ATLANTA — As fast-paced and productive as the Atlanta Falcons’ offense has been this season, the Packers’ defense felt confident in its own right entering Sunday’s game.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and the league’s top-ranked offense established an early rhythm at the Georgia Dome that proved difficult to break.
The Packers succeeded in containing all-pro receiver Julio Jones to three catches for 29 yards, but Atlanta’s offense was too much to overcome in the 33-32 defeat.
Ryan didn’t make many mistakes in completing 28-of-35 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing a 100 passer rating for the sixth time in eight games this season.
The veteran quarterback showed poise in the waning moments in leading an 11-play, 75-yard series that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mohamed Sanu to give the Falcons a one-point lead with 31 seconds remaining.
“They have weapons – receivers, tight ends, backs who can make plays, and an elite quarterback.” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “It’s difficult. We didn’t execute today, but we’ll watch the film and get better.”
The Packers were again without their top two cornerbacks, Damarious Randall (groin) and Quinten Rollins (groin), so it was up to second-year pro LaDarius Gunter to line up across Jones for most of the day.
While the Packers were able to hold Jones in check, they knew going into Sunday’s meeting with the Falcons that Atlanta’s offense was deeper than one player.
Sanu, who came over from Cincinnati last offseason, stepped up with nine catches for 84 yards, culminating in the 12-yard touchdown when he came free in the back of Green Bay’s end zone.
“They’re a great, great team and they made the plays to win down the stretch,” cornerback Demetri Goodson said. “That’s why you have to play all the way to the end in this game. Everybody is good in this league. It always comes down to the very end. You have to finish games.”
Other than a 47-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel on the Falcons’ second offense series, the Packers didn’t allow a catch of more than 20 yards in the contest.
However, Atlanta was successful in staying in manageable down-and-distance situations throughout to help keep its offense moving.
Ryan’s quick release made it difficult to get to him early in the contest, but the Packers seemed to turn a corner at the start of the fourth quarter when defensive lineman Mike Daniels and linebacker Julius Peppers sacked him on back-to-back plays.
The Packers’ offense capitalized on the three-and-out on its next series, taking a 32-26 lead with 3:58 remaining after a 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jeff Janis.
That’s when Ryan pulled Atlanta’s offense together for one last touchdown-producing drive.
“When you’re playing against a good offense like that, just doing your job is not enough,” Daniels said. “You have to go above and beyond. We have to make sure we put ourselves in a position to do that more.”
The Packers bottled up Devonta Freeman for the most part, holding the Falcons’ starting running back to 11 carries for 35 yards.
However, former undrafted free agent Terron Ward helped lift Atlanta’s offense with six carries for 46 yards in place of an injured Tevin Coleman (hamstring).
The Packers had a few chances throughout the course of the game to force a turnover, but couldn’t capitalize. They’ll look to make the necessary corrections when they host Indianapolis next Sunday.
“When you put up 32 points, you have to win. That’s all there is to it,” Daniels said. “Those guys came out and played with fire and we didn’t do enough.”
Let it Rip: Fullback Aaron Ripkowski didn’t anticipate carrying the ball six times against the Falcons, but that’s what the game ultimately called for.
Ripkowski, who entered Sunday with six career carries for 25 yards, wound up gaining 34 yards on his rushes against Atlanta to help push Green Bay’s run game over 100 yards.
“I think some guys stepped up and made some plays,” Ripkowski said. “Obviously, we didn’t do enough. It is what it is. We’ll see the film tomorrow and search out what we did wrong, and get it fixed.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers with six scrambles for 60 yards, while running backs Don Jackson and Knile Davis continued to get comfortable in the offense.
Montgomery sits: Receiver Ty Montgomery was inactive Sunday due to the illness that had caused him to miss some practice time this past week.
Montgomery, who had 19 touches for 126 yards against Chicago a week ago, had been listed as questionable to play against the Falcons on Friday.
Asked about the circumstances behind his absence, Montgomery told reporters in the post-game locker room that it was precautionary.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail. We, however, think it’s somewhat related to sickle-cell trait,” Montgomery said. “Not everybody experiences symptoms. Unfortunately, I had to deal with some of those symptoms and we’re just taking it day-by-day.”
Three of the four players the Packers listed as questionable – Montgomery, receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) – ended up sitting out against the Falcons.
The fourth player, right guard T.J. Lang, exited briefly in the second half before returning to finish the game. Lang has been playing through a hip injury for the past three weeks.
The only injury the Packers reported after the game was a knee injury to center JC Tretter. No other details were provided.
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