Packers 43, Falcons 37: Game Balls and Lame Calls

Raise your hand if you predicted the Green Bay Packers would be beating the Atlanta Falcons 31-7 at half and only win by six points?

Hands down, liars.

That’s exactly what happened. A stellar first half gave way to a near-disastrous second half as Green Bay barely hung on to beat the Falcons 43-37. The Packer defense in particular had arguably its worst half of football in over a year and the offense could only muster 12 points in the final 30 minutes.

Thankfully a blocked extra point didn’t come back to haunt Green Bay and the Packers moved to 10-3 on the season. They remain one game ahead of the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North.

Here are those who played well against the Falcons and those who left something to be desired in another edition of “Game Balls and Lame Calls.”

Game Balls

Eddie Lacy

Remember when everyone was drooling at the thought of Aaron Rodgers having a decent running game behind him?

Well, that dream is now a reality.

Eddie Lacy is something special. His ability to absolutely annihilate defenders as well as the sickest spin moves this side of a high-end washing mashing have given the Packers their best running back since Ahman Green in his prime.

It showed against Atlanta as Lacy spun like a top and leveled defenders like they were bowling pins. He finished the day with 106 total yards and two touchdowns (one receiving and one rushing).

What’s even more impressive is how much improvement Lacy has shown as a pass catcher. In addition to their deadly deep ball via Rodgers, Green Bay now has an honest to goodness screen game.

Lacy is getting going at the perfect time with the calendar now reading December. A dual threat Packers offense with home field advantage in the playoffs will be lethal for the rest of the NFC.

Aaron Rodgers

35 touchdowns and three interceptions now for Rodgers on the year.

Not bad for the leading NFL MVP candidate.

Rodgers was his usual brilliant self against the Falcons. He side stepped oncoming rushers with ease and kept the offense humming.

His fourth quarter touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson went for 60 yards and was one of his best throws of the season. Rodgers finished the day 24-36 for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

Just another day at the office.

Offensive line

It’s long overdue to start giving the Packers’ offensive line some credit. This is the best line Rodgers has played behind in his career.

Not only are they taking care of their quarterback but they’re also opening holes for Lacy and James Starks. Corey Linsely has been a revelation at center and David Bakhtiari, though he has had some moments, has slid into position nicely at left tackle.

Winning in the trenches is crucial in December football and the offensive line has been getting it done for the Packers in this five-game winning streak.

Lame Calls

Sam Shields

Julio Jones’ 259-yard day marks the worst performance of Sam Shields’ career.

The fact he was eventually benched for Davon House just puts the icing on the cake.

In Shields’ defense, he was questionable for the game and didn’t get a full week of practice. Still, he was so badly beat that you have to wonder how much the injury was a factor. If he was that bad, the coaching staff had no business activating him for the game.

House did a decent job on Jones before the receiver left with a hip injury. That makes Shields’ performance even more puzzling.

Micah Hyde

Hyde also had a rough day against Falcons. Like Shields, he was consistently out of place and Matt Ryan basically had his way against him.

Whiffing on tackles is one thing but you have to be in position to make a play. Hyde wasn’t and he too was eventually replaced in the game. This time it was Casey Hayward.

Oh, and tipping away a potential pick six is not a good thing when you’re a defender. Hyde probably cost Shields a touchdown which would have helped given the Falcons’ comeback.

Dom Capers

The “Fire Dom Capers” Watch was all but cancelled for the season. Last night brought it back with a roar.

Capers’ defenses usually let off the gas a bit when given a big lead but last night was just a full blown collapse. That hasn’t been seen in the 2014 unit and is a bit alarming as the Packers gear up for the playoffs.

Players were out of position constantly in the second half and that falls on Capers and his scheme. He still doesn’t deserve to be fired but the defense hopefully will be more alert in the final three games of the regular season.

——————

Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

——————

  • Big T

    I disagree with you on Hyde’s tip. He broke up that pass, plain and simple, great play. If he lets that go who’s to say shields whiffs or tips it to the receiver. I say go for that everytime. Shields just hasn’t been the same since he got the cash. If it weren’t for his make-up speed, he wouldn’t even be average. The whole Defense needs a kick to the ballsack…

    • HydeYourShields

      100% agrree. Hyde was actually in great position and make a great play, can’t fault him for that. Though Shields appeared to jump the route as well and might’ve not landed in the Lame Calls column if he has a 99 yard pick-six…

    • marpag

      HOLY CRAP!!! I agree wholeheartedly with Big T !!!!!!!!!! (well, except for the Shield’s sucks routine and the ballsack part). In the words of Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out here?!?!”

      It’s ridiculous to think that Hyde should have let the ball pass him by. No way, no how.

