ATLANTA – The Packers showed on Sunday they’re never down for the count.
With an injury-filled inactive list that read like an all-star lineup, the Packers once again tried to figure out whatever it took.
This time the opponent was just a little too good, and the Falcons escaped with a 33-32 triumph at the Georgia Dome, but this Packers team isn’t going away, not after Sunday.
Not having Clay Matthews, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins on defense proved too much to overcome against the league’s No. 1 offense, but still, Dom Capers’ unit was one stop away.
Had safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix been able to react a little sooner to a Julio Jones deflection near the goal line in the final minute, who knows?
The offense almost did enough anyway, despite finding out late in the week that Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb couldn’t go. Head Coach Mike McCarthy put Davante Adams in the backfield at times in the Montgomery/Cobb role, and a trio of young receivers was forced to come through.
Touchdown catches by Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison and Jeff Janis weren’t enough to produce a victory, but don’t think they were meaningless. Neither was right guard T.J. Lang’s gutty performance on a bum hip, which forced him to exit the game, but only briefly.
“I’m so proud of those guys and the way they battled,” said QB Aaron Rodgers, who called Lang “an absolute warrior.”
“There’s no excuses,” he continued, regarding his young weapons. “We’re all professionals out here and we expect them to play well.”
Rodgers got the offense going early with a deep ball to Jordy Nelson, and the Packers were off and running regardless of their personnel. Spread-’em-out, shotgun looks with an occasional draw play sprinkled in were getting the job done. Four scoring drives in the first half resulted in 24 points.
The only time the offense stalled was in the third quarter, and unfortunately it cost the Packers. Getting the ball coming out of halftime with a 24-19 lead, the Packers had one chance to build a two-score lead and moved across midfield.
The first of Adrian Clayborn’s two sacks wrecked that opportunity, though, and from there it seemed clear the game was coming down to the wire.
“We wasted a couple drives in the third quarter after a good first half,” Rodgers said. “That first drive of the third quarter, it would have been a momentum-shifter if we’d been able to get some points there.”
But perhaps the Packers have shifted the momentum for good on offense. After a lot of fits and starts through five games, Green Bay has found a groove the last two weeks despite “ever-changing” game plans, to use Rodgers’ term.
The NFL is a week-to-week league, and the Packers are becoming a week-to-week team whose modes of operation are determined by the medical report. That’s a fact of life in this league, but it’s a way of life for Green Bay right now until a handful of starters get healthy.
The offense has to keep doing whatever it takes, and the defense has to keep hanging in there. It wasn’t enough on Sunday on the road against a Falcons team that is a flag here and a yard there from being 7-1, but there’s plenty of reason to believe.
Make no mistake, no one’s claiming a moral victory here. Leaving Atlanta one point short is maddening. This game could have been had. The Packers did not want to be 4-3 at this stage with a three-game road trip looming next month.
But Rodgers talked about the team needing to “stick together” as it works through this rough stretch, schedule-wise and health-wise. The players will, if Sunday was any indication.
The fans should, too.
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