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Game notes: Packers look for stronger finish after fourth-quarter swing

Defense laments too much Bijan Robinson, too few takeaways


ATLANTA – Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction for the Packers, as they took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

And then it all came undone.

An offense that overcame injuries at several key positions began struggling to move the football, while the defense couldn't get off the field on third downs against a run-heavy Falcons team that produced 211 yards on the ground.

In crunch time, Atlanta responded with 13 unanswered points in front of its home crowd to steal a 25-24 win from the Packers' grasp, sending Green Bay home with its first loss of the season.

"We knew we were going to come in here and it was going to be that type of game, a physical game," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "A game where whoever got the stop was going to win the game. Atlanta did and won the game.

"We had the opportunity. We blew it and didn't do it. It was just on us."

Green Bay opened the fourth quarter with a 24-12 lead, but the Falcons cut into that immediately with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with quarterback Desmond Ridder calling his own number on a fourth-and-4 keeper for a touchdown.

After the Packers' offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Falcons tacked on three more points with a Younghoe Koo 39-yard field goal after an eight-play drive.

Green Bay was unable to respond, with running back AJ Dillon getting stopped for no gain on a third-and-1. The Packers were going to try a sneak on fourth-and-1 from their own 34, but quarterback Jordan Love was called for a false start.

"I think there was just a little miscommunication," said Dillon, who finished with 55 yards on 15 carries. "In that situation there's a lot of stuff going on, we have a lot of options we can run out of that."

The Falcons got the ball back with 6:07 left in regulation and converted a critical third-and-3 with a 10-yard pass to first-round pick Bijan Robinson to the Green Bay 32.

The Packers stopped Ridder on the Falcons' next third-and-3 but Robinson again was the difference when he picked up seven yards off a fourth-and-1 pitch to set up Koo's go-ahead field goal from 25 yards with about a minute left.

Robinson finished with 172 total yards on 23 touches and helped Atlanta control the pace throughout. The Falcons finished with 78 offensive plays to Green Bay's 47.

"Just gotta find a way to win games like that. Those games right there show who you are," Douglas said. "We gotta find a way to get off the grass. They made a few fourth-down conversions and one of them was for a touchdown. Those just can't happen. We gotta find a way to get off the field."

The offense still had a chance to respond, getting the ball back with 57 seconds and no timeouts. However, Love was unable to connect with his receivers in the two-minute drill and Green Bay eventually turned it over on downs.

"I think we can all learn from this," Dillon said. "Coach LaFleur was saying if everybody goes back and is critical of themselves and everybody gets that one play better and we come back, we win these games."

O-line rotation: An offensive line that started without David Bakhtiari also finished without Elgton Jenkins after the Pro Bowl guard left with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn't return.

The Packers made ends meet, with Royce Newman stepping in for Jenkins in the second half. They allowed just one sack and had success playing with an extra offensive lineman.

Rasheed Walker, who started at left tackle for Bakhtiari, still handled that "sixth" man role, with Yosh Nijman rotating in at left tackle when the Packers were in that package.

"As far as I can tell they did a great job," said center Josh Myers of how the offensive line stepped up. "Obviously gotta watch the film. It was definitely a tough scenario but no excuse for losing."

Check out photos from the Week 2 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023.

One wasn't enough: Days after joking about his desire to be the first NFL player to intercept Ridder, Rasul Douglas actually did it when he picked off a deep ball from the second-year quarterback in the first quarter.

It was the first interception Ridder had thrown in 134 pass attempts. Unfortunately, the Packers were unable to generate any points off it.

"Definitely had some chances," Douglas said. "Could've been plus-five but we dropped it. We dropped a few. Just gotta do better."

Green Bay's defense got its hands on a few other Ridder passes but couldn't come away with it. Cornerback Jaire Alexander dropped a possible pick-six on fourth-and-4 in the second quarter and linebacker Quay Walker also had a chance at the start of the third.

"Kicking myself right now," Alexander said. "I'm kicking myself for the next day or two."

Gary passes test: Rashan Gary said his knee felt fine after seeing a heavier workload than his 12-snap appearance last week in Chicago.

The Packers have kept the fifth-year linebacker on a pitch count since his return from the torn ACL that ended his 2022 season. Gary had two tackles against the Falcons and combined with Kenny Clark on the only sack of Ridder.

"Leaving the game feeling good," Gary said. "Any time I'm able to step on the field and take reps and be out there with my brothers, it's a plus. I've been feeling good. I've been feeling good and feeling better."


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