ATLANTA - On a day the Green Bay Packers' offense overcame injuries to show a spark, it wasn’t enough to outscore the NFL’s most explosive offense.
The Packers lost 33-32 to the Atlanta Falcons on quarterback Matt Ryan’s 11-yard touchdown to receiver Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left. The Packers' last-ditch effort ended when Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete to receiver Davante Adams on fourth down with nine seconds left.
It dropped the Packers to 4-3 on the season, including 1-2 on the road. The Packers hadn’t played a road game since Week 2.
The Falcons improved to 5-3.
BOX SCORE: Falcons 33, Packers 32
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Here are some quick observations:
In no rush: With Clay Matthews inactive, the Packers were faced with having to bolster their pass rush without their top edge rusher. The biggest difference came from Julius Peppers, who played more regularly Sunday than he had for much of the season. The Packers only sacked Ryan twice, far from the relentless hounding they would have preferred. Their two sacks came from Mike Daniels and Peppers on consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter, forcing the Falcons to punt. The Packers drove 86 yards on 13 plays on their next possession, taking a 32-26 lead. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough pressure to keep the Falcons offense in check.
No Julio, no problem: Falcons receiver Julio Jones entered Sunday leading the NFL in receiving yardage. He has obliterated opposing secondaries this season: 300 yards against Carolina, 139 against Seattle, 174 against San Diego. The Packers held Jones to 29 yards, but the NFL’s best receiver was only targeted six times. The Packers stayed in their two-shell defense with both safeties deep, designed to take away the deep ball. Regardless, against a secondary missing its top three cornerbacks, quarterback Ryan’s reluctance to target Jones was hard to understand (he did appear to have injured his his ankle), but it didn’t hurt their production.
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Pass it to the young guys: Rookie Trevor Davis had the first catch and touchdown of his career Sunday. So did undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison, who was promoted from the practice squad this week. Rodgers regularly found Davis, Allison and Jeff Janis, who have been seldom used this season. The Packers got good production from Jordy Nelson (four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown) and Davante Adams (12 catches for 74 yards). With Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery inactive, the Packers needed more. On Sunday, their young receivers gave them more. They played a big part in Rodgers finishing 28-of-38 for 223 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Rodgers runs wild: When Falcons coach Dan Quinn was pressed earlier in the week to name what Rodgers has done well in a season marked with struggles, he immediately mentioned how well the Packers quarterback had picked up first downs with his legs. Quinn saw it up close Sunday. Rodgers was the Packers’ leading rusher, with six carries for 60 yards and a handful of drive-extending first downs. Without Montgomery, the Packers used traditional running backs against the Falcons, with Knile Davis and Don Jackson splitting carries somewhat evenly.