ATLANTA – The Green Bay Packers got blown out by the Atlanta Falcons, 44-21, in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
And yet, there was a feeling of what might have been.
The Packers had chances to make some momentum-changing plays. They just didn’t make any of them. Those are the type of plays that championship teams made, and the Falcons made them to advance to the Super Bowl against New England.
“We didn’t. That’s the fact of the matter,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But we feel confident, with our offense, with Aaron Rodgers, that we can go, we can score with anybody. We needed to do that today and we didn’t get that done.”
The Falcons finished with 493 yards, including 325 in the first half, when they rolled to a 24-0 lead. But it’s worth wondering:
What would have happened had Mason Crosby not missed a field goal, which would have cut the deficit to 7-3? Crosby had made an NFL playoff-record 23 consecutive field goals, including the 56- and 51-yarders to beat Dallas last week.
“My job is to make that kick and get us points there on the first drive,” Crosby said. “I feel sick about it. I wish I would've hit that through. I had a great year. This team had such a great run. Obviously, it hurts.”
What would have happened had fullback Aaron Ripkowski not fumbled around the Falcons’ 10-yard line and the Packers in position to cut the deficit to 10-7?
“It’s a big momentum swing,” Ripkowski said. “You never want to turn the ball over and that was really tough for us to bounce back from. I don’t know exactly what happen. If I had to guess it was just a double wrap by the defensive back. He got his hands in there and got it out. We’ll go in, watch the film and figure out what happened.”
What would have happened had linebacker Jake Ryan pounced on a botched trick play in which receiver Taylor Gabriel fumbled at the Falcons’ 40? With a 17-0 deficit, the Packers would have been in position to get on the scoreboard.
“It’s frustrating, you know?” Ryan said. “I was almost there but the ball is 20 inches and it bounces in different ways. Stuff like that happens but you’ve got to execute when you get those opportunities. When you get them, you’ve got to … You’ve got to create turnovers.”
What would have happened had either safety Marwin Evans or cornerback LaDarius Gunter come up with interceptions on the Falcons’ final drive? That possession ended with Matt Ryan’s third-and-1 touchdown pass to Julio Jones that made it 24-0 at halftime.
“It just wasn’t happening for us today,” linebacker Julius Peppers said of the missed opportunities. “Today just wasn’t our day at all.”
Not at all. The Packers, so resilient during their eight-game winning streak, couldn’t withstand the Falcons’ assault. The Packers, who dominated the turnover ledger at plus-16 during that late-season surge, were minus-2 on Sunday.
“We just played a hot team. You’ve got to give them credit,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Matt (Ryan is) playing incredible right now, and that’s a pretty good offense. Their defense played really well last week and did some good things today. I feel like we kind of hurt ourselves in the first half more than they really stopped us but, no, they have a good football team. There’s a reason they’re moving on to the Super Bowl. They’re going to be tough to stop.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.