The Packers seemed in control of this game when they went up 24-12 midway through the third quarter. What followed was a complete meltdown by the offense combined with a defense that was gashed repeatedly in the run and by big play passes. The result? The crushed hopes of Packer fans.
Green Bay started the game without their left tackle and best running back, Aaron Jones. David Bakhtiari reverted to 2022 form, unable to suit up. For much of the game, the Packers were also playing without All-Pro Elgton Jenkins. Aaron Jones was nursing a hamstring and Christian Watson is still watching from the sideline.
Costly Mistakes and Missed Opportunities
Rasheed Walker, starting in place of Bakhtiari, cost the Packers three points on their first drive when he was penalized for a false start. That penalty, combined with a subsequent delay of game, pulled the Packers out of field goal range.
While Walker played decently for his first start, that penalty, in a one-point loss, stings. This game could have produced big leads by the Packers early.
A big pass interference penalty against Atlanta on Green Bay’s first play should have led to points. The Falcon’s first possession ended with Rasul Douglas interception giving the Packers good field position. The Packers dropped two potential game changing interceptions, one by Walker and one by Alexander.
Offensive and Defensive Struggles
Another pass by Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder floated between three Green Bay defenders in the end zone but fell to earth without being picked. Bottom line, the Packers are not a good enough team to win while wasting these types of opportunities.
The Packer offense looked lost early. A recurring theme in the fourth quarter that would spell the difference in this game. Near the end of the first quarter, the Packer offense came to life. A nice 11 play 84-yard drive kept alive by a nice scamper by Love on third down.
Their next drive went ten plays and 44 yards and ended with a 33-yard field goal by Carlson. A.J. Dillon was the feature back in Atlanta. Fifteen rushes for a 3.7-yard average was a journeyman effort with an inexperienced line, but he was outclassed on the field by both Atlanta running backs. Bijan Robinson breaks tackles like Packer fans have been hoping to see Dillon do for two years.
The Fourth Quarter Collapse
Robinson ran for 128 and averaged 6 and ½ yards a carry. Tyler Algiers was held to 48 yards, but these two runners exhausted the Packer defense. The defense did play with fight. They held Atlanta out of the end zone on multiple red zone trips, including one drive where the Packer defense faced 1st and goal at the one.
But in the fourth quarter, they were run over repeatedly. The Falcons scored 13 unanswered points to seal the win.
Defensive Woes and Future Outlook
For fans that were wondering if the Bears were as bad as they seemed last week, this Falcon team gave us an answer. The Packer defense cannot stop a good running team. Quay Walker started the game near the line of scrimmage.
But in coverage on the Falcons first drive, he was beaten twice on pass coverage and as Falcon drives continued, the linebackers, both Campbell and Walker, were trying to run around the blocks of Atlanta lineman. On fourth and one with two minutes left and Atlanta pitching the ball to Robinson, Walker slowed down as the play developed and was never a factor in the tackle being blocked on the play.
Savage made a run into the Atlanta backfield on the play but whiffed, bringing back images of the 2022 season. All the talk of becoming an attacking defense became empty words on this Sunday. Atlanta spent the day running the ball 45 times, breaking tackles and piling up 211 rushing yards to the Packers 84.
The Aftermath and What Lies Ahead
The burn Packer fans are feeling after this loss is because the Packers were overcoming all the potential excuses…until they weren’t. Love had his first opportunity to feel 4th quarter pressure in a hostile environment and he did not respond.
His only potential pick was on third down in the 4th quarter. A three and out when the defense needed a rest. Both of Love’s passes on that critical possession were poor passes. On first down Doubs was wide open.
Love did not see him. Next drive, Dillon could not get one yard…which sums up both Dillon’s and his team’s day…so close. On the second to last Packer drive, Green Bay faced 4th down.
The Falcons had an unbalanced defensive line, which Love recognized. The play called seemed to be the typical attempt to get the defense to jump offside. But Love seemed to make a call to do a sneak, only his center wasn’t listening. A penalty.
A punt, a second failure. Followed by a third. One 2-minute drill. Four incomplete passes. Good NFL quarterbacks steal wins. They overcome deficits in the fourth.
That will be Love’s next step. If he takes it, then this team could soar. If not, he will be a short time starter. We knew the Packers were going to struggle with a new quarterback and very young play makers.
Here is the good news, the Packers are tied for the division lead at 1-1. And this year is all about young players gaining experience. They experienced a bitter loss Sunday in Atlanta. Let’s see next week what they learned from it.