Champs Wake Up in Second Half to Dump FalconsPosted:Oct 10th, 2011 3:18 am
One of the hallmarks of the Pack's 2010 championship season was that they never trailed by more than a touchdown all season. Through five games this season, the Pack has trailed on the road by 13 and 14 points and come back to win them both, first in Carolina and on Sunday night in Atlanta. Championship mettle, they call it, and the champs are 5-0 for the seventh time in team history--each previous time they went on to win a championship.
This one couldn't get off to an uglier start. The Falcons opened the game with a heavy dose of the ground game and the defense couldn't get off the field on third downs. Then Chad Clifton was carted off with a hamstring injury and suddenly the high flying Packer offense was being protected by tackled Marshall Newhouse and rookie Derek Sherrod. Even without John Abraham the Falcons were harassing Rodgers. He looked uncomfortable and out of rhythm and the Pack had to settle for two field goals, trailing 14-6 at the half. We await word on the severity of Clifton's hamstring injury. Best case scenario: he's back after the bye. Worst case: oh, let's not go there.
In the third quarter, Mike McCarthy made a gutsy call by sending out Mason Crosby to try a 56 yard field goal. I thought he was crazy--a miss would give the Falcons the ball at midfield, but Crosby drilled it--it would have been good from 62 and the Pack was within five. McCarthy erred on the next scoring drive by going for two, rather than kicking the extra point. That point would have come in handy later when the Packers stretched the lead to eight.
Ultimately, Rodgers found his groove, the tackles stood tall and the Packers offense found itself. Rodgers hit twelve different receivers in the game, a Packer record. James Jones led the way with five grabs for 140 yards. He finished 26-39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns--should have had a third, but Finley dropped one in the second quarter. He is the best player in the NFL right now--there is no argument.
Defensively, the Pack completely shut down the Falcons in the second half. They stuffed the running game and took away the plays downfield. Desmond Bishop's sack--the only one of the night--seemed to take all of the wind out of Atlanta's sails.
11 straight wins going back to the Giants game last December. These are heady times. The Packers offense may be the best we have ever seen. The defense has playmakers at all three levels. And every other team in the league seems to have its warts. Long way to go, but with St. Louis and Minnesota before the bye, the Pack has a chance to keep things clicking into November.