Monday night’s victory over Atlanta wasn’t the thoroughly dominate performance we’re accustom to seeing from the Packers at home, but it counts as a win nonetheless.
Green Bay improved their record to 10-3 this season, fending off a late charge from the Falcons. The Packers led 31-7 at the break, but Atlanta flexed their offensive firepower in front of a national audience, scoring 30 second-half points. The final score was 43-37.
It’s hard to believe Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan picked apart the same defense that allowed just 21 points to New England quarterback Tom Brady just a week ago.
Behind a makeshift offensive line, Ryan carved up Green Bay’s secondary for 375 yards. He had total command over the offense, calling his own shots at the line of scrimmage. The Packers played a lot of zone, and their performance was reminiscent to their late-season struggles in 2009, when they allowed major passing numbers to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Arizona’s Kurt Warner.
The secondary had no answer to receiver Julio Jones, who caught 11 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. His 259 yards is the most single-game receiving yardage allowed by the Packers in team history. Atlanta used motion and bunch sets to get the matchups they wanted. The Packers made very few adjustments, opting to live and die with their zone coverage.
In the end, though, Green Bay prevailed behind the arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons opted to play coverage rather than bring pressure, a tactic not very different from what New England used last week. Unlike against the Patriots, the Packers converted in the red zone.
The defense should be on alert following their lackluster play. However, despite what the final score says, the Packers were never in real danger of losing the game.
Atlanta’s biggest misstep came in the second quarter when they were trailing 17-7. On the second play of the drive, safety Morgan Burnett intercepted Ryan‘s nonchalant pass toward the sideline. Burnett returned the ball 32 yards to the 15-yard line, setting up a touchdown for the Packers who extended their lead to 17 points.
Stud of the Game
Rodgers went 24-of-36 for 327 yards and three touchdowns, yet the star of Monday’s game was on the other sideline. Julio Jones routinely won his one-on-on matchups, catching everything thrown his way. While he was unable to finish the game, he was the primary reason the Falcons were able to make it interesting in the fourth quarter. The debate over the best receiver in the league normally centers on Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and Calvin Johnson. Last night, Jones proved he belonged in that class.
Play of the Game
The offense had a rather methodical night through the first three quarters. Instead of relying on explosive plays, they were content with spurts of 10 to 15-yard gains. That all changed on one play, though. Nursing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, Rodgers found receiver Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard touchdown off play action. Nelson beat his man with a double move, and the safety help was late coming over the top. It was the seventh time this season that Nelson had a touchdown of 60 or more yards. All of them have come in Lambeau.
The numbers may suggest otherwise, but this is the best Green Bay’s offense has played in the Mike McCarthy Era.
In previous years, the offense was dependent on passing. No longer is that the case, as the running game is performing admirably, and the offensive line continues to exceed expectations. The latter is a huge development.
The Packers are finally playing well in the trenches. In fact, this is the best the unit has played during Ted Thompson’s tenure as general manager. They’re moving defenders off the ball in the running game, and keeping Rodgers upright in the pocket. They also don’t commit many penalties.
That could all change on Sunday. The Bills have arguably the nastiest front in the AFC. Two of their defenders, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams, have double-digit sacks. They’re also respectable against the run, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry.
The Packers have a good offensive line. The film confirms this.
They’ll need to be great if they’re to come out of Buffalo with a victory. Please visit Row12.com for more coverage on a wide range of sports.