Big leads come early, often at Lambeau Field
The line in Las Vegas said Packers by 12½ points over the Falcons on Monday night.
A more appropriate line might have been Green Bay by 21.
As has been their wont this season, the Packers again dominated early at home. As has not been the case, their defense experienced a letdown in the second half turning what should have been a rout into a closer-than-need-be 43-37 win at Lambeau Field.
The Packers have fielded impressive teams throughout the years. Some, it can be argued, rank among the best in NFL history.
How this year's outfit will stack up remains to be seen. But even with three regular-season games on the schedule, this group has outclassed all others in at least one regard: it has spent more time leading by 21 or more points than any of the 93 teams that preceded it.
Grabbing a 21-point lead tends to lower the stress levels of players, coaches and fans of the team out front ... at least before Monday night. Usually only the opposition and television executives tend to fret.
Green Bay has had a lead of that magnitude in 247 regular-season games since 1921. Its record in those contests is an overwhelming 244-3 (.988).
The losses occurred in 1952, 1957 and 1983. The team now has won 107 in a row and never has stumbled at Lambeau Field (75-0).
Prior to Monday night, the Packers had forged leads of 21 or more points five times. They did so against Bears (twice), Vikings, Panthers and Eagles.
The first time they went up by that much was the only time they have done so on the road. They were up by at least 21 points for 14 minutes, 52 seconds in a 38-17 victory in Chicago.
Mike McCarthy's offense was just getting warmed up. In the next four games at Lambeau, Green Bay held leads of at least 21 points over the Vikings (36:51), Panthers (47:07), Bears (44:48) and Eagles (40:39).
That adds to phenomenal 184 minutes, 17 seconds or the equivalent of more than three full games. It's far more than 159:30 of the previous record holder, the 1996 Super Bowl team.
Against Atlanta, Green Bay followed a script it has perfected this season. It opened with an offensive explosion that proved too much to handle.
The Packers scored on each of their five first-half possessions. They piled up 296 yards and 22 first downs before the half.
Despite that, Aaron Rodgers and the offense didn't go up by 21 points until just before halftime. Rodgers eluded linebacker Kroy Biermann then fired to Jordy Nelson for a 31-7 lead with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
It was the fifth lead of 21 or more points at halftime for Green Bay this year.
This time, however, it didn't last long. Matt Ryan completed a 79-yard pass to Julio Jones on the first play of the third quarter. Four plays later, Ryan passed 5 yards to Eric Weems as Atlanta cut the lead to 31-14.
The Packers never again went up by 21. Their seemingly insurmountable lead lasted all of 2:49.
Green Bay last lost a game in which it led by at least 21 points on Nov. 27, 1983. On that day at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the Packers squandered a 21-0 second quarter edge in falling 47-41 to the Falcons in overtime.
■ By throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions, Aaron Rodgers tied Brett Favre's team mark (30) for most career no-pick hat tricks.
■ By scoring 43 points, the Packers moved into second for most points scored at Lambeau Field in a season. The 288 they've posted trail only the 321 of the 2011 club.
The six seasons in which the Packers spent more than 100 minutes holding leads of 21 or more points. It's possible the 1931 championship team was more than 100 minutes (110 minutes at most), but there is no way to arrive at an exact number.