The Falcons stood up the Packers early with a goal-line stand. After the stop, Matt Ryan, cobbled together a 20-play, 94-yard drive in the first and second quarters, but the drive ended in a field goal.
“At the end, we just felt it was important to get some points,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “But yeah, no doubt, when you are playing against this offense, which is capable of scoring points, field goals aren’t going to get it done.”
With Julio Jones not playing in the second half, Olamide Zaccheaus was the Falcons' top receiver. He finished with eight catches for 86 yards.
Ryan completed 28 of 39 passes for 285 yards and no touchdowns. He finished with a 92.4 passer rating. The Falcons were 0-3 last season when Ryan did not throw a touchdown pass This game snapped a streak of eight games where he’d thrown for at least one touchdown.
Here are the five things we learned from the game.
1. Defense shredded. Rodgers and the Packers, down their top two wide receivers, still had too much firepower for the Falcons.
The Falcons secondary, which lost free safety Damontae Kazee to an Achilles injury and strong safety Jaylinn Hawkins to a concussion, was shredded in the first half.
On the Packers' first touchdown, running back Aaron Jones was wide open, while two players covered the tight end.
“We’ve got to be able to execute," Quinn said. "Some of the mistakes are correctable. Certainly, the ones down in the red zone. We will get those corrected.”
The Packers were playing without their top two receivers in Davante Adams (hamstring) and Allen Lazard (core surgery). Packers coach Matt LaFleur got creative an used three running backs and confused the Falcons with motions and mis-direction plays.
The Falcons gave up plays of 20 yards or more on three of the Packers' first nine plays from scrimmage. They ended up giving up seven plays of 20 yards or more, six pass plays and one rush.
Entering the game, the Falcons gave up 18 plays of 20-plus yards in the previous three games. They gave up seven against Chicago, seven against Dallas and four against Seattle.
On Green Bay’s first possession, Rodgers tossed a 27-yard pass play to tight end Robert Tonyan on the second play of the game. Jones got loose for 23 yards and running back Jamal Williams caught a pass for a 29-yard gain.
“I would say a couple of them from the communication side, were ones you’d like to have back and redo,” Quinn said. “One was a man-to-man that we got beat on. I wouldn’t just say that it was one thing. As you are going through, you have to learn from those, especially the new players that are in those spots. Those are the growing pains that go along with being new at the position.”
2. Jones sets mark, before leaving. On the third possession in the first quarter, Julio Jones' 8-yard reception was his 809th as a Falcon — one more than the previous record held by Roddy White. White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, played from 2005-15.
Jones had four receptions for 32 yards in the first half. He didn’t come out of the locker room in the second half. Jones missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
Calvin Ridley, who had over 100 yards receiving in each of the three previous games, had five targets and no catches.
“I just think there was some help over the top,” Ryan said. “They did a good job of playing coverage and really rushing four most of the night. Trying to play man underneath coverage with safety help over the top. They did a good job with it. They kind of took us out of our rhythm.”
3. Reorganized at halftime. With Kazee and Hawkins out, the Falcons told ESPN that they had to reorganize the secondary at halftime.
Jamal Carter, who was promoted from the practice squad on game day, ended up playing most of the second half. Sharrod Neasman took over at free safety.
Cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who was making his debut of the season, followed Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Blidi Wreh-Wilson played nickel back and Isaiah Oliver moved around the field, too.
In addition to losing Kazee and Hawkins, the Falcons already were without strong safety Keanu Neal (hamstring), free safety Ricardo Allen (elbow), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (injured reserve/hamstring) and cornerback A.J. Terrell (reserve/COVID-19 list).
Sheffield did a credible job on Valdes-Scantling, who finished with four catches for 45 yards. He was targeted seven times.
“Sheff looked really comfortable outside," Quinn said. "That’s where we’ll feature him, outside. Hopefully, we’ll get A.J. Terrell back into the mix as well next week. For his first time, extended playing time, without a lot of reps, he answered the challenge.”
Tonyan gave the Falcons fits. He finished with six catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
Falcons running back Todd Gurley said the team has to figure out a way to get a win.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter
4. Gurley rushed for two touchdowns. Falcons running back Todd Gurley had two rushing touchdowns. He picked up a nice block from Ryan on his 3-yard touchdown run around left end in the third quarter.
He had 16 carries for 57 yards (3.6 yards per carry), with a long run of 13 yards.
“Todd Gurley, he ran tough tonight," Ridley said. "They were on him, but he just kept breaking tackles. I really appreciate him for coming out and playing so hard. I wish I could have been better for him and the team, but I appreciate him.”
5. Next 5 games. The Falcons next five opponents are not daunting, if the Falcons can get healthy.
They are set to play five consecutive games against teams with a current combined record 7-13.
The string will start when the Falcons host the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Then they’ll face the Vikings, Lions, Panthers (again) and Broncos before going into their bye week.
“Nothing has been decided yet," Quinn said. "We do have our first division game coming up here this weekend, and we’re certainly looking forward to that.”
Falcons' next four games
Panthers at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11
Falcons at Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18
Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 25
Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29
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