1) Can’t Weather the Storm: A nearly-dominant first half by the Falcons wasn’t enough to get them a fourth win this season and their second in a row for the first time this year. Conditions were challenging Sunday in Green Bay but the Falcons used a strong first-half effort on the ground from Steven Jackson and the defense to gain a 21-10 edge at halftime. The Packers adjusted in the second half and shut out Atlanta’s offense and slowly chipped away to get back into the game. Two third-quarter field goals cut the Falcons lead to five points and a Matt Ryan sack and fumble to open the fourth quarter gave the Packers excellent field position and an opportunity to take the lead, which they did. The next three possessions for the Falcons would not end well and Ryan wasn’t able to get his 25th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Those three final drives would end in a missed Matt Bryant 52-yard field goal, a dropped pass on fourth down by Tony Gonzalez and an interception by Ryan. It was Bryant’s third miss of the season. The pass was Gonzalez’ second drop of the year (according to stats from PFF.com) and the interception was Ryan’s 13th. The Falcons put together their third straight competitive game of the year, but for the 10th time in 2013, they walk away with a loss.
PHOTOS: See Images From Falcons-Packers
2) Dome Team in Cold Weather: It was a topic all week, but once the game began Sunday in Green Bay, it didn’t appear to have a significant effect on either team. Both teams came out of the gate running the ball and that trend continued for much of the game. Outside of a few slips and dropped passes, the weather wasn’t a factor beyond the discomfort of playing in nine degree temperatures, until the fourth quarter. The conditions may have played a factor in Bryant’s missed field goal at the 6:47 mark from 52 yards out. Sunday’s game did make it into the team’s record books since it was the coldest game the Falcons franchise has ever played. The second-coldest road game in team history also came in Green Bay, in 1975 with a kickoff temperature of 10 degrees. The third coldest on the road came in 2005 in Chicago when the Falcons lost to the Bears in 12 degree weather.
3) Jackson Continues Running Well: It was expected to be a ground game kind of day and it turned out to be just that, led by Steven Jackson’s 71 yards rushing. The Falcons gained 83 yards total rushing, but some stalled drives in the third and fourth quarters limited the Falcons rushing attack. Jackson ran strong in the first half, helping the Falcons eat up clock and field, gaining 55 of his yards in the first and second quarters. His 15 carries is the third-highest total of the season and his 4.7 yards-per-carry average is the second highest of 2013. The offensive line continued to come together and helped open up the lanes that Jackson needed and they also shined in pass protection. The Packers were one of the top pass-rushing teams when the game began Sunday with 38 sacks, but Atlanta’s O-line limited Green Bay to just one sack and one QB hit, but the one sack was costly. Coming to begin the fourth quarter, Ryan was dropped at his own 21-yard line and lost the ball, leading to the go-ahead touchdown from Green Bay three plays after the fumble recovery.
4) Positive Pass-Rush Pressure: The Falcons entered Sunday with the fewest sacks on defense in the league (22). They used the Packers’ depleted offensive line to their advantage and poured on the pressure, especially in the first half. William Moore leveled quarter Matt Flynn with a sack and forced a fumble in the process, extending Moore’s streak to two straight games with a forced fumble. The Falcons recovered the fumble and turned the possession into a touchdown. Defensive tackle Corey Peters came up with a sack on third down to end a Green Bay drive and in total, the Falcons had five sacks and five QB hits.
5) Negating Turnovers: In games in conditions like at Lambeau Field, what happens on defense can have an even greater difference in the outcome of a game. In the first half, the Falcons defense swarmed and forced two turnovers in the process. Takeaways haven’t been the Falcons’ specialty this season, but in seasons past, the defense has always done a great job of forcing turnovers and competing the Falcons competitive. The two turnovers the Falcons had on the day came in the first half and they were major in giving the Falcons an opportunity to win late in the game. Moore’s sack and forced fumble put the Falcons in position to get a 2-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez to go up 14-7. The second turnover may go down as one of the wildest plays of the season for the Falcons. A tipped pass led to a Worrilow kick of the foot to send the errant pass into the air. Sean Weatherspoon caught the interception and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 21-10 lead.
On the other side of the ball, the clean and efficient first half of play from Atlanta’s offense didn’t continue in the second half. Two turnovers in the fourth quarter allowed the Packers to take the lead and close out the game. Ryan’s fumble gave the Packers a short field to take the lead and Ryan’s interception came on Atlanta’s last offensive play of the game. With 11 seconds remaining, a third-and-10 pass from Ryan to Harry Douglas was intercepted to end the Falcons comeback.