The Atlanta Falcons seized control of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field from the opening snap. The Falcons led 10-0 after a first quarter in which they enjoyed a 147-10 advantage in yardage, 8-0 in first downs and an 8-plus-minutes in time of possession.
"I expect our team to play to their standards, and frankly, we need to play four quarters," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "If we would have played four quarters like we played the last two quarters, the outcome may have been different. We need to do better, especially at home. It's disappointing to lose at home like that."
The Falcons breezed to a touchdown on their opening possession. Matt Ryan, looking like anything but a rookie quarterback playing in an imposing venue, connected for 37 yards to a wide-open Roddy White on the first play from scrimmage, then found White open again for 19 yards on third-and-6. Later, on what could go down as the most-costly 0-yard penalty of the season, Ryan Pickett was called for offsides on third-and-goal from the 1 when Ryan fumbled the snap and lost 3 yards.
Atlanta almost certainly would have kicked a field goal on the next play. Instead, after Michael Turner was stuffed on a run, the Falcons went for it on fourth down, with Ryan hitting Justin Peelle for the touchdown.
The Packers' offense responded with Rodgers getting sacked on first down to set up a three-and-out possession, and the Falcons got a 22-yard run from Turner en route to a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
The Packers went three-and-out again, with big-play receiver Greg Jennings dropping a third-and-6 pass from Rodgers.
"Just get it done. Simple as that," Jennings said of the offense's continued sluggish play. "We've got to hold ourselves accountable, and I can start with myself. Third-and-6, got to make a play. I wasn't able to do that. It's just a matter of guys digging deep and really pulling out the best out of themselves."
The Packers were much sharper in the second half, outgaining the Falcons 285 to 130. And the 10 points the defense yielded came courtesy of a long kickoff return and an interception. Still, 30 minutes of quality football wasn't good enough for a team that already has matched last year's three losses.
"We're just not consistent. This first half today, we didn't get it done," right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We weren't able to overcome the first-half performance. If you just take the second half of this game, we're a good football team. But you're judged on four quarters."
While a gutty Rodgers finished with 313 passing yards, three touchdowns and a gaudy 109.4 ranking to lead the offense to 24 points in the final three quarters, it was the first-quarter failings that prevented the Packers from ever taking control.
"We've played five games now, and we have not played a complete game in any of those," Rodgers said. "We've had stretches where we've looked like a really good football team. In the second half, we did some really nice things, got the momentum back, but it's been like that in every game, and coach (McCarthy) has been harping on it. We've been trying to work on tempo in practice and finishing plays, and to start off the game the way we did with two three-and-outs is just inexcusable."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org