Packers (43) Hold Off Falcons (37) on Monday Night Football
GREEN BAY, WI – 12/9/2014 – It was a cold & wet night at Lambeau Field as the Packers played host to a struggling Falcons team. Coming in at 5-7, the NFC South leading Falcons had upset on their mind. Or at least they did in the second half. It was too little too late though, as the Packers used a big second quarter to build up a comfortable 31-7 lead and coasted (dangerously) to the end.
The Packers received the ball first and marched right down the field on the legs of running backs Eddie Lacy & James Starks, the latter would finish the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, giving the Packers an early 7-0 lead. The Falcons would respond with a nine-play, 72-yard drive of their own that ended with Steven Jackson rushing in untouched from four-yards out.
In the second quarter, it was all Green Bay. They scored on every possession in the first half, including a grinding 13-play, seven minute, 80-yard drive that came after the Falcons’ first touchdown. Eddie Lacy finished it off from one yard out. After forcing a punt, the Packers had another six-minute drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal from Mason Crosby, putting the Packers up by 10. A Morgan Burnett interception on the Falcons’ next possession led to another Eddie Lacy touchdown, this one was also from one-yard out, but was a pass as opposed to a run. After forcing another Atlanta punt, the Packers marched down the field and scored on an Aaron Rodgers strike to Jordy Nelson from 10-yards out with 0:24 left in the half, giving the Packers a comfortable 31-7 lead.
As Rodgers said in the post-game, there may have been a “slight relaxation” by the team following halftime, as the Falcons were able to make it interesting. They scored a quick 10 points to start off the third quarter, once on a Eric Weems five-yard TD catch from Matt Ryan and again on a 50-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. The Packers would respond with a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to put the lead back up to 17.
The fourth quarter featured a few big plays, as Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones broke out and scored a 22-yard touchdown on his career night. Not to be outdone, Jordy Nelson went deep and Aaron Rodgers found him as he has all year on a 60-yard touchdown. Down 16, the Falcons went to the hurry-up offense, and was able to pull within 10 on a Roddy White one-yard touchdown catch. The Packers would put themselves back up 13 when Mason Crosby drilled a 53-yard field goal with 4:33 left. The Falcons refused to die, however, and Matt Ryan was able to find receiver Harry Douglas from two-yard out to pull within six! The Packers then turned to James Starks to run the game out as Eddie Lacy had done the week before. Starks was just as successful as the Packers finished out on top 43-37 and with a 10-3 record.
Aaron Rodgers continued his MVP season by tossing three touchdowns and throwing for 327 yards while completing 66% of his passes. A very balanced rushing attack gave the Packers a chance to rest Eddie Lacy a bit, as he and James Starks shared the load. Lacy ran the ball 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, while his fellow back carried it ten times for 75 yards and his lone touchdown. Jordy Nelson had himself a day, hauling in eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Other than that, no Packers receiver had much else. Randall Cobb caught four passes for 58 yards and tight end Andrew Quarless brought down three receptions for 52. Morgan Burnett was the Packers best defender on the night, as he recorded eight tackles and the lone interception in the game. Clay Matthews was the only Packer to get to Matt Ryan during the night for a sack.
For the Falcons, Matt Ryan actually threw for more yards (375) and touchdowns (4), but had a costly turnover that gave the Packers a big lead. Steven Jackson was held in check for most of the night, only gaining 50 yards on his 16 carries. As mentioned above, Julio Jones had a career night: 11 receptions, 259 yards, and a touchdown. The young receiver was a sight to behold at Lambeau Field. No other Falcons player caught more than three passes.
The Packers will play against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday at 1pm. It’s a road game, so be sure to tune in for all of your pregame coverage starting at 11am on 98.3 WRUP!
-Carl Leander Johnson