By Don Stone - Football Atlanta
Coming into this game, a lot of discussion had been about the many banged up
Packers players and who might miss the game. Well, at game time, they all
were listed as active.
But, as the game wore on, a list of Green Bay players leaving the game
with injuries ballooned. In the first half, safety Micah Hyde left
with a shoulder injury and left guard Lane Taylor was had to leave
with a knee injury. Reserve safety Kentrell Brice suffered a shoulder
injury making a tackle on the opening kickoff. In the third quarter, right
guard T.J. Lang left with a foot injury and linebacker Jake Ryan
went out because of a shoulder injury. Except for a moment when center Alex
Mack was slow in getting up, all of the Falcons stayed in the game.
But, injuries were the least of the Packers' problems. Trying to stop the
high flying Falcons attack proved futile as they found themselves quickly
behind 10-0 before they could blink. It started when they won the toss and
made the mistake of letting Atlanta start the game off.
The Falcons got the ball first at the 20 yard line at began with a four
yard rush by Devonta Freeman. Matt Ryan hit Austin Hooper
for 8 to the 32. After a drop by Taylor Gabriel and short catch
by Julio Jones third and six, another catch by Jones gave them a
first down at the 42. Tevin Coleman got another first on a 10 yard
carry to the GB48.
On a third and 11, Ryan hit Mohamed Sunu to convert at the 36.
Patrick Demarco picked up 31 as the fullback made it all the way to the
five for a first and goal. The next two plays only made it to the two but
Sunu got open in the end zone to give Atlanta an early 7-0 lead. The
impressive drive took 13 plays going 80 yards in 6:36, converting all three
third downs along the way.
Green Bay's first drive included a couple of nice catches by Jordy
Nelson for 27 and 15. Nelson, wrapped in a military flak jacket to
shield his cracked ribs was mostly shut down after that but still surprised
many by staying in the whole game with 9 receptions for 67 yards and one
touchdown. Deion Jones forced Aaron Rodgers to throw it away
and the drive ended with Mason Crosby missing a 41 yard field goal
Atlanta responded with a Matt Bryant field goal from 28.
The Packers moved the ball and appeared to be on their way to pulling to
within three with a huge momentum changer happened as they were getting
ready to score. Jalen Collins forced the ball loose from Aaron
Ripkowski at the goal line and recovered it for a touchback.
Falcons ball at the 20.
Jones brought down a 17 yard catch at the 37 then followed with a 20
yarder to the GB43. Sunu got another first down with a six yard catch at the
33. On a third and 10, Jones picked up 19 to the 14. Then Ryan showed how
much he wanted the win by scampering the whole 14 untouched for an imposing
17-0 lead. I thought back the NFC Championship Game from four years
ago when they also had a 17 point lead only to see the 49ers come back and
win 28-24. But this is a different Falcons team. Tougher, younger and more
Atlanta kept their foot on the gas this time as Ryan hit Freeman for 8
and 11 to the 49. Gabriel picked up 16 on a third and 10 to the GB49.
Freeman took a short pass up the middle for 19 yards to the GB14. Ryan
scrambled for 9 more to the 5. Jones got the rest to put Atlanta up 24-0.
An astounding halftime score of 24-0 had most in stunned disbelief, not
that Atlanta could put up those points but that Green Bay had been shut out.
The Falcons had racked up 20 first downs in the first half as they rolled
over the hottest team in the NFL coming in on an eight game winning streak
with Rodgers tossing 24 TD passes against just one interception.
Coming out of the gate in the second half, the Packers got the ball like
they wanted but were quickly snuffed out with a quick three and out.
Atlanta picked up where they left off by moving right down the field as
Jones broke tackles including an impressive stiff arm taking it 73 yards for
still another score to make it 31-0.
The Packers finally got on the board with a Davante Adams catch to
make it 31-7.
Up by 24, the Falcons were far from done and continued to pour it on as a
pass to Devonta Freeman got the points back building their lead to
37-7. Nelson got his TD to get another score on the board for Green Bay. A
couple of desperation on sides kicks were brought down by Sunu adding to the
visitors' frustration. In their last two games, Atlanta had jumped out to
big leads over the Saints and Seahawks, then let up and allowed both to get
back and make it way too close.
Not this time as Tevin Coleman took one in all they way into the
tunnel where he was seen giving an employee a high five. Another junk
TD by the Packers left the final score at 44-21 surpassing the pregame Vegas
total of 61.
Falcons fans had done their job raising the roof throughout the game to
give the Georgia Dome an affectionate farewell send off.
Atlanta moves on to the Super Bowl XVI for the second time in their 51
Atlanta would have to wait a few hours to find out that their opponent
would be the New England Patriots. For Falcons players and fans, it didn't
matter which team they would face. It seems to be their year. We'll find out
in two weeks in Houston.