Defense demolished

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers did little to defend their home turf Sunday.<p> The Atlanta Falcons, led by 14-year NFL veteran quarterback Chris Chandler, perplexed the Packers defense with an balanced attack, hogtied Green Bay's pass rush with a dominating offensive performance, and ran through a dozen missed tackles to beat the Packers 23-20 at Lambeau Field.<p>

The Falcons amassed 417 total yards. Chandler completed 29 of 50 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times, but only once in the first three quarters.

Atlanta jumped out to a 6-0 lead, extended it to 16-3, then hung on to win. The victory broke Green Bay's nine-game home winning streak.

"It seems like every year we have one of these games like this where we don't come to play," said safety Darren Sharper. "It makes it even worse that it happened at home. But I'm tired of teams that we should beat coming in here and losing those games."

There was plenty of blame to go around for this home loss. The pass rush was non-existent. Linebacker Na'il Diggs had problems covering tight ends Brian Kozlowski, who caught three passes for 58 yards, and Alge Crumpler, who caught two passes for 10 yards.

Cornerbacks Tyrone Williams and Mike McKenzie allowed Falcons receivers big cushions, and Chandler found them wide open on a variety of curl and slant patterns.

Everyone had trouble tackling fullback Bob Christian, who gained 40 yards on four carries, and caught five passes for 62 yards.

"We probably had the worst game of tackling I have ever seen," said defensive end Vonnie Holliday. "We couldn't gang tackle at all, and we pride ourselvs on that."

The Falcons' touchdown drive in the second quarter was a perfect example of all that went wrong. The Falcons moved downfield on a 12-yard slant pass to Tony Martin, a 13-yard swing pass to Christian, and a 27-yard leaping catch by Kozlowski to the Packers 21. On first down, Christian caught a pass at the 10, ran through an attempted tackle by Sharper, and carried Williams into the end zone on his back.

"We dug ourselves a big hole," said safety Tod McBride. "Chandler made some great plays. He came to play today. We didn't."

The touchdown gave Atlanta a 16-3 lead with 12:51 left in the half, and a load of confidence.

The Falcons offensive line handled the Packer defensive line, including end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who came into the game with 10 sacks.

"Their line did a great job," Gbaja-Biamila said. "Their blocking was very athletic. But we knew it would be like that. We have to find a way to fight through that."

The fight doesn't get an easier for the defense, which has only three days to prepare to play the Detroit Lions at the Silverdome on Thanksgiving. They also will be without veteran safety LeRoy Butler, who broke his left shoulder blade Sunday and probably will miss the rest of the season.

"We need to go there and play with effort, play physical and win," said linebacker Bernardo Harris, who played Sunday with a cast on his broken right thumb. "We couldn't stop Atlanta today for whatever reason. We didn't play our best football today. We have another chance Thursday with a big divisional game on the road. We'll be ready to play for that."


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