receptions. He is now Green Bay's fourth most targeted receiver.
Jones had the team spirit after the game,"I'm Just glad that I was able to make some plays and help the team win," he said.
"That’s what it comes down too. If you make plays and the team doesn’t win it doesn’t mean anything. I was just glad to be out there and make some plays for my teammates."
Mason Crosby was clutch, nailing a 56-yarder to put the Pack within a touchdown in the third quarter. The kick ties his own franchise franchise record for longest field goal.
The Packers have won 11 straight games, and are now the first defending Super Bowl champion since the 2007 Colts to win their first five games, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Packers are 5-0 for the seventh time in team history. Up next a home game next Sunday at 12 CT against the winless St. Louis Rams.
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