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Packers/Falcons an Oddly Meaningless Matchup Given Rivalry’s Recent HIstory

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Packers/Falcons an Oddly Meaningless Matchup Given Rivalry’s Recent HIstory

Most meetings between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons over the last eight years or so have had some sort of significance—two contenders jockeying for playoff position, a whole lot of scoring and many intense battles.

But this time, it’s different. The Falcons enter 4-8, the Packers 4-7-1, and both teams are in the unfamiliar position of being out of it with a month left of regular season to go.

A successful stretch

In the wake of the firing of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, much has been made of Green Bay’s uninterrupted streak of success through most of his coaching tenure. But the Falcons, too, have had some good fortune lately, and since the drafting of Matt Ryan in 2008 have been on what may be the most successful 10-year stretch in franchise history.

In the 42 years before the Falcons drafted Ryan, the best quarterback in the franchise’s history, the team made the playoffs just eight times, and never in consecutive seasons. In those years, the team eclipsed 10 wins just three times, and never once had consecutive seasons with winning records.

From 2008-2017, however, the team made the playoffs six times, including three years in a row (and four out of five from 2008-2012). It has only had two seasons with a losing record in that time (2013 and 2014), and has eclipsed 10 wins six times, appearing in a Super Bowl in the 2016 season during Ryan’s MVP campaign.

Recent rivalry history

Because both the Packers and Falcons have been generally successful over the last decade, they have also met each other quite a few times—nine total, including postseason, since Ryan was drafted in 2008. The results of those games were as follows:

·         2008: Falcons 27, Packers 24 in Green Bay. Rodgers’ and Ryan’s first year as starters in the NFL. Both quarterbacks played well for first-year starters at their position, but Rodgers’ was better to the tune of 25/37 for 313 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT for a 109.4 rating. Roddy White tore up the Packers’ secondary with eight receptions for 132 yards, but it wasn’t enough. The Falcons finished that year 11-5 and went to the postseason for the first time in the Ryan era, while the Packers finished 6-10, just the second losing season for the team since 1992.


·         2010: Falcons 20, Packers 17 in Atlanta. It sure felt like a crushing loss at the time—the Packers were attempting to overcome a slow start, and had already suffered numerous other close losses that season. With the Falcons playing the best football in the conference, this could almost have been considered a “moral victory,” but it just felt like the Packers weren’t quite ready to take on the top seed in the conference just yet. A Matt Bryant field goal with nine seconds left gave Atlanta the victory. Ryan wasn’t able to get the downfield game going, but settled for plenty of underneath balls, completing 24 passes on 28 attempts for 197 yards and 1 TD. Nine receivers caught passes for Atlanta, but only Tony Gonzalez eclipsed 50 yards.


·         2011: Packers 48, Falcons 21 in Atlanta. In what became perhaps the seminal victory of the Packers’ 2010 run to the Super Bowl, the team went into Atlanta as the sixth seed in the conference taking on the 13-3 Falcons coming off a bye, a team that had already beaten them in the same building less than two months earlier. And this was a rout. Rodgers played what arguably still remains the finest football game of his career, completing 31 passes on 36 attempts for 366 yards and three touchdowns for a 136.8 rating and running for another touchdown besides. He eluded defenders in the backfield all game long and completed passes in unthinkably tight windows while on the run. Tramon Williams’ pick-six at the end of the first half blew the game open and is one of the more memorable plays in franchise history.


·         2011: Packers 25, Falcons 14 in Atlanta: In a much-anticipated rematch of the playoff game, the Packers played solid football to take down the falcons in the midst of their long unbeaten stretch to start the season. James Jones starred with 140 yards on five receptions, including a 70-yard touchdown. Both teams went to the playoffs, but both went one-and-done—the Falcons lost their Wild Card matchup to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants, who went on to take down the 15-1 Packers a week later in Lambeau Field.


·         2013: Packers 22, Falcons 21 in Green Bay: The rivalry had a couple years to simmer at this point, but there was no doubt that Falcons fans were looking forward to finally getting back at the Packers for a couple consecutive humbling losses—especially considering Aaron Rodgers was out with a collarbone injury at the time. But Matt Flynn did just enough to help keep the Packers afloat, and the team’s defense stepped up in a big way, holding Ryan to just 206 yards and two touchdowns, as Julio Jones also missed the game.


·         2014: Packers 43, Falcons 37 in Green Bay: The fourth-consecutive loss for the Falcons in this series was a wild one. The Packers scored 24 points in the second quarter and had a 34-17 lead going into the fourth, but surrendered 20 points in the fourth quarter and very nearly let the Falcons pull off the improbable comeback. Both quarterbacks put up gaudy numbers, but the real star of the game was Julio Jones, who had 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown.  But Jordy Nelson had 8 for 146 and two touchdowns of his own, including a 60 yard bomb, and the backfield combination of Eddie Lacy and James Starks rushed 23 times for 148 yards to keep the clock under control. This was the last time the Packers beat the Falcons, and the last time the teams met in Green Bay.


·         2016: Falcons 33, Packers 32 in Atlanta: Another wild matchup, the Packers and Falcons came in at 4-3 and 5-3, respectively, in need of a win to keep pace in their divisions. Yet again both quarterbacks had solid days passing the football, but this time the Packers kept Julio Jones in check to the tune of just three catches for 29 yards. Mohamed Sanu stepped up to give the Falcons the juice they needed in the passing game. Davante Adams caught 12 balls for just 74 yards. It was a back and forth game, but ultimately the Falcons won on a Sanu touchdown with about 30 seconds to go.


·         2017: Falcons 44, Packers 21 in Atlanta: This NFC Conference Championship game was for the Falcons what the 2011 playoff game was for the Packers—an absolute drubbing en route to a Super Bowl appearance. The Packers’ “Run the Table” mojo finally ran out, as the team was outscored 24-0 in the first half and was never really in the game. Julio Jones was unstoppable, catching nine balls for 180 yards and two touchdowns while the Packers were forced to use practice squad-caliber cornerbacks to guard him.


·         2017: Falcons 34, Packers 23 in Atlanta: A tough game for the Packers, who were looking for revenge after the embarrassing loss in the conference championship the year prior. But once again, the Packers let a bad first half put them out of it. After a 7-7 first quarter, the Packers collapsed in the second, giving up 17 points and never really recovering. Julio Jones once again went over 100 yards and the Packers were never really able to get it going, especially on the ground.


Where we stand now

So what exactly has happened to these teams? Why are the Falcons, who were in the Super Bowl two years ago and won a playoff game last year, suddenly so poor on offense? The same question goes for the Packers—what has caused a team with an all-timer at quarterback to become so predictable and mediocre on a side of the ball where they have traditionally excelled?

This is the first time since Rodgers and Ryan became the starters that these two teams are playing a meaningless football game. We’ll see on Sunday whether this underrated rivalry still has any teeth to it, but with both teams playing for pride and with a lot of questions hanging over each sideline, it’s hard to predict what we’re going to see.

While it’s extremely unlikely the Falcons will make a change at head coach this offseason like the Packers have already done, one has to think there are going to be some significant overhauls to the offensive staff. For a team with one of the best players in the game today at receiver and a quarterback who won a near-unanimous MVP award just a couple years ago, it’s been a fast and unexpected fall. Much like Packer fans, Falcon fans had to be expecting something way different out of the 2018 season than what they've gotten.

Both of these teams have pieces in place that should allow them to recover fairly quickly and get back to playing meaningful football. But for now, these two frequent NFC contenders find themselves in a very unusual position—staring up at the rest of their conference in December without a prayer at a postseason shot. 


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (53) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

I thought ATL was the next big thing with the former Seahawk defensive mastermind, a defense loaded with speed, Matty Ice, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley, the greatest young WR since sliced bread?
Maybe they should go all in?

LeotisHarris's picture

And don't forget it was not so long ago that KGB and the mighty Packers D were paralyzed by the wizardry of certain future Hall of Famer Michael Vick. The Falcons dynasty rivals that of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles.

The TKstinator's picture

Too bad the genius Pederson suddenly forgot how to coach.

LeotisHarris's picture

Most definitely. They need someone younger, more innovative in Philly. A lot of people are saying Lane Kiffin is next in line for the Philly job.

Which brings me back to our HC vacancy. Do you know if Dave Roller had any children? If so, I think they would be a great fit in Green Bay. Tough. Old School. Coaches to get in Aaron's grill, yo. Or if Phil Bengston had grandsons. That would be a dream come true!

Do we know how Murph and Gutey are conducting the HC search? I haven't seen anything posted on Linkedin or Indeed. Probably stuck in HR. Or maybe I missed it in the Press-Gazette.

Is there be a hotline for Stockholders to call in with recommendations?

BoCallahan's picture

The sarcasm in this room is thick.

The TKstinator's picture

Like our biceps.

BoCallahan's picture


Johnblood27's picture

best string in a week.

Leotis is my hero

the sidekick... meh

The TKstinator's picture

Who you calling sidekick? ;)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Sidekick? IDK: how about veteran character actor?

The TKstinator's picture

I’m nobody’s underdog, er,...I mean, sidekick!

Old School's picture

Yeah, that is kind of odd. Kind of like how Belichick couldn't coach in Cleveland. Every year is different....different players, different attitudes, different injuries, different schedule.

There are no geniuses in football. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein.

LeotisHarris's picture

I laughed out loud, Old School. Where have you gone Joe Theismann?

The TKstinator's picture

Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away
Hey hey hey

Old School's picture

Didn't we have several turnovers in that game?

The TKstinator's picture

I had several turnovers for breakfast that morning.

PAPackerbacker's picture

It will be interesting to see how the Packers respond to Philbin in the Falcons game and last 4 games of the season, especially how Rodgers will perform.

AgrippaLII's picture

I feel the same after hearing what James Jones had to say about Philbin's relationship with the offense. The next four games will be real interesting. