Sometimes, all you need is an injury to both of your opponents' starting tackles. Corey Peters took advantage, sacking Aaron Rodgers on the first play of the half. After a close call pass that was knocked away in part by Brent Grimes (we've been hearing his name quite a bit tonight), the Falcons were able to force a three-and-out to start the third quarter. Promising.
The offense came out in the second half again relying heavily on Michael Turner in an attempt to keep the ball out of Rodgers' hands and wear down that Green Bay defense. And then as he has done all night, Matt Ryan came up big on third down, this time getting it to Roddy White for a gain of eight yards.
But after setting themselves up on a third-and-short approaching red zone territory, Tyson Clabo committed his second penalty of the night. Sam Baker completely missed his block on the ensuing play, and any threat of a Falcons score was immediately erased.
On defense, Corey Peters came up big again, this time stopping James Starks behind the line for a one-yard loss. A big hit applied by James Sanders knocked the ball away from Jordy Nelson and forced a third-and-long. But in the most infuriating fashion possible, Rodgers managed to escape the clutches of an overpursuing Sean Weatherspoon, who went into the pocket untouched. That play would ultimately turn into a 30-yard gain as Rodgers chucked it to James Jones for the first down.
In typical bend-but-don't-break fashion, the Falcons stood strong, and a third-down pass that glanced off the fingertips of Donald Driver only helped their cause. But a 56-yard field goal via Mason Crosby would split the uprights and cut the Falcons' lead to 14-9. Still, the defense has performed beyond expectations. Time for the offense to do their part.
But an illegal formation penalty would put the Falcons in first-and-fifteen, and they couldn't recover. Two Matt Ryan throws, neither of which was on the mark, fell incomplete. Giving the ball right back to the Pack was exactly what Atlanta couldn't afford to do, and yet that's exactly what happened.
Can you guess what happens next? If you guessed "quick Green Bay score," well you're correct. Rogers finds James Jones on a deep post route, and Thomas DeCoud's failure to wrap up allowed him to take it 70 yards to the house. The two-point attempt would fall incomplete, but the Packers would take their first lead of the game, 15-14.
But yet again, the Falcons third quarter offense was absolutely helpless. After first and second down failed to produce anything, Ryan attempted to scramble on third down, but his slide came up short of the first. On the other side, the defense was able to force another third-and-long after two Rodgers incompletions. But the coverage continued to break down on third down. The Falcons continue to rush three, and Rodgers has all day to throw.
As the fourth quarter began, Rodgers found Greg Jennings for a 29-yard touchdown. The bad news continued, as Weatherspoon came out of the game after being shaken up tackling Jermichael Finley. All these defensive injuries coupled with the typical third quarter stagnation has allowed the Falcons to again allow their lead to disappear. They now trail 22-14 with just under 15 minutes left in this ball game.
For more, visit Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Packers blog Acme Packing Company.