Falcons’ second half rally not enough in 43-37 loss to Packers

Julio Jones turned in another monster game. (Tom Lynn)

Julio Jones turned in another monster game. (Tom Lynn)

At the half, the Atlanta Falcons were down 31-7 to the Green Bay Packers, and it looked like the game was slated to get worse in the second half.

Atlanta battled back and put up 30 second half points, but it wasn’t enough as Green Bay hung on for the 43-37 victory.

And even though the Falcons lost, they still remain atop the NFC South with a 5-8 record. It also means no team in the division will finish with a record better than .500.

The Packers received the ball first and marched right down the field on a seven-play, 81-yard drive. The three-yard touchdown run by James Starks gave Green Bay the lead permanently.

Atlanta did put together an impressive response of its own, capping off a nine-play, 72-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson. But that would be the only time the Falcons would put any points on the board in the first half.

From there, it was all Green Bay. The Packers rattled off 24 unanswered points to take a commanding 31-7 lead into the half. Atlanta’s defense was getting shredded and the offense couldn’t get anything going.

But in the second half, the Falcons offense – particularly the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection  – caught fire.

On the opening play in the third, Ryan connected with Jones on a 79-yard catch-and-run to set Atlanta up at Green Bay’s three-yard line. Four plays later, Eric Weems caught a five-yard touchdown pass to inch the Falcons a lbit closer.

Both teams traded field goals before Ryan connected with Jones on a 22-yard score to make it a 34-24 game.

A 60-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson in the fourth looked like it could be a back breaker, but Atlanta, showing resiliency, put up two more touchdowns – one-yard and two-yard scores to Roddy White and Harry Douglas, respectively.

The Falcons had a chance with three timeouts and 2:11 left in the game. But Matt Bosher’s onside kick failed and Atlanta couldn’t get the ball back at Green Bay ran out the clock.

After setting a career-high in receiving yards with 189 last week against the Arizona Cardinals, Jones decided he wasn’t done. He set another career-high on primetime with 259 yards before exiting in the fourth quarter with an apparent hip injury.

Jones’ 259 receiving yards set a new franchise record and were also the most against the Packers in a single game.

Ryan, aside from an ill-advised interception, had a stellar night, too. He passed for 375 yards and four touchdowns on 24 of 39 attempts.

Heading into the game, Rodgers hadn’t thrown an interception at Lambeau Field since December 2, 2012. That streak lives on as the quarterback added three more touchdowns, no turnovers, and 327 yards to his passing totals.

The Falcons head back to the Georgia Dome to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. It’s difficult not to have heightened expectations in that game after tonight’s (second half) performance.

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