Discipline Departs: Pack Falls Short in Atlanta

A four game winning streak gives you reason to believe. It makes you believe that early season issues like penalties and special teams are a thing of the past. But it was costly mistakes in those areas--along with an Aaron Rodgers fumble at the goal line--that cost the Packers a chance to grab the seeding edge against the Falcons.

A stirring late game drive, culminating in a heart-stopping fourth down touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson, was wasted when the Pack surrendered a big kickoff return and added a facemask penalty, giving Matt Ryan the ball at midfield with just under a minute left and one timeout. Too close to FG range, too much time for a QB who is now 19-1 in his home stadium. Throw in a top-5 kicker like Matt Bryant and the Packers were sunk.

There were too many penalties at the wrong times by all three units. It took away from a strong defensive showing that kept Roddy White and the passing game in check and gave the Pack a chance.

The first turnover by Green Bay in four games was as costly as they come. Rodgers lost the football on a QB sneak at the goal line, erasing a chance at a 10-3 lead late in the second quarter. Ryan and the Falcons then engineered their best drive of the day, scoring at the end of the half, reversing the score and taking a 10-3 lead, and all the momentum into the locker room.

We'll look back at that Rodgers fumble. We'll look at the fourth down catch by Tony Gonzalez that would have been erased had Mike McCarthy challenged and wiped out the ensuing TD that gave them a 10-3 lead. We'll look at the untimely, indisciplined penalties. We'll look at all these things and then we'll look at the scoreboard and realize we still only lost on a last second field goal.

Yes, it might cost the Pack a home game in the playoffs. But it also proved that the Pack can play with the best the NFC has to offer at their place. You have to learn from the mistakes in this one. You also need to be more productive in the running game if you want to beat good teams on the road.

Four losses on the season, all by three points, two in overtime. All four losses have been decided in the final possession. You hope this young, talented team learns from the errors of its ways. So as the games gain importance in the coming weeks, we watch them grow up before our eyes and hopefully win one of these road battles when the lights are brightest.

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