Packers vs. Falcons: 5 Things We Learned from Atlanta's 25-14 Loss
The Atlanta Falcons entered Sunday night's home game against the Green Bay Packers hoping to spell revenge and move on from last year's agonizing defeat in the playoffs at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay.
Instead, the Packers rewound back to that date and pressed play, rolling over the Falcons with 25 unanswered points to put away Atlanta in their own building.
And, just like last year, a quick strike Atlanta attack was zapped by Aaron Rodgers, and a prolific, completely unstoppable passing attack.
The Falcons also found ways to shoot themselves in the foot with costly penalties and another game with zero push from the offensive line.
After two very impressive and seemingly scripted drives from the Falcons offense, Atlanta ran out of tricks and were eventually out-muscled by the defending Super Bowl champs.
Sure, in isolation, an 11-point loss to the defending champs doesn't seem too bad, but this Atlanta team (2-3, 0-1 NFC South) is in a heap of trouble.
Here are five things we learned in the loss.
Despite Atlanta's Struggles, Aaron Rodgers Is Really, Really Good
It very well could be impossible to stop Aaron Rodgers. The gunslinger quarterback continues to show why some think he could go down as one of the greatest in the history of the league.
Green Bay simply spreads their offense out five-wide, and lets their golden-armed quarterback go to work.
Rodgers completed 29-of-36 passes for for 396 yards, including two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The thing that is so impressive, however, is the way he eludes pressure. Rodgers can make a free blitzing linebacker look like a dud while barely moving a muscle. He keeps his eyes downfield and shrugs off pass rushes as if they're holograms.
This quarterback is the real deal, and could possibly lead the Packers to another title in 2011-2012.
With That Said, Atlanta's Pass Defense Is Horrific
I said it every week so far, and I'll say it again.
The Falcons' pass defense is a complete and utter mess.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback who's going to get his numbers. But, the Falcons held Green Bay to just 57 rushing yards and continued to look lost.
Despite facing numerous second- and third-in-long situations, Rodgers was able to torch the Falcons defense and average 9.5 yards per pass attempt.
The biggest issue has been a continued lack of pass rush. Yes, Atlanta finally got some sacks today, but they are not doing it on an every down basis.
Maybe, when the Falcons get into the more average part of their schedule, things will turn up. But, so far this year, the secondary has allowed for all six opposing quarterbacks to complete at least 65 percent of their passes.
That includes Tarvaris Jackson, who has one of the lowest career quarterback ratings out of any starter in the league right now.
Considering how much Atlanta spent on cornerback Dunta Robinson, and how little they tried to develop the secondary with solid additions (though late additions of Kelvin Hayden and James Sanders could pan out later on in the season when they get more reps) in the past few years, the front office has one bothersome blemish on its resume.
False Alarm: The Falcons' Explosive Offense Has Been a Dud, and Isn't Dynamic
Julio Jones is in town (and cost multiple draft picks). Harry Douglas is healthy. Get ready for yards galore!
How does 4.9 yards per pass sound? That's how many yards per pass Atlanta got Sunday night from Matt Ryan, and they have not been much better than that in the first five games.
The Falcons' lack of offensive explosion is easily diagnosed.
They are not a force at the line of scrimmage. They aren't dictating the tempo with a running game, which means teams are not feeling pressure from the interior. So, teams aren't filling inside and leaving room for downfield plays.
Instead, the Falcons are either rushing for four yards or less, or spreading out five-wide and having to throw hot routes against defenses that match up, personnel wise, accordingly.
The Falcons have an identity that literally shows the defense what's going to happen. When they want to run, they go under center. When they want to pass (or have to pass, which is most of the time), they spread out.
This is because the offensive line isn't good enough to enable a balanced attack that can do multiple things out of similar formations.
They aren't fooling anyone. This offense is not working, at least not against top talent.
The Combination of Babineaux, Abraham and Edwards Could Pan out
If there was one big positive from the game, it was seeing the return of defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.
Babineaux missed the first four games of the year due to injury, and came back strong against the Packers today.
He's a guy who brings a lot of attention and can heavily influence the play of an opposing offensive line. Even with Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham not present, the Falcons had their best pass-rushing game of the year and held Green Bay to 57 yards rushing.
Babineaux was drawing attention that allowed guys like Corey Peters to penetrate, and he had just as many nice penetrating plays himself.
Look for a pretty potent defensive line when all four guys can be healthy and on the field at the same time. The combination of Babineaux, Peria Jerry and John Abraham has not seen the light of day in a regular season game.
Add Ray Edwards to the mix, and you've got something going. Sure, these guys have not been great with one or the other missing, but who knows just how well they can play together when they are all on the field?
Atlanta Could Miss the Playoffs, and Might Not Even Be Playoff-Caliber
This loss wasn't just because the Green Bay Packers were the opponent.
The Falcons are not flexing their muscle, and their "signature" win against Philadelphia is starting to look more and more like fool's gold.
It's starting to look less and less likely that Atlanta defends their NFC South crown, and the Carolina Panthers are starting to show they are no house cat these days.
I'm not saying Atlanta is the fourth or even third worst team in the division, but they certainly have a hill to climb and it won't be a cakewalk.
The Falcons went 13-3 last year with a lot of magic, luck and a pretty easy schedule. Their playoff performances under Mike Smith have not been stellar so far.
I do think the nucleus of this team, especially in the organizational and front office aspect, is outstanding and upstart. The Falcons are going to be way better and much more reliable than they ever have been in the past, but this start in 2011 has been humbling to fans who have been drinking the "Rise-up-ade" since last fall.
That includes me.