Packers-Falcons Recap

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The Packers, exhibiting a split personality, played two distinctly different halves of football in rallying to turn back the Falcons in their Georgia Dome home.

In the early going, against the Packers first units, it began to look like the Falcons were en route to a cake walk. They amassed 220 yards of offense in the first 20 minutes and 44 seconds of action, parlaying their quick getaway into a 21-3 lead by the 5:44 mark of the second quarter.

There, from the scoreboard perspective, it ended for the Falcons, who were not to score again for the balance of the evening.

Meanwhile, the Packers' subsequent renaissance, triggered largely by reserves, appeared to begin in the second quarter when GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman turned over the football to Craig Nall, the third of four Green Bay quarterbacks to take a turn under center during the course of the evening.

Nall's first possession ended in a punt but, on the second, he mustered a 71-yard scoring drive, capped by the first of two touchdown runs by Najeh Davenport, who engineered a 3-yard burst off right tackle for the Packers' initial TD.

Nall, returning for the third quarter, promptly put together a 70-yard push for a second score, this one also registered by Davenport on a 4-yard sweep of left end into the corner of the end zone. With Ryan Longwell's conversion, the Packers had pulled to within 4 points of the Falcons, 21-17.

Akili Smith, making his Packers debut, replaced Nall early in the third quarter and guided the Green and Gold to a Longwell field goal, a 40-yard effort that pared Atlanta's lead to a single point, 21-20.

The Packers went empty-handed on their next possession but they shortly capitalized on the exchange from an unexpected set of circumstances. Atlanta quarterback Doug Johnson, sacked by defensive Jermaine Petty, fumbled and the Packers' Bobby Jackson, recovering at the Falcons' 2-yard line, quickly stepped into the end zone to put Green Bay ahead for the first time. Although 2:49 remained in the third quarter, Longwell's subsequent conversion ended the scoring for the evening.

The Packers, however, had to come up with some defensive heroics later in order to preserve the victory. With the Falcons in a menacing position at the Green Bay 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, defensive end Aaron Kampman literally saved the "day." On third down, he stopped Falcons running back Fred Talley for no gain, then after a pass was incomplete to tight end Derek Rackley, Kampman again stuffed Talley for no gain. He also forced a fumble in the process and defensive back Jacoby Shepherd recovered, ending the Falcons' final threat.

Overall, Green Bay's defense smothered the Falcons in its second half turnabout, limiting Atlanta to just 56 yards of offense in 29 plays - a miniscule average of 1.93 yards per play.

Linebacker Torrance Marshall and Kampman led the charge, Marshall closing out the evening with a team-leading 7 solo tackles and one forced fumble, and Kampman with 5 unassisted tackles, including a pair of sacks for 27 yards in losses.

Behind the gifted Vick, who completed 6 of 7 passes for 110 yards and forged a maximum 158.3 passer rating, Nall emerged with the second-best such performance of the evening, completing 8 of 13 attempts for 80 yards - without an interception - for a 79.0 rating.

Brett Favre, playing all but the last 30 seconds of the first period, completed 4 of 7 passes for 32 yards, Smith 7 of 12 for 61 yards, with 1 interception, and Doug Pederson 1 of 3, also with one interception.

Carl Ford, a seventh-round selection in this year's draft, continued to impress, leading Green Bay's receivers with 4 catches for 48 yards.

Davenport, meanwhile, paced the Packers' rushing efforts with 43 yards in 15 carries, and a 2.9-yard average.

GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:

(on the result) "It's not the final result, it's how well you play in the preseason, and our first units didn't play very well against their first units, and that was disappointing. I thought the defense last year - against a very good rushing football team - we did a good job dealing with them. But today we didn't. Atlanta did a nice job against our first units. We need to do better."

(on some of the 'young guys' having made an impact) "We came in at halftime and I told the guys, 'All I'm worried about is the second half. I'll deal with the first half in the morning' and when I see them again in a meeting.

"But the second half, I thought we dealt with them well. Some of our young guys really did step up and I'm proud of the effort they gave. Regardless, they helped get us back in the ball game and made some plays and had fun doing it.

"And a win is a win is a win, even if it's preseason. We'll take the record in the second half."

(on the play of Quarterbacks Craig Nall and Akili Smith) "I thought Nall did a nice job. You know, coming off last week was disappointing to him - he had two interceptions. He was able to go in today and direct our offense down the field for touchdowns, and I thought he did a nice job.

"Akili, when he went into the game, didn't fare quite as well. Just like Nall did last week, and he'll have better days. He didn't have a great contingent of knowledgeable receivers out there to work with, but he had some throws he wishes had back, I'm sure. And it's just going to be a process of trying to get him more acclimated with the offense. I think he did make one big play for a third down for us. He can run with his feet a little bit, so we saw some things. But he didn't seem comfortable with the receivers that were in the game with him and I think he'll just improve as we go along."

(on there having been 'a couple of big runbacks' against the Packers' kick coverage) "Yeah, there were. Obviously, I don't want to start the game on the 49-yard line. That's a problem, and they will be addressed. We have enough talent in that group to get the job done. It's not about talent - it's about doing the right thing when you're supposed to do it. They split our two 'fives' with a wedge to our left and took it right up the sideline there against us. And we did not play disciplined enough on our kickoff coverage units. And against a guy like Allen Rossum and an explosive unit like Atlanta, we have to be disciplined."

THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:

Cornerback Mike McKenzie: "There are a lot of things we need to clean up, but we are happy to come out here and get a win.

(on Michael Vick) "What can you say? The world sees what the rest of us see: One incredibly smooth, composed individual."

Running back Najeh Davenport: "Winning this one is the only stat that really counts. It was close, and too many close ones aren't good for you. It could have been any way in terms of outcome, so we are glad we took it from them."

Wide receiver Javon Walker: "It was all right tonight. We had a couple of mistakes but, overall, we were solid. A win is a win. I'll tell you, Atlanta is a good team. They got a lot of good weapons, and they are going to go a long ways this year."

Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt: "Vick is amazing. He's better now than he was when we played him in the playoffs, believe it or not. Did you see him tonight? He was back there, comfortable as a pocket passer, and still dangerous as all get out when he runs. He stepped up his game, and that is a tribute to him."

Quarterback Akili Smith: "Our coaches want me to be a pocket passer but, tonight, I had to do a little scrambling. Ironically, it was Vick who was the pocket passer tonight. Dan Reeves is doing a heckuva job with Vick. He should have a great career."

NOTE-WORTHY:

-GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman now owns an 8-6-0 won-lost record in preseason play following Saturday night's victory over the Falcons.

-Fleet Antonio Chatman, continuing to make an impression as a kickoff returner, averaged 28.3 yards for three runbacks against the Falcons. In two games to date, he has averaged 27.0 yards for 5 KOR.

Chatman also weighed in with an 8-yard gain on his first rushing attempt as a Packer, staking Green Bay to a first down at the Atlanta 28-yard line in a third-quarter drive that led to a 40-yard Ryan Longwell field goal four plays later.

-First year safety Bobby Jackson had a "big play" evening. He recovered two Falcon fumbles, the first of which led to a Ryan Longwell field goal and the second to the touchdown he scored on a 2-yard run, both in the third quarter. Linebacker Torrance Marshall forced the first fumble, Jackson recovering and advancing 6 yards to the Atlanta 38-yard line prior to the Longwell field goal. Jermaine Petty's sack forced the second fumble, by Atlanta quarterback Doug Johnson in the end zone, the alert Jackson scooping up the football and stepping 2 yards into paydirt.

Jackson then threw in a "save" on the succeeding kickoff, running Falcons returner LaTarence Dunbar to earth after a scary 48-yard return to the Atlanta 47-yard line.

-Rookie defensive back Chris Johnson weighed in with a big play of his own in the third quarter, sacking Falcons quarterback Doug Johnson for an 8-yard loss at the 2-yard line, in effect setting the stage for Jackson's heroic on the next play.

-Defensive end Chukie Nwokorie was the only Green Bay defender to "get to" the highly elusive Michael Vick, felling him for a 7-yard loss when Vick found himself free-lancing in a 4th-and-4 situation late in the first quarter.

-Veteran tight end Wesley Walls made his Packers debut with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

-Quarterback Brett Favre, center Frank Winters, placekicker Ryan Longwell, nose tackle Gilbert Brown and defensive end Joe Johnson were the Packers' captains for the Atlanta contest.

-Placekicker Ryan Longwell, who last week went "scoreless" for the first time in his seven-year pro career, was back on course Saturday night, accumulating 9 points with a pair of field goals and three conversions. When he went without a scoring opportunity against Kansas City in the Packers' preseason opener Aug. 4, it ended an "unofficial" streak of 127 games for Longwell, who previously had scored in every NFL game he has played - preseason, regular season or postseason.

-The Packers had a lengthy list of "did-not-plays in Atlanta, with 15 players not dressing for Saturday night's contest because of injuries. It included wide receivers Donald Driver (hamstring), Robert Ferguson (tailbone), Jörg Heckenbach (kidneys), safety Darren Sharper (shoulder), offensive tackles Chad Clifton (hip) and Mark Tauscher (knee), running backs Lamar Smith (knee) and Adam Tate (knee), linebacker Steve Josue (knee), nose tackle James Lee (hip), tackle Reggie Coleman (hip), defensive tackle Terdell Sands (ankle), tight end David Martin (hamstring), tight end Tyrone Davis (knee) and defensive tackle Rod Walker (shoulder).

-Josh Bidwell averaged an imposing 51.0 yards for his two punts of the game, one of them a 56-yarder.

-The Packers will officially break training camp at their St. Norbert College base Saturday (Aug. 16), the day after their preseason game at Cleveland. Two-a-day workouts, however, will continue next week, ending just prior to the Aug. 23 game against Carolina.

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