Errors put season on the brink

The Packers have no answers for the Matt Ryan-led Atlanta offense in a 27-24 loss to the Falcons. A third consecutive defeat sends Green Bay to 2-3, with games against Seattle and Indianapolis coming up.

Aaron Rodgers has guts. Matt Ryan, however, has the win.

And if Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning play up to their Pro Bowl quarterbacking credentials and see as many as open receivers as Ryan saw, the Packers could be looking up from the bottom of a deep, deep hole as they lick their wounds during their bye week.

Ryan, the Falcons' rookie quarterback, took advantage of numerous coverage gaffes, throwing for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons' 27-24 victory over Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

With the loss, the Packers have dropped three consecutive games, and have fallen behind the Chicago Bears (3-2) in the NFC North and the Falcons (3-2) in the NFC standings. And with a trip to Seattle to face Hasselbeck's Seahawks and a home game against Manning's Indianapolis Colts looming before the Oct. 26 bye, a once-promising season is in danger of careening into oblivion.

"Our house is messy right now," coach Mike McCarthy said, "and nobody's happy about it."

Ryan, who had games of 435 yards against Georgia Tech and 408 yards against Wake Forest last season, didn't face much more of a challenge on Sunday against a Packers defense without starters Al Harris, Atari Bigby and Cullen Jenkins and with starters A.J. Hawk and Charles Woodson at significantly less than full strength.

Cornerback Tramon Williams, filling Harris' place in the lineup, breathed life into the Packers with an end-zone interception that prevented the Falcons from taking a 20-10 or 24-10 lead.

With the Packers given a stay of execution, Rodgers – the pregame storyline with his sprained throwing shoulder – responded with a four-play, 80-yard scoring drive, started by a 37-yard hook-up with Tory Humphrey and capped by a perfect 25-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings to tie the game 17-17.

But the Falcons' Jerious Norwood returned the ensuing kickoff to the Packers' 48-yard line, which the Falcons turned into a field goal and a 20-17 lead with 7 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in regulation.

Rodgers, without his usual zip but flawless most of the game, was intercepted on third-and-19 by Michael Boley while trying to float a ball to Ruvell Martin between three defenders, and the Falcons increased the lead to 27-17 with a 2-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner.

The Packers responded with an eight-play, 72 yard drive, capped by a Rodgers-to-Donald Lee 4-yard touchdown on third-and-goal with 1:56 remaining. Green Bay failed to execute an onside kick, and Turner ran out the clock by rumbling for 8 yards on second-and-9 and moving the pile on third-and-1.

"It's disappointing today," Rodgers said. "I definitely feel like I played pretty well, minus the one critical error that cost us seven points and cost us the game."

Falcons receivers found huge voids in the Packers' secondary throughout the opening half, and Ryan – facing no pass rush – capitalized with 154 yards and two touchdowns, including eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown to Roddy White. Ryan's 13-of-18 accuracy was marred by two drops.

On Atlanta's opening drive, Ryan hit White for 37 yards on the first play from scrimmage and 19 yards on third-and-6. Showing the Falcons' confidence in the rookie's ability to dissect the Packers' defense, Atlanta went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, with Ryan hitting tight end Justin Peelle for the opening touchdown.

Green Bay pulled within 10-7 early in the second quarter when Rodgers threw a perfect deep ball to Donald Driver for a 44-yard touchdown.

But with momentum starting to turn and the Falcons pinned at their 10-yard line to start the ensuing possession, the Packers' defense proved defenseless. On third-and-9, Atlanta got a big break when rookie Pat Lee was flagged for interference on a pass to White to give the Falcons 20 yards and a first down. On third-and-10, White got loose again, this time for 26 yards against a blitz to the Packers' 43-yard line. A 14-yard pass to a wide-open Peelle set up a 22-yard touchdown pass to White, who beat Will Blackmon down the right sideline to make it 17-7.

Meanwhile, the Packers' offense awoke from a 10-yard, six-play, first-quarter slumber to produce 408 yards, but mistakes continue to be a curse.

Blackmon returned the kickoff after White's touchdown to midfield, and a completion to Driver moved the ball to Atlanta's 26. But John Abraham drove right tackle Mark Tauscher into the backfield for a 4-yard loss on a first-down run, and Abraham sacked Rodgers on third down. Mason Crosby booted a 43-yard field goal to cut the margin to 17-10, but rookie Jermichael Finley was flagged for holding, and Crosby misfired from 53.

A good-looking drive to open the third quarter ended with a bad shotgun snap on first down leading to a throwaway, a hold on Humphrey, Rodgers scrambling and underthrowing an open Jennings for what would have gained at least 20 yards and Abraham whipping left tackle Chad Clifton to foil a third-and-20 play.

"If I knew the answer (to solving the mistakes), I wouldn't be standing here at this podium," McCarthy said. "I'd be a rich man, because I'd be selling it to every other coach in professional sports."

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