One week after being the main reason for a win vs Seattle, the Packers defense channeled their inner 2016 selves. For now, Atlanta still has the Packers number and Julio Jones is the same slayer of Dom Capers’ secondary. Matt Ryan and Jones hooked up five times for 108 yards as the Falcons broke in their new stadium with a 34-23 victory. A lot can change between now and the playoffs, but this one will sting for a while. This was a chance for Aaron Rodgers and a “rejuvenated” defense to prove to Atlanta this is not the same team from the NFC Championship. Instead, injuries and an inopportune penalty helped put this game out of reach early and keep last year’s narrative rolling.
Seven. The total number of snaps both Mike Daniels and Jordy Nelson played last night. For basically the entire game the Packers were without a major catalyst on offense and their most effective player on defense. And to think the Packers were supposed to be healthy this time around.
Confidence was dampened a little over an hour before kickoff when it was announced both starting tackles would not be playing. David Bakhtiari is dealing with a hamstring while Bryan Bulaga is still tending to an ankle that kept him out of week 1.
Kyle Murphy started in place of Bulaga at right tackle last week and held his own. Though, without Bahktiari he was forced to move to the left. That left Justin McCray starting on the right. With daunting circumstances both tackles guarded the edge better than expected. Rodgers was sacked a manageable three times, however a crucial one changed the scope of the game during the 3rd quarter.
Going into halftime the Packers had a chance to cut a 17-7 lead to a one possession game. On the second play of the drive Randall Cobb had a 36-yard catch and run negated by an offensive pass interference. Marcellus Bennett ran a quick route to the flat that picked the corner covering Cobb. An illegal move when performed beyond one yard.
Two plays later Rodgers overthrew Geronimo Allison for an easy interception to Desmond Trufant. It appeared Allison had given up on the play halfway through his route. Matt Ryan cashed in for six in a quick four plays. 24-7 at half.
With injuries piling up and an unfavorable scoreboard, the Packers were in dire need of a touchdown to start the 3rd. Two plays in Rodgers got rocked by the reigning sack champ Victor Beasley Jr. Rodgers, trying to get rid of the ball, threw the ball backwards allowing for an easy scoop and score by the Falcons. Beasley might as well have been untouched as McCray tried to cut block him, something no NFL tackle should ever think about doing in pass protection.
The crowd, the injury bug, and momentum all worked against Green Bay to make the score 31-7. A late push made the score respectable, but the Packers knew where they stood. The only musterable positives were a solid performance from rookie Kevin King and Rodgers’ incredible pace to reach 300 touchdowns.
Clay Matthews commented saying, “We knew what type of environment we were coming into. We didn’t do enough. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. It’s one game, but it’s unfortunate especially when you want to test yourself against the elite.”
It won’t be until week 5 that the Packers face another true test in the Dallas Cowboys.
This week, the Packers main focus will be getting healthy. Notably, Cobb suffered a shoulder injury during the 4th quarter, though MRI results came back negative. The Bengals will be coming to Lambeau on Sunday and an 0-2 record only means more attitude. It presents a great chance for the secondary to gain confidence against a turnover proned Andy Dalton.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a cheese head at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. Brandon graduated from Longwood University in 2016 with a degree in mass media. He has covered the Packers for over a year and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @BShmee.