GREEN BAY—For several moments late in the first half, no one seemed to know for sure whether Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon was running back a live ball or just going for a Sunday jog.
It provided a lesson in never stopping out on the field until a whistle is heard.
No whistle was blown when Weatherspoon picked off Matt Flynn’s pass after it deflected off intended receiver John Kuhn and then off of LB Paul Worrilow’s foot.
As Weatherspoon kept making his way up the Green Bay sideline, players from both teams stood momentarily confused, and only WR Jarrett Boykin and G T.J. Lang even came close to Weatherspoon as he went 71 yards in all for a touchdown to put the Falcons ahead 21-10 with just 23 seconds left in the first half.
“I didn’t see it happen,” Lang said. “When I turned around and looked, I saw Weatherspoon was kind of jogging, looking. Nobody really knew what was going on. I didn’t hear a whistle, so I tried to run down and make a play. Obviously, I need to work on my tackling.”
As players on the sideline watched the replay on the scoreboard and saw the ball pop upward off Worrilow’s foot, the way this season has gone for the Packers it was one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments.
“It’s just one of those bad bounces that go against you,” Lang said. “We acknowledged that at halftime and knew we were going to have to play mistake-free football in the second half, and that’s what we did.”
Career day for Quarless: The Packers had been waiting for this type of performance from TE Andrew Quarless since fellow TE Jermichael Finley went down with a season-ending neck injury back in Week 7.
Quarless posted career highs in both receptions (six) and yards (66) while also catching a TD pass for just the second time in his career, and the first time since Week 7 of his rookie season in 2010.
The touchdown, a 2-yard back-shoulder throw from Matt Flynn, gave the Packers the lead for good at 22-21 with 12:01 left in the fourth quarter.
“It has to do with (the defender’s) leverage, how he’s playing,” Quarless said of Flynn deciding to go back-shoulder on the TD toss. “The guy was playing inside enough so back-shoulder was perfect. I was kind of thinking that in my head, too.”
Quarless’ 66 receiving yards were just more than half of his 130 on the season coming into Sunday’s game. Position mates Brandon Bostick and Ryan Taylor combined for four more receptions for 35 yards, giving the tight ends a total of 10 catches for 101 yards on the day.
“As a tight end room, as a group, this is probably one of our strongest games, minus (number) 88, which we’d love to have,” Quarless said, referring to Finley. “I talked about it before when he left, I just really wanted to match his intensity. That’s one of the things I told him in the hospital that day, he was playing with such intensity. As a tight end room, we stepped up the intensity and played hard.”
Long FGs tough duty: With the wind chill just below zero, Packers K Mason Crosby knew that when Falcons K Matt Bryant went out to attempt a 52-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter that it was going to be one difficult kick.
Bryant came up short, keeping the Packers in the lead and also forcing the Falcons to go for it on their next possession on fourth down from the Green Bay 33-yard line, rather than try another kick from 50-plus.
“It was tough out there today,” Crosby said. “The conditions, inside 50, it felt OK, but it seemed like once you got out into those long-range kicks, both (directions) it was kind of knocking it down once it got toward the goal line.
“It was a tough kick. It looked like he put a decent strike on it. You could tell it came off OK, but then it just kind of flattened out and fell short.”
Crosby didn’t have any long attempts but was a solid 3-for-3, making field goals from 40, 33 and 25 yards. He’s now made 10 in a row dating back to Week 10 vs. Philadelphia, matching the 10 straight he made to start the season.
“The footing was good out there,” he said. “Our field crew always does a great job.”
Crosby is now 29-for-33 on the season. He was 21-for-33 all of last season. Complete game coverage