For the Green Bay Packers, the pain on Sunday night all started with the announcement that offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga would miss the game, leaving Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray to playing tackle throughout Sunday night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. In truth they weren’t that bad, but everything else was simply awful. Mike Daniels had to leave the game early, Jordy Nelson shortly followed, and the officials showed a complete lack of understanding of the pass interference rules. All of these factors conspired to destroy any chance the Packers had of spoiling the opening of Atlanta’s new Stargate-inspired stadium.
Martellus Bennett was almost certainly the least valuable player, dropping several key passes to end drives. He was also called for a critical offensive pass interference penalty in a critical moment near the end of the first half; however, that’s not really his fault as the call was terrible and the officials should all be embarrassed. Randall Cobb played well, but also has a few key drops, and after taking a few early shots, even Aaron Rodgers himself started missing guys.
When Atlanta had the ball, Julio Jones did what he normally does, beating all Packer coverages and opening things up for his teammates. Damarious Randall, Davon House, and Quinten Rollins were all abused by Atlanta receivers and Matt Ryan and company had no trouble at all moving up and down the field at will. Devone Freeman punished the defense on the ground, and once they got a lead, the Falcons weren’t about to make the mistake they made in the Super Bowl.
It bears mentioning that Walt Anderson’s officiating crew cost the Packers something like 17-24 points in their completely incompetent implementation of the offensive pass interference rule, which does allow contact within one yard of the line of scrimmage. Geronimo Allison and Martellus Bennett were both flagged incorrectly for the penalty, and each one either prevented Green Bay points, enabled Atlanta points, or both. With competent officiating the game is much closer if nothing else, but the NFL doesn’t specialize on competent officiating, and here we are.
The bright spots for Green Bay included another powerful performance from Ty Montgomery, who led their first and really only successful offensive drive with a nice mix of running and receiving, and rookie corner Kevin King, who looked like the best cornerback on the team.
The Packers will burn all of this tape and hope some speedy recoveries before facing the struggling Bengals at home next week. We should all forget this game ever happened and be happy the Brewers won earlier today instead.
Still, here’s how it happened, if you feel the need to relive the game.
The Packers lost their key critical contributors early on, one on the first defensive series and one on the initial offensive drive of the game. Without Mike Daniels and Jordy Nelson, the Packers were even more shorthanded.
On those two series, however, the teams traded touchdowns. Atlanta drove down the field quickly, picking up chunks of yardage in the passing game before Devonta Freeman punched in a short touchdown run. Then the Packers used some quick passing and tough running from Ty Montgomery, who ran for Green Bay’s score.
However, after that it was all Atlanta through the rest of the first half. The Falcons outscored the Packers 17-0 in the second quarter. Their second touchdown came on another Freeman run, but they made the score 24-7 after a terrible sequence by the Packers’ offense (and an assist from the referees). Deep in the Packers’ own territory, Martellus Bennett was called for an offensive pass interference penalty (despite being within one yard of the line of scrimmage when making contact with a defender). Following a false start penalty, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in the direction of Geronimo Allison, and Atlanta drove quickly down the field for another score just before halftime.
The Packers received the opening kickoff of the second half, but the injuries to the tackles reared their ugly heads quickly. On third down, Rodgers was flattened by Vic Beasley, releasing the football. However, the pass was ruled to be a lateral, and Desmond Trufant picked it up and ran it in 15 yards for a touchdown and a 31-7 Falcons lead.
Using the short passing game, Rodgers led the Packers down the field on the ensuing drive, but Mike McCarthy elected to try a 28-yard field goal while down by 24 points rather than going for it on fourth and goal from the 11-yard line. The Falcons matched that field goal on their next series, pulling the score back out to 34-10.
Rodgers finally threw a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. With the Packers facing a fourth-and-seven from the Falcons’ 33-yard line, Rodgers floated a perfect pass to Davante Adams, who hauled in the pass and managed to narrowly stay in bounds — with his foot tapping the pylon but not landing out of bounds. A two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, keeping the Packers three possessions back at 34-16.
Aaron Rodgers recorded the 300th touchdown pass of his career midway through the fourth quarter to pull the Packers back to within 11 points at 34-23. He dinked and dunked his way down the field and tossed a shovel pass to Ty Montgomery for a one-yard score, making him the only player ever to record 300 touchdown passes before throwing 100 interceptions.
The Packers’ defense could not get a stop, however, as the Falcons ran down the clock to nearly zero, leaving the Packers too little time to mount a comeback.
Other Packers players who were injured during the game included safety Kentrell Brice, cornerback Davon House, and wide receiver Randall Cobb, none of whom returned to the contest after their injuries.