The Packers and Falcons meet up once again on Sunday night in what will be Atlanta’s first game at its new stadium and the first meeting of the two teams since the NFC Championship Game thumping a season ago.
Despite just 28 all-time meetings in the regular season, a Packers-Falcons game has often been played with eventual postseason implications in the Brett Favre era and beyond. These games also tend to be nail-biters; nine of the last ten regular season meetings were decided by eight points or less, including six by three or fewer points. Much like Green Bay’s non-divisional rivalries that have developed with the likes of San Francisco, Dallas, and Seattle, fans of both sides are connected by memories of both bitterness and joy. So much in recent times that it makes the two franchises seem closer than their 900-plus mile separation.
This closeness also translates to the all-time series marks. The Packers hold a narrow 15-13 series lead against the Falcons in the regular season, though the teams are split 2-2 in the playoffs. Green Bay has often struggled in Atlanta, posting a 6-10 record all-time on the road against its Southern foe — a record that includes two losses last season. In addition to the 44-21 drubbing in the playoffs, last year’s regular season contest was a 33-32 thriller decided by a Matt Ryan-Mohamad Sanu scoring strike with 31 seconds remaining. With the Packers and Falcons set to square off in Atlanta’s first home game at the new venue on Sunday night, the prime time matchup figures to offer another tight battle of conference contenders.
As Green Bay looks to reverse its two-game losing streak this weekend, here are three other memorable meetings between the two franchises.
December 18, 1994 - Packers win 21-17
In the final Packers game at Milwaukee County Stadium and Brett Favre’s second game against the team that traded him, the young gunslinger scored on a decisive nine-yard improvised scramble to his right. It was a memorable rush in all senses of the word, complete with an all-or-nothing dive attempt from the three-yard line. Had Favre not reached the end zone on that 3rd-and-2 leap of faith, Green Bay would have had limited time to set up a final, fourth-down attempt with the team out of timeouts and needing a touchdown with 14 seconds left. But in the end, the Packers pulled off the week 16 victory over the Falcons and earned another win the following week to clinch a four seed in the playoffs - the first time the Packers had reached the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1966-1967.
January 4, 2003 - Packers fall, 27-7
Green Bay had not lost at home all season long, nor had it lost at home (13-0) since the modern day playoff system was established in 1933. The Packers had not lost a game played in sub-34 degree weather during 35 such games in Brett Favre’s entire starting career. Yet, that all changed when Michael Vick and the Falcons came into town in the 2003 NFC Wildcard round.
Behind the second-year quarterback, Atlanta picked apart the Green Bay defense on broken plays, scoring on its opening drive for the first time all season. Meanwhile, the Falcons’ defense shut down a powerful Packers offense missing playmakers Ahman Green and Donald Driver. Green Bay’s special teams unit also suffered from blocked and muffed punts en route to a devastating loss in the opening round of the playoffs. For Atlanta, it was the team’s first playoff victory since its 1998 NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings.
January 15, 2011 - Packers advance to NFC Championship with 48-21 win
After squeaking into the final playoff spot with a win over the Chicago Bears in week 17, the sixth-seeded Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the wildcard game and secured a date with the Falcons for a divisional round matchup. Atlanta was red-hot after finishing a 13-3 regular season and owned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the NFC’s top seed. The Falcons had also beaten the Packers earlier in the season.
Despite trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter, the Packers finished the contest in convincing fashion. Leading 21-14 with only seconds to play in the first half, Green Bay pulled off the ultimate game-changing play when Tramon Williams intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and took it 70 yards back to the house as time expired. An Aaron Rodgers-led scoring drive early in the third quarter then helped Green Bay pull away. Rodgers had a game for the ages, finishing 31-36 for 366 yards and four total touchdowns to clinch a surprisingly lopsided victory. One week later, the Packers punched a ticket to the Super Bowl.