Oct. 08, 2017
Injuries, Pick-plays Doom Packers
Milwaukee, WI --- For a game that had fans and players alike marking their calendars, the result left them, especially Aaron Rodgers and the defense, seeing stars. The Packers couldn't pull off a miraculous comeback, as injuries, penalties and inept play on both sides of the ball kept them from ruining the Falcons' home opener in their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, falling 34-23 Sunday night.
The injury bug, and later pick plays, became the defining theme as the Packers lost two starters coming in, two more in the first quarter, and three more in the second half.
When news hit of both starting tackles being out, it created a hole the Packers couldn't clog. Second-year tackle Kyle Murphy, who started last week's game at right tackle, was switched to the left, and rookie offensive guard Justin McCray was forced to play the first snaps of his young career at right.
The result was three sacks and Rodgers being flushed, forcing him to extend plays with his legs. The duo held up in the first half, but became winded down the stretch.
Pick routes became a thorn in the offenses side as they drew questionable penalties. They took away a large gain, and later a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. Coach McCarthy responded by turning several shades of purple and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct at the conclusion of the first half.
To make matters worse, wide receiver Jordy Nelson was forced to sit out the rest of the game after suffering a quad injury just seven snaps into the game; and Mike Daniels, the MVP of last week's game, was also directed to the sidelines following a hamstring injury during the first series. They were followed by cornerback Davon House (quad), receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and safety Kentrall Brice (groin) in the second half.
After having a sub-par performance against the Bears last week, the Falcons' offense took off where it left off last season, dicing up the defense over the middle of the field with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu combining for 190 yards receiving. The reigning MVP Matt Ryan, completed 19 of 28 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. He threw for 201 yards in the first half alone.
Their offense has turned Dom Capers' defense (like many others) into their personal punching bag, recording 111 points, 74 first downs, 13 touchdowns and 1,092 passing yards in their last three matches. Ryan has completed 73.2% of his passes.
And while Julio Jones didn't crank out 180 yards and two touchdowns like he did in the NFC Championship game, he did record four receptions of 10 or more yards in the first half alone, finishing with 108. While cornerback Demarius Randall has shown improvement since last season, he was no match for the All-Pro. They consistently put him in motion, stacking him behind his teammates, making it difficult to jam him at the line. He attacked the middle of the field on crossing routes without mercy.
To provide some balance, the running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 126 rushing yards, including a 35-yard run on their first play of the second half. The defense's "Nitro" package contained the two in the passing game for the most part.
The Falcons raced out to a 24-7 halftime lead. Because of the pick play being called back, the Falcons achieved one last possession before the half. With 0:47 left, they started at the Packers 36, and scored on their fourth play on a three-yard pass to Tevin Coleman, who, ironically, was able to gain separation due to a pick-play.
The Packers were able to tie the game at seven on their first drive, but afterwards met a brick wall on their next five first-half possessions: Punt, punt, punt, interception, knee.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 258 of his 343 total passing yards in the second half. He threw his 300th career touchdown pass on a flip to Ty Montgomery. He is the fastest in history to 300 touchdown passes, doing it in 144 career games, 13 games fewer than Dan Marino and Peyton Manning, and in 564 fewer passing attempts than Manning.
His 74 career interceptions is the fewest by a quarterback when hitting the 300 touchdown pass barrier, breaking the previous record of 115 by Tom Brady.
However, it didn't happen before he threw his second interception of the season when he targeted Geronimo Allison on a deep fade route. Allison slowed down, resulting in the defensive back setting up in a perfect position for the pick.
The Packers' running game became non-existent as the team resorted to backyard football. They ran the ball a total of just 15 times, six of them coming on the first series.
With the offense passing their way back into the game, and the Falcons' defense playing conservative, the Packers ended up winning the total yardage (367-364), time of possession (31:23-28:37) and first down battle (24-19).
They may have gone an impressive 3/3 on fourth-down. but the Falcons were a perfect 3/3 in the redzone.
The Packers' defense fell back to Earth after facing a paltry offense in the Seahawks. The team was once again put behind the eight ball, relying on Rodgers to simply outscore the opponent.