      • TedTomsin

        The same thing happened last week against New England. Brady got pressured by Mike Daniels and had to throw the ball earlier than he wanted. The ball was headed right into Morgan Burnett’s hands but Sam Barrington jumped and deflected the ball. Burnett would have had an easy pick 6 but you can’t blame Barrington who didn’t know who or what was behind him as he was looking at Brady.
        Hyde should not be blamed for that. I thought it was a great play by him. It’s too bad for Shields but as they say shit happens.
        Ted

  • Justin Michael

    The D since SB has never been stellar. Still missing a lot on the inside. Was disappointed there was not more pressure put on the QB. Can’t completely blame the secondary as in the NFL it all starts up front with QB pressure. If you give QB’s like that time to throw, it doesn’t matter how good the secondary is, WR like Julio and White will win one on one all day.

    • Letting off the gas in the secondary and in the pass rush. Ryan was harassed the entire 1st half but nothing in the second half. This was a good wake up call. I think GBs D rights the ship.

  • Shields and Hyde and Tramon had terrible 2nd halves. It won’t repeat itself. Nothing to see here folks.

  • GBPDAN

    Lame call : pass rush! Where was Peppers, Daniels, Perry, D Jones and the gang?

  • SchenySchen

    Game ball. James Starks. Ran hard and made great cuts. Lacy needs to take a page from him, especially his decisiveness. GoPack!

    • Tundraboy

      Absolutely, Every game we seem to add another weapon to the O

  • Razer

    The erratic and sub par play of this defense is troubling. Miscommunication, blown coverages, missing pass rush – you name it – the errors and shortcomings persist. I know it didn’t bite us last night but teams like Seattle and Detroit can play defense and can shutdown our offense. That means our defense needs to be able to play solid, mistake-free ball. Regular season blow-outs will mean nothing when we run into the Seattle defense and no WRs are open and the front-seven are beating us up in the trenches. Our defense will need to stop Marshawn Lynch and keep Russell Wilson from scrambling for 1st downs. I am looking for that defense

    • TedTomsin

      I am just guessing here but I would like to see A.J. Hawk in ordinary street clothes on the sidelines or preferably up in the booth with Capers and talking directly to Sam Barrington so he can call the plays lining all the guys up without actually playing. All Sam has to do is repeat what Hawk says and than go out and perform.

      I am sure some of the breakdowns, miscommunication etc has occurred because of Barrington’s lack of experience lining people up correctly. This can be corrected and cleaned up so that is the good news. If things don’t get cleaned up by playoff time than I feel they should put Hawk up in the booth calling the plays. This is only a last resort thing what I suggest above.

  • Bobby S

    Dat One over dare……..he ever going to make a play?? Heckuva #1 Teddy

    • Big T

      I am afraid that pick was a miss…

  • Tundraboy

    Another great offensive game but D was disturbing. No inside pressure at all. Ryan had a comfortable pocket the entire
    second half and he took advantage of it. D was back to being
    predictable. Hope it was a case of getting that out of our system, and expected coasting after the last game,

  • croatpackfan

    To many disappointing fans to place the comment. But some of your comments , at least part of them strikes to the right places…

  • montana83

    We all saw the second half and so did the coaching staff. They will question who was responsible and do everything possible to fix it.
    It could be Sam Shields but last week Julio Jones burned a Cardinals CB for 10 catches 180 yards. That CB was Patrick Peterson who is arguably one the top corners in the league and a 1st round draft choice.
    When we blitzed it was picked up about 90% of the time and we got burned so 1) Ryan had gobs of time and 2) He’s throwing to the top receiver in the NFL in yards.
    Remember when the Falcons beat the Cardinals last week the Cardinals had the top record in the NFL.
    Gruden said over and over last night that the O LIne was the biggest improvement on the team and he’s right. Just pray they stay healthy

  • montana83

    One more thing – those 43 points were the most the Falcons have given up all year and the game ended with GB on their 2 yard line or so so if they didn’t kneel they would have had a TD or FG for even more points.

  • Sven

    You mention that the offense could only muster 12 points in the second half. But that is not exactly true. There were the points the never went for to finish the game, after Starks big run. The offense also worked to drain the clock. It was far from perfect, but still…

    • shavager

      Those potential points were irrelevant at that point, the game was over because of Starks’ run that gave Pack the first down and control over clock. FACT is, Ryan put up 4 TD’s in ONE second half while Rodgers only got one TD and two FG’s, against a Lions, Hawks, Broncos or Patriots team–that could mean defeat for the division, playoff or SB game.

  • shavager

    This was Dom Capers of 2012 when Packers had lead on Vikings in the last game of season before Capers’ “prevent defense” PREVENTED Packers from winning the game and making Christian Ponder look like All Pro–while allowing Vikings to wrap up a playoff spot against Packers in week one. Against Falcons, looked like Packers defense stayed in locker room instead of coming out for second half, it was probably the poorest display of defense of the season next to the Saints debacle–but hey, the Saints still have Brees, Ryan hasn’t been “Matty Ice” for two seasons now. IF the Packers don’t make a SB run this season–it will once again be a Dom Capers’ defense that ends it.