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Pack bounces back from slow start to beat Falcons

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PAUL NEWBERRY
October 10, 2011
— Early on, the Super Bowl champs were down by two touchdowns.

Think they were worried?


Not a chance.


Aaron Rodgers had another huge game in Atlanta, throwing for 396 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while the Green Bay defense totally stifled the Falcons after giving up those two quick scores. The unbeaten Packers rallied for a 25-14 victory Sunday night, the momentum from the championship season carrying over to their best start since 1965.


That, of course, was the Vince Lombardi Pack in its heyday.


This group isn't too bad, either.


The Packers certainly have the Falcons' number, following up a 48-21 rout in last season's playoffs with another big win at the Georgia Dome.


"We're just a better team than they are. Honestly," Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "Those guys talk a lot. But we're the champions. And that won't change anytime soon."


Rodgers has turned the Georgia Dome into Lambeau Field South, throwing for 762 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games against the Falcons. Thrown a softball of a question so, do you like playing in the A-T-L? the quarterback broke into a big smile.


"I do," he said, a playful tone in his voice.


The high-scoring Packers (5-0) were held without a touchdown in the first half by the Falcons (2-3), who had the place rockin' when they scored on their first two possessions.


After that, the home fans had little to cheer about.


Rodgers saw to that.


"It was a choppy game but we persevered," he said. "We have a different team than years past. We expect to win when we take the field."


Green Bay settled for three field goals by Mason Crosby, closing to 14-9 before Rodgers really got rolling. He connected with James Jones on a 70-yard touchdown that gave Green Bay its first lead late in the third quarter. Then, on the first play of the fourth, Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a 29-yard scoring play that stretched the lead to 22-14.


Crosby clinched it for the Packers with his fourth field goal, a 30-yarder with 1:10 remaining after Rodgers guided the Packers on another long drive, hitting every pass he needed until Green Bay was safely in range to wrap it up.


"We just stayed patient," Rodgers said. "The rhythm wasn't there all the time, but we just stayed with it."


The Falcons looked as good as they have all season at the start. They took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards, capped by Matt Ryan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White. After a Green Bay fumble, Ryan guided Atlanta 60 yards for another score, a 1-yard plunge by Michael Turner.


Then, nothing.


Atlanta managed only 106 yards the rest of the way and didn't crack 200 total yards until late in the game. Ryan had another tough night against the Packers, held to 167 yards passing and picked off twice in the fourth quarter. Matty Ice had three turnovers last January in that playoff debacle, again coming up far short when going head-to-head against Rodgers.


Clearly, these are two franchises headed in opposite directions.


The Packers have now won 11 straight dating to last season, including their march to the Super Bowl title. The Falcons, coming off an NFC South championship, already have as many regular-season losses as they had all of last year.


"We're certainly not where we would have liked to have been," Ryan said. "What we did last year doesn't make a difference as to what we're going to do this year."


Playing behind a makeshift line the Packers were without one starting tackle, and lost another to an injury in the first half Rodgers was sacked four times and faced plenty of pressure.


No problem. The Super Bowl MVP still completed 26 of 39 attempts, even with a couple of drops, and kept converting big third downs. Astonishingly, he completed passes to a dozen receivers, with Jones hauling in five throws for 140 yards.


"It was a tough game," Rodgers said. "I took a lot of shots, had to move around a little bit."


Crosby connected from 32 and 35 yards to make it 14-6 at halftime, then boomed through a 56-yarder that matched the longest field goal in franchise history. An uneasy feeling settled over the raucous crowd, with good reason. After another three-and-out for an Atlanta offense that suddenly couldn't do anything right, the Packers finally took it to the end zone.


In one play.


Rodgers dropped back and fired one deep down the middle to Jones, who got a step on Thomas DeCoud, took the throw without breaking stride and easily outran James Sanders to the end zone. Just like that, the Packers had the lead for the first time. Even after failing on the 2-point try, they were up 15-14.


The Falcons never recovered.


The lead grew on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rodgers threw over the middle to Jennings, who turned on a burst of speed to get around the corner, then stretched out with one hand to get the ball past the pylon.


"You can tell by the tone of the crowd when Aaron gets the ball in his hands," Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said. "It's nice to take the crowd out of it."


Notes: Green Bay LT Chad Clifton went out with a hamstring injury to his right leg after being bowled over by Atlanta DE Ray Edwards in the second quarter. The Packers already were missing RT Bryan Bulaga, who sat out his second straight game with an ailing knee. ... The Falcons lost two defensive backs to injuries: S William Moore (shoulder) and nickel back Christopher Owens (head). ... Charlie Peprah and Jarrett Bush had interceptions for the Packers. ... Falcons rookie WR Julio Jones (hamstring) went out early in fourth quarter with a hamstring injury after running a deep route down the sideline. ... Turner has gone three straight games without reaching 100 yards. He was held to 56 on 16 carries.



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