ATLANTA—For the second time this season, the Packers overcame a big early deficit on the road to win and remain undefeated. In Carolina, it was a 13-0 Panthers lead. In Atlanta on Sunday night, it was a 14-0 Falcons lead that became a 25-14 Packers win.
“Gotta score some points and stop them from scoring,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said when asked what he was thinking after the Falcons scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions. “Defensively we settled down. Gotta give Atlanta credit. I thought they played extremely well to start the game.”
The Falcons perfectly executed a ball-control game plan to dominate time of possession in taking a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Falcons controlled the ball for 12 minutes and 50 seconds of the first 16-and-a-half minutes of the game.
“They had a good plan. They shut us down and possessed the football. We kept persevering and dealt with adversity well,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
Rodgers, again, was the Packers’ star. He completed 29 of 39 passes for 396 yards, two touchdowns and a 117.0 passer rating, all for a prime-time TV audience to enjoy.
Other teams might’ve panicked, but Rodgers gives the Packers a sense of comfort in the most trying of times. Slowly, surely the Packers fought back: 14-3, 14-6, 14-9. Then came the big play that turned the game in the Packers’ favor for good.
Late in the third quarter, on the first play following a change of possession, Rodgers found James Jones streaking across the middle and Rodgers hit Jones in stride with a pass that resulted in a 70-yard, game-winning touchdown play.
“We needed a spark. That one big play kind of got us going,” Rodgers said.
The defense took over from there, with Charlie Peprah making a game-clinching interception to kill a Falcons drive with the Packers leading by eight points.
“This is a tough place to play against a tough football team,” McCarthy said. “Our defense definitely improved today. Settle down, squeeze the running lanes tighter, tackle better.”
The Falcons had pounded the Packers early with Michael Turner and the running game and forced the Packers to make Turner the focus of their attention, which opened up the passing lanes for quarterback Matt Ryan. After the Falcons’ first two drives, however, the Packers tightened down on the run and as Rodgers chipped away at the lead the Falcons began to come out of their game plan and turn more to the pass.
“No panic,” Rodgers said of the mood in the huddle when the score was 14-0. “We’ve had to withstand that first wave of attack from them and when we do, get back into the game.”
It’s been the Packers’ MO in three games at the Georgia Dome in the past two seasons. They’ve trailed early in all three games.
Rodgers completed passes to 12 different receivers. At one point, the Packers had attempted passes on 15 consecutive plays. They rushed for only 57 yards.
Left tackle Chad Clifton left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return. He was replaced by Marshall Newhouse, who moved over from right tackle, where first-round pick Derek Sherrod stepped in.
Nothing seems to cause Rodgers to panic. He calmly scrambled away from trouble on several occasions and used his arm strength to hit open receivers far down the field. He is the league’s highest-rated passer on one of only two undefeated teams.
At 5-0, the Packers will watch the 4-0 Lions host the Bears on Monday Night Football. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Falcons