This was a tough one, if only because the Green Bay Packers could have won it if another play or two would have gone their way. Instead, the Packers do what they’re known to do in the regular season. They build their win total against average and bad teams and lose to good ones.
Although I’m still not convinced the Atlanta Falcons are a top-tier team.
Now, you can go ahead and blame injuries for the loss if you like, but I’m not going to do that. The Packers have enough depth this season to overcome injuries. What you can’t do — for a change — is blame the Packers’ offense. Despite missing two of their top players and disregarding the running game almost completely, the Packers’ offense still managed to put up 32 points.
And that should be good enough to win. Except when your defense plays badly…
As I noted on Sunday, the Packers’ defense did nothing to help win this game. Specifically, they produced no pass rush and no turnovers. That’s a recipe for disaster for the Packers’ defense, which is built around exactly those two things.
Let’s get on with it.
Much As Predicted
The Packers were determined not to let Julio Jones dominate this game and they succeeded there. Jones had just three catches for 29 yards in five targets. The Packers handled that exactly as we expected they would. LaDarius Gunter followed Jones all over the field. He often got safety help, primarily from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. And that worked right up until the Falcons realized the middle of the field would be wide open because the safety was covering Jones over the top on the outside. I don’t really think much of Clinton-Dix anymore. He hasn’t made the impact we expected in his third season and he just isn’t a playmaker. Gunter, on the other hand, was perhaps the lone highlight for the Packers’ defense on this day.
The 10 and Under Club
That would be the Green Bay Packers’ receivers — or most of them anyway — because they average less than 10 yards per reception. The exception on this day was Jordy Nelson, who caught four for 94. A large portion of that came courtesy of a 58-yard reception, of course. However, rookie Geronimo Allison was the only other receiver to average more than 10 per catch and that was only slightly more, with 10.5 per on his two catches. Trevor Davis, who had his first NFL reception on Sunday, averaged 8.0 on three catches. Jeff Janis averaged 7.5 per on four. Those are your two fastest receivers, by the way. And how about the slowest receiver? Davante Adams averaged just 6.2 on his 12 receptions. While this all looks pretty poor, the Packers were clearly trying to substitute a running game with quick passes, many of which were receiver screens. So if you look at it that way — that essentially, Davante Adams was your running back, then it doesn’t look as bad.
What’s With Backup Success?
This is a regular occurrence for the Packers. They limit the top players on the opposing team, but then give up huge plays to their backups. In Atlanta, it was primarily running back Terron Ward, who carried six times for 46 yards, a 7.7 average. This guy isn’t even the top backup. The Falcons’ second back, Tevin Coleman, didn’t play. Ward is the team’s third back. So naturally, the Packers keep Devonta Freeman in check (11 for 32, 3.2 per) and they let the damn third-string back run for big gains. I suppose we should be used to that by now.
Quite A Duel
I’ve never thought much of Matt Ryan, but he’s playing some good football this season. I haven’t thought much of Aaron Rodgers’ play since 2014. However, he seems to be playing better the past couple weeks. So we got quite the quarterback duel on Sunday. Rodgers played his best football of the season, finishing 28-of-38 for 246, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Ryan was just slightly better, going 28-of-35 for 288, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Their ratings — 125.5 for Rodgers and 129.5 for Ryan — were almost identical. The difference for Ryan was twofold. First, he can get the ball downfield, as evidenced by his 8.2 per attempt (Rodgers’ was 6.5). He can also finish, at least on this day. The game-winning drive is always something Rodgers has had an issue with, though. Most of Rodgers’ success comes when the Packers build a big lead and then hold on.
Finally, A Return of Note
It’s almost as if the Green Bay Packers have been instructed not to return kicks this season. Well, they didn’t return any kickoffs, but we finally saw something happen on a punt return. That’s thanks to Trevor Davis breaking a 55-yarder that would set up his first NFL touchdown reception. That was quite refreshing to see. In fact, it looks like the special teams may be rounding into shape. In addition to Davis, punter Jacob Schum (Bum) averaged 54.3 on his three kicks. One of those was a touchback, but wouldn’t have been if Jeff Janis had any sort of awareness of the football. Maybe, just maybe, the special teams won’t be a hinderance to winning like they were earlier in the season.