Falcons play hard but lose to Packers

Julio Jones had another record-setting game but the Falcons lose to the Packers.

The Atlanta Falcons lost Monday night. They got beat by the Green Bay Packers 43-37.

Every team tries to win, so losing is obviously bad news.

But the Falcons did something they needed to do in this huge challenge. They competed. They gave the mighty Packers everything they had in what would have been the biggest upset of the entire NFL season if they had won.

And even though every player wearing the Falcons uniform is probably not happy right now, deep down there has to be some pride at how tough they played one of the best teams in the NFL on their own home turf.

The Falcons had another record-setting night from wide receiver Julio Jones, who caught 11 passes for 259 yards before leaving the game late with an apparent hip injury. Matt Ryan was very effective, throwing four touchdowns and completing 24 of 39 passes for 375 yards.

The running game once again struggled, as the Falcons finished with only 91 yards on 24 carries. Steven Jackson had 50 yards on 16 carries, with one touchdown. Green Bay almost doubled Atlanta’s total on the ground with 179 yards, as James Starks had 75 yards and Eddie Lacy had 73 yards.

Green Bay averaged six yards per rushing play Monday, which was too much to compliment Rodgers’ outstanding work as the quarterback.

Atlanta was down 31-7 at halftime, and it looked like the game would get even more out of hand as Aaron Rodgers was having a spectacular game. But the Falcons bounced back to score 10 points in the third quarter and three touchdowns in the final period to make the score closer than most analysts predicted.

The Falcons were unable to come back from the tremendous second quarter the Packers had when they outscored Atlanta 24-7 to take the huge lead into halftime. Green Bay has now outscored opponents 198-51 in the first half this season.

That was difficult to come back from, especially in cold Lambeau Field. One big play for Green Bay was in the fourth quarter when Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson on a 60-yard pass play that extended the Packers’ lead.

But the Falcons ate up Green Bay’s secondary, with Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas all doing damage. Jones’ 259 yards is a franchise record for most receiving yards in one game.

ESPN had a disturbing stat that will not surprise anyone who has been upset with Atlanta’s poor pass rush this season. The Falcons only pressured Rodgers on three of his 19 dropbacks (16%) Monday night. Entering the game, Atlanta pressured opposing quarterbacks on 20% of dropbacks, which was the lowest rate in the NFL.

There was little chance the Falcons were going to stop Rodgers and his prolific offense, but it continues to be shameful at the lack of pass rush this team gets on opposing quarterbacks.

The Falcons lost two important players on defense for parts of the game. William Moore left in the first half with an ankle injury, while Paul Soliai left with a shoulder problem. Kemal Ishmael replaced Moore and got burned on that long touchdown catch by Nelson in the fourth quarter. The Falcons will need Moore and Soliai back this Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Georgia Dome.

Along with Jones’ hip issue, the Falcons may also have to worry about guard Jon Asamoah, who hurt his back late in the game and came out.
Atlanta continues to be in first place in the NFC South, as New Orleans was destroyed Sunday by the Panthers 41-10. The Falcons and Saints meet up on December 21 in New Orleans for a game that will likely determine the division winner. Both teams are 5-8, but the Falcons own the tie-breaker due to the win over the Saints in week one this season.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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