Banged up Packers fall short in deja vu loss to Falcons
ATLANTA (AP) — Green Bay’s offense was without both starting tackles from the start and then lost both starting wide receivers.
Oh, and the Packers were playing in the first regular-season game in the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium. Plus, Green Bay’s makeshift line had to face a defensive front that stayed fresh with constant substitutions.
“That’s all part of the game plan,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ”... That’s the NFL. That’s football.”
Short-handed Green Bay faced a big early deficit, just like in last season’s NFC championship game, and its comeback attempt fell short in Sunday night’s 34-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Devonta Freeman ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns and cornerback Desmond Trufant opened the second half by scoring on a fumble return for Atlanta (2-0).
The Falcons made a strong statement that they again will be a factor in the NFC following their 44-21 NFC championship game victory over the Packers last season. It was a successful regular-season debut for Atlanta’s $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the new stadium’s first event with its retractable roof open.
It was more forgettable for the Packers. Green Bay (1-1) lost receivers Jordy Nelson (quad) and Randall Cobb (shoulder) while playing the full game without regular tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. Backup tackle Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray, listed as the backup at center and right guard, filled in at tackle.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his play-calling “changed a little bit.”
“They just haven’t been in those spots before for us,” Rodgers said of the fill-in linemen. “A loud environment, first time for those guys. ... We had a couple mistakes, false starts and stuff, but overall I think those guys did well.”
Ty Montgomery ran for 35 yards, including a touchdown, and had 75 yards receiving with another touchdown for Green Bay. Rodgers’ top target was Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 99 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown .
Trufant intercepted a pass from Rodgers late in the first half to set up Matt Ryan’s 3-yard scoring pass to Tevin Coleman for a 24-7 halftime lead, then delivered again on the second play after halftime.
Rodgers lost the ball when hit by Vic Beasley Jr. Fumble or incomplete pass? Instead of waiting for a ruling, Trufant picked up the loose ball and ran 15 yards for the touchdown. The touchdown call stood when the replay didn’t conclusively show a forward pass.
“A big play by him with the interception at the end of the half,” Quinn said, “then a smart play to start the second half on the forced fumble.”
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
RAISE THE ROOF: The retractable roof was closed for two preseason games, as well as three MLS Atlanta United games and two college football games. The team’s first open-air home game since 1991 went smoothly — even though the air conditioning at the Georgia Dome was missed.
“It felt pretty cool,” said Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu. “It was kind of hot, but we’re in good shape so it didn’t affect us.”
COMMISSIONER VISITS: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand for the pregame ribbon-cutting ceremony also attended by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Blank cut the big red ribbon.
300 AND COUNTING: Rodgers completed 33 of 50 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His second scoring pass, a 1-yarder to Montgomery in the fourth quarter, was the 300th of his career. He threw the shovel pass with his left hand , making the milestone more memorable.
Asked if he would have ever thought he’d reach the milestone with a left-handed toss, Rodgers said “No, I didn’t, but they all count.”
INJURIES: Beasley, the 2016 NFL sacks leader, left the game with a hamstring injury. The Falcons also lost defensive end Courtney Upshaw with an ankle injury. Also, right tackle Ryan Schrader suffered a concussion on Atlanta’s first touchdown drive.
BIG PENALTY: McCarthy drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the first half. He said he was penalized for pressing officials for an explanation on a key offensive pass interference call against tight end Martellus Bennett. The penalty on Bennett negated a 36-yard pass to Randall Cobb.
“I didn’t get any clarification,” McCarthy said.
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