Packers hang on for critical win
GREEN BAY—The Green Bay Packers finally found a way to win without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Matt Flynn threw for 258 yards and the Packers’ struggling defense forced a key fourth-quarter turnover in a 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday to snap a five-game winless slide.
Mike Neal’s sack forced Matt Ryan to fumble. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly scooped up the loose ball and celebrated with a little belly dance at chilly Lambeau Field.
Four plays later, Flynn found Andrew Quarless for a 2-yard touchdown pass for a 22-21 lead with about 12 minutes left for the Packers (6-6-1).
The score completed a comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit and whipped the fans bundled up in parkas, fleece vests and knit caps into a frigid frenzy.
It was 9 degrees when the game started, with a wind chill of minus-1. The stadium looked as if it was encased in a snow globe at times with much of the game played while light, powdery snowflakes gently fell to the worn turf.
Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal into the wind with 6:42 left for Atlanta (3-10). The Falcons got to the 33 with 2 minutes left, but Tony Gonzalez dropped a short pass from Ryan with tight coverage by Jarrett Bush.
Flynn finished 24 of 32 with an interception in his second start for Rodgers, who’s been out since fracturing his left collarbone on the first series of a 27-20 loss to the Bears on Nov. 4.
It’s been a struggle ever since for Green Bay, which fell from first place in the NFC North to fighting to stay in the playoff chase.
Sunday’s win gave them a huge lift in an injury-filled season, with Rodgers appearing to be getting closer to a return.
The comeback overshadowed linebacker Sean Weatherspoon’s lumbering, 71-yard interception return that gave the Falcons a 21-10 lead with 23 seconds left before halftime.
A short pass from Flynn appeared to carom off linebacker Paul Worrilow’s shoe and chest and into the hands of Weatherspoon. He slowly trudged his way back up the field past Packers who apparently thought the ball touched the ground.
Lineman T.J. Lang had the best chance to take down Weatherspoon, but whiffed on a tackle around the 22-yard line.
From there, the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Weatherspoon had a slow-motion escort into the end zone.
He celebrated with a break, kneeling for several minutes on the sideline to catch his breath after giving the Falcons an 11-point lead. It turned out to be their last score of the game.
Ryan finished 20 of 35 for 206 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Steven Jackson had 71 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Otherwise, a Green Bay defense that had allowed more than 200 yards rushing in each of its previous two games bounced back.
Mason Crosby kicked field goals from 40, 33 and 25 yards, the final one with 45 seconds left in the third quarter to get Green Bay within 21-16.
Quarless finished with six catches for 66 yards, by far his best game of the season in place of Jermichael Finley, who is out for the season with a neck injury.