Matt Ryan shredded the Green Bay Packers’ defense all game, offensive miscues prevented Aaron Rodgers from mounting a comeback, and the Atlanta Falcons cruised to a 44-21 blowout and a berth in Super Bowl LI.
The game seemed like it was over almost as soon as it began. The Falcons scored on four of their first five possessions to take a 24-0 lead at halftime, and Green Bay couldn’t get out of its own way in its futile, lackluster attempt at even making the game competitive.
Rodgers successfully marched the team down the field on each of the Packers’ first two possessions, but mistake after mistake put an end to hopes of matching Atlanta in a shootout.
First, Mason Crosby watched his NFL record 23 straight made field goals end after missing a kick that would have made the game 7-3. Aaron Ripkowski then picked a horrible time to commit his first career fumble, losing the ball at the Atlanta five-yard line with Green Bay looking to cut the deficit to 10-7. Instead, the Falcons marched right back down the field to go up 17-0.
Still, the Packers would get the ball after halftime and could potentially have made it a game if they found the end zone before the second quarter expired. Even with the Falcons giving Green Bay chances, the inept defense could not do much of anything.
Jake Ryan failed to scoop up a gimme fumble recovery in Atlanta territory, and Marwin Evans and LaDarius Gunter each dropped easy interceptions on the Falcons final drive of the first half, which ultimately resulted in a Julio Jones touchdown. It was 24-0 at the break, with no real reason to feel confident in the Packers’ ability to battle back.
An 11-second Green Bay three and out to open the third quarter was followed immediately by a 73-yard catch and run by Julio Jones in which he manhandled Gunter and Damarious Randall to all but seal the win. Green Bay finally got on the board on its ensuing drive, but by that point it was 31-7.
Even with the win in hand, the Falcons did what any good team should do and kept their foot on the gas. When the clock finally struck zero, the Packers were on the wrong side of a 44-21 demolishing.
Ryan had a historic day in the Georgia Dome’s final game. He torched the entire defense to the tune of 392 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 139.4 quarterback rating. Just for good measure, he added 23 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown.
Rodgers started out hot, but the team’s mistakes negated his ability to drive the team down the field early. He cooled off at the wrong time, including throwing an interception on a desperation third and 21 deep throw, and finished with 287 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers also led the team with 46 rushing yards.
The two-headed rushing attack of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman were kept in check for much of the day, but it did little to slow down Atlanta. Jones led the Falcons with 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while a total of eight players made receptions for Atlanta. At the end of the day, the league’s best offense lived up to its reputation with 493 yards, 30 first downs, and converted 10/13 third downs.
Jordy Nelson turned in a gritty performance for the Packers, posting 67 yards a touchdown despite playing with two fractured ribs. Jared Cook added a touchdown and 78 yards, while Randall Cobb led the team with 82 yards receiving. Overall, eight different Packers hauled in a pass.
Atlanta awaits the result of the night game to figure out who they will play in two weeks in Houston. As for the Packers, they are left to regroup and figure out how to bounce back next year.
The resilience Green Bay showed in battling back from a 4-6 start to make it to the NFC Championship game is admirable, but once again they were unable to return to the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is in the back half of his career, so it is up to the front office to compile a roster—especially on defense—that is at least competent in order to avoid wasting away the rest of its future hall of famer’s career.
There are many questions the team will have to address in the upcoming offseason in order for the team to win another championship. Overcoming such a disappointing loss stings, but with Rodgers leading the offense, addressing the holes on defense will leave the Packers in a position to succeed in the 2017 season.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .