The Green Bay Packers’ hard-luck 2010 season hit a speed bump Sunday as they lost to the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 20 – 17. The Packers have lost four games this year by a total of just 12 points. The latest gut-wrenching loss brings the Packers’ record to 7 – 4 and they now trail the Chicago Bears by a full game in the North Division.
The game against the Falcons turned out to be quite a coach’s battle. Atlanta surprised the Packers showing a new three defensive linemen/three linebacker scheme which seemed to confuse the Packers’ offense. After trading field goals in the first quarter, the Packers all but abandoned their attempts to establish a running game. They countered with their “Big Five” (5 wide receivers) package and used that for much of the game. They had some success moving the ball but a costly fumble at the goal line turned the ball over to the opportunistic Falcons, who responded with a long drive culminating in a touchdown and a 10 – 3 halftime lead.
The Packers rallied behind the rushing and passing of Aaron Rodgers and scored a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game, but a couple things were missing. Missing was crisp tackling by the Packer defense, and missing was lack of production from the Packer running backs. It is a bad thing in the NFL when your quarterback is your leading rusher. True, the blocking was poor for Brandon Jackson but the job of establishing a credible running game just isn’t getting done right now and that makes it awfully difficult to win against good teams.
In this game the Packers’ offense generated a credible total of 418 yards of production. The problem is that Aaron Rodgers contributed for 395 (344 passing and 51 rushing) of that total. That makes the Packers too one-dimensional. Good teams like the Falcons will find ways to beat an attack such as the Packers presented Sunday. Mike McCarthy has to figure out a way to get more production from the running backs. I would like to see rookie James Starks activated soon and given a chance to spark the running game.
As has been the case far too often this year, the special teams once again melted down at a critical point in the game. Rodgers mounted a terrific drive in the waning minutes leading a 16-play, 90-yard drive culminating in a laser-beam touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to tie the game at 17 with less than a minute to play. However, the ensuing kickoff coverage failed horribly and put the Falcons in great field position which allowed them to kick the winning field goal with just a few seconds left on the clock.
Atlanta is a very good football team, but professional football is a game about winning and the performance put forth by the Green and Gold on Sunday was not good enough to win. Injuries and losing close games this year seems to be the prevailing theme. Mike McCarthy needs to rally the troops next week when they return to Lambeau to face the San Francisco 49ers. A win next week is now a must win.