Though the Packers struggled on both sides of the ball in their 17-3 preseason opening loss to the San Diego Chargers a week ago, that wasn't the case against the Falcons. The Packers forced three Atlanta turnovers, turning two into touchdowns, and Green Bay took advantage of a handful of lucky bounces that turned into touchdowns. Green Bay also played much more physically than it did against San Diego.
"I just think we came out and hit them in the mouth a little more than we did against the Chargers," said Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman. "It was more of a team effort."
The grim results against San Diego prompted Mike McCarthy and his staff to make some changes along the offensive line. It didn't help that the Packers lost top backup safety Marviel Underwood to a possible season-ending injury. The changes have prompted plenty of concern, but that didn't seem to bother the Packers against the Falcons.
"Our system of football gives us a chance to put players in position to be successful, whether it's a rookie guard, rookie receivers or rookie defensive backs," said McCarthy. "That's what we get paid to do as coaches."
The Packers' offense, especially the first-team, was very efficient on third downs, converting 9 of 13 (69 percent), and Green Bay finished with 356 total yards. The defense put pressure on Atlanta's quarterbacks and finished the game with three take-aways, all interceptions.
Cornerback Jason Horton's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown with 58 seconds left in the first half put an exclamation point on the best two quarters of the preseason for the Green Bay Packers.
"When the defense gets take-aways, you basically can't be beat," Horton said. "The statistics say that."
Before the Packers got going, there was still a reminder of the first preseason game. Green Bay's offense was sluggish on its first offensive series, punting after five plays. Green Bay's defense then gave up an 80-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by Michael Vick's 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Blakley, who slipped past rookie safety Tyrone Culver to get wide open in the end zone.
But the Packers bounced back behind their revamped offensive line and moved the ball up and down the field with ease against the Falcons, scoring on three consecutive series to take a 24-10 halftime lead . The offensive line, behind the ‘new' interior rookie guard tandem of Jason Spitz (left side) and Tony Moll, opened holes for the Packers' running backs and gave Favre ample protection.
Favre 8 of 10 for 74 yards and one touchdown in the first quarter and finished the half by 15 of 20 for 134 yards and two touchdowns for a glittering passer rating of 125.8. For the game, Favre was 16-of-22 for 134 yards. Running back Najeh Davenport rushed for 30 yards on 10 carries while wide receiver Donald Driver caught seven passes for 91 yards.
The Packers' first-team offense got a little lucky in scoring its first touchdown of the preseason in the first quarter. Favre, on a play-action fake from the Falcons' 3, threw a pass that deflected off the hands of tight end David Martin and over safety safety Lawyer Milloy and into the hands of tight end Bubba Franks near the right corner of the end zone. The play capped an impressive 11-play, 75-yard drive at spanned 6:09.
Favre's 13-yard pass over the middle to Driver followed by his 16-yard strike over the middle to rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings sparked the drive and moved the Packers to the Falcons' 35. Favre's seven-yard pass to Robert Ferguson, who started opposite Driver at wide receiver, plus a facemask penalty on safety Kevin Mathis put the Packers on the 14. After Favre's nine-yard pass to Driver to the 3 set up the touchdown.
Dave Rayner, Green Bay's only kicker in training camp after Billy Cundiff was released on Thursday, made a 30-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter to give the Packers a 10-7 lead. Driver's 19-yard end around run to the Falcons' 26 helped set up the field goal attempt.
Atlanta's Michael Koenen booted a 51-yard field goal attempt through the uprights with plenty of room to spare as the Falcons tied the game at 10-10. But Favre completed six of eight passes on the ensuing drive, including a five-yard touchdown strike to Davenport. The Packers covered 73 yards on 13 plays over 7 minutes.
Matt Schaub, who replaced Vick at quarterback on the next series, was under pressure by defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and threw behind wide receiver Jerome Pathon. The ball went off of Pathon's hands as he was trying to make the catch and into the hands of Horton, who had a clear route to the end zone.
McCarthy planned before the game to use the Packers' first-team offense into the third quarter. As well as the offense played in the first half, the series in the third quarter was disastrous. The Packers were forced to punt after three ugly plays. Favre was under pressure on both of his pass attempts from the Packers' six-yard line. He escaped a safety twice by completing one of two underhand shovel passes.
The Packers scored their final two touchdowns, thanks to a couple of lucky bounces.
Schaub was 5-of-9 for 61 yards and an interception before he was replaced by rookie D.J. Shockley to start the second half.
Jennings caught a tipped pass from backup Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter and ran 85 yards for a touchdown, allowing the Packers to take a 31-10 lead.