Game Review: Complete Game Still Eludes Packers

Another see-saw game on Sunday in front of 70,610 at Lambeau Field saw the Packers start slowly, rally behind a valiant and gutty effort from injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but ultimately fade at the end in a 27-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. - More Packers-Falcons Game Center


WR Donald Driver makes a difficult 44-yard TD grab in tight coverage on Sunday against the Falcons.

Fits and starts are somewhat expected in the early stages of a football season. But the Green Bay Packers are beyond the first month now, and while they're still playing in spurts, both good and bad, the lack of consistency is catching up to them.

Another see-saw game on Sunday in front of 70,610 at Lambeau Field saw the Packers start slowly, rally behind a valiant and gutty effort from injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but ultimately fade at the end in a 27-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons that dropped Green Bay to 2-3 and out of first place in the NFC North Division.

"We're just not consistent," veteran tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We're way too up and down. We haven't played a full football game.

"This first half today, we didn't get it done, and we weren't able to overcome the first-half performance. If we just take the second half of this game, we're a good football team. But you're judged on four quarters and for many reasons we have not been able to put four together."

The first half saw the Falcons jump out to a 17-7 lead, mostly thanks to a monster performance by receiver Roddy White. His 37-yard catch on the game's first snap, when cornerback Charles Woodson fell down in coverage, set the tone for a big half in which he caught eight passes for 132 yards. One of those was a 22-yard touchdown from rookie quarterback Matt Ryan (16-of-26, 194 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 94.1 rating) midway through the second quarter.

The Packers got an impressive 44-yard TD catch from Donald Driver between two defenders to keep it close, and they were looking to get within one score by halftime when Mason Crosby nailed a 43-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the second quarter.

But rookie Jermichael Finley was called for holding on the attempt, and Crosby then missed wide right from 53 yards, leaving the Packers down 10 at the break. Both Finley and Head Coach Mike McCarthy disagreed with the call after the game - Finley said the player he was blocking stumbled to the ground and the official from the other side of the field threw the flag, believing Finley grabbed his collar - but nonetheless the penalty was the very kind that has crippled the Packers all season.

Green Bay was flagged nine times for 97 yards on Sunday, and all three phases were guilty at various times.

"We are an aggressive team, and penalties are part of the game," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It just seems when the penalties come it's at a crucial time. That's where it's hurting us."

The Packers overcame some of those miscues in the second half to get back into the game. A drive that started on their own 2-yard line resulted in a field goal late in the third quarter to make it 17-10, and after Williams intercepted Ryan in the end zone to take points away from the Falcons, the offense capitalized.

Rodgers, holding his right arm and sore right shoulder at times, directed a four-play, 80-yard drive for the tying score early in the fourth quarter. He hit tight end Tory Humphrey for 37 yards to start it and Greg Jennings (four catches, 87 yards) for a 25-yard TD to finish it, with Atlanta cornerback Domonique Foxworth draped all over him in the end zone.

But at 17-all, Atlanta countered with a 54-yard kickoff return by Jerious Norwood, setting up a go-ahead 41-yard field goal by Jason Elam with 7:19 left. The Packers tried to respond again, but Rodgers was intercepted on third-and-19 by linebacker Michael Boley, leading to a 2-yard TD plunge by Michael Turner to make it 27-17.

With the Packers shutting out White in the second half, the Falcons turned their offense over to Turner, whose 26 carries for 121 yards led Atlanta's 176-yard day on the ground. It marked the third straight week the Packers struggled to stop the run, and perhaps not coincidentally that has resulted in three straight losses.

"I think every defense in the league prides itself on being able to stop the run first and making a team pass," Woodson said. "It seemed we couldn't do either one of those, and those kind of days make for long days."

The Packers weren't done, though. Rodgers (25-of-37, 313 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 109.4 rating) led a 72-yard scoring drive, hitting tight end Donald Lee with a shovel pass for a 4-yard touchdown to pull Green Bay within three points with 1:56 left.

{sportsad300}But the onside kick was fruitless, and once Turner had run three times to pick up a first down, the Packers were left only to wonder how the outcome might have been different had they not handed the Falcons a 10-point lead just 10 minutes into the game.

"We were struggling," running back Ryan Grant, who had his best game thus far with 18 carries for 83 yards, said of the slow start. "We were definitely flat, inconsistent. We can't do that."

The frustration of it all was evident afterwards, with the Packers staring at as many losses already in 2008 as they had the entire 2007 regular season.

"It's tough," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "We're not playing crisp football right now, we're playing sloppy football.

"We haven't put a four-quarter game together yet this season. That's what we're still chasing."

And consequently they're also chasing the division rival Bears now for first place in the NFC North. The Packers certainly believe they're better than a sub-.500 team, but there's no point in saying that until they prove it.

"No, we're 2-3," Woodson said. "If we were better than that we wouldn't be 2-3. We have to find a way to win a football game at this point."

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