ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 15: James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers scores a 20-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against Atari Bigby #20 of the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15 2011 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
As great as the Green Bay Packers defense played on Saturday, QB Aaron Rodgers played so well that the Falcons offense would have been hard pressed to keep up on offense even if the Packers defense had an off-game. But before I write more glowing praise about Rodgers, let's get the bad news out of the way. First, the Packers couldn't run the ball, and second the offense was too conservative down the stretch. And here's why neither was as bad as it seemed.
RB James Starks had a huge game against the Eagles in the Wild Card playoff game, but was held to a 2.6 ypc last Saturday. One APC post gave the rushing attack a C-grade, but that's far too generous. The good news is that this was still a huge improvement over their meeting back in November. Whether it was their defensive line, or their commitment to stopping the run (at the expense of their pass defense), the Packers have been at their worst when trying to run block the Falcons.
The second complaint about a conservative offense down the stretch was from me. Against the Eagles, I thought the Packers spent far too much time trying to run out the clock, and were far too conservative. While they again ran out the clock in the fourth quarter against the Falcons, this time they actually threw a little bit more, and they had a much bigger lead. Neither complaint is a major one, but both are something to work on.
Here's how the offense did over the four quarters:
|Quarter||Total Offensive Plays||Total Yards||Points Scored||TOP|
More after the jump, and more on this game from The Falcoholic.
The offense had it's least productive quarter when the Falcons received the opening kickoff, and forced a turnover on the third offensive play of the game (WR Greg Jennings when he was caught from behind on his 30 yard reception). The result was that the Falcons offense had the ball for most of the first quarter. The good news was that the Packers had it for the final five minutes, and had some early success running with Starks and RB Brandon Jackson which moved them into Falcons territory to end the quarter.
Rodgers opened the second quarter with five completions, including a touchdown pass to WR Jordy Nelson. After a touchdown return by KR Eric Weems is followed by a muffed kickoff by Starks, Rodgers leads the offense down the field for 92 yards and another touchdown. Two big pass plays, one to WR Donald Driver and another to WR James Jones (no drops!), moved them down the field, and two penalties on Falcons CB Christopher Owens set up the 1 yard touchdown run by FB John Kuhn. The third touchdown of the quarter had three long receptions of exactly 20 yards each to three different receivers, ending with the touchdown pass to Jones over CB Brent Grimes.
The third quarter starts off with another long touchdown drive by the Packers. No big plays, but two big 3rd down passes (one to Jones, another to Nelson) that kept the drive alive, and led to a touchdown run by Rodgers. After a shanked punt gives the Packers their best field position of the game (starting at mid-field, no other drive had started better than their own 20 yard line), Rodgers finds Driver for another 20+ yard reception before he threw a touchdown pass to Kuhn on a pass out in the right flat. For the game, Kuhn touched the ball four times and scored two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he suffered a stinger on the touchdown reception and was out for the rest of the game.
The fourth quarter was all about conservative play calling and great field position. The Falcons failed on an onside kick (due to a penalty), and two fumbles by their offense, gave the Packers the ball in Falcons territory for all but the final play of the fourth quarter. It lead to three field goal attempts, but only two made as a 50 yard attempt bounced off the left upright. The Packers did manage to throw for one first down, so it wasn't all about running out the clock (which at least I was glad to see).
QB Aaron Rodgers. 31 for 36, 366 yards, 3 TDs (plus 1 rushing TD), and no turnovers. Epic.
WR Greg Jennings. While he led them in receiving yards, he also had that early fumble which set up the Falcons first touchdown drive. Something to work on this week.
WRs Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. Rodgers attempted 18 passes to those 3 receivers, and they caught all 18. In a season when drops have been a minor problem, this was a huge game for them. All three totaled 75 or more yards, and Nelson and Jones each had a touchdown reception.
FB John Kuhn. It's the dirty work, but he's been a short yardage demon in a season when the Packers did have some problems in short yardage situations. Hopefully his stinger is not too serious.