Green Bay, Wis. — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Packers game column, which can be found on myajc. The Packers won 43-37 on Monday night.
1. The Falcons’ defense isn’t the league’s lowest-ranked for nothing. The Packers scored on all five first-half possessions to take a 31-7 lead. They outgained the Falcons 296 yards to 161 in that half and held the ball for 21:06 of the 30 minutes. In the first half, Green Bay made as many first downs (22) as the Falcons ran plays. And even when the Atlanta offense started scoring like crazy in the second half, the defense yielded two huge plays — Aaron Rodgers’ 60-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it 40-24 and James Starks’ 41-yard burst to the 7 that clinched the game. How does this keep happening?
2. Given the quality of opposition, the Falcons’ offense had its best game of the season. Matt Ryan, who’d thrown a horrid early interception, completed 24 of 39 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Eleven of those passes were caught by Julio Jones, who set a franchise record with 259 yards receiving and was stopped only when he left with an injured hip on the Falcons’ next-to-last possession. This wasn’t one of those games where you could fault general manager Thomas Dimitroff for trading five picks to move up and draft Jones; this was one of those games when such a move more than rewarded the risk.
3. The Falcons probably are the best team in the NFC South. This falls under the heading of faint praise, but contrast this narrow loss to maybe the NFL’s best team with the Saints’ 41-10 drubbing — their fourth consecutive home loss — by Carolina on Sunday. The Falcons are 5-8, which means they cannot have a winning regular season, but with better clock management and a slightly better first half here, they could well have won their past six games. They’re not the same team that was getting pummeled by Cincinnati and Chicago earlier in the seasons. They’ve improved since then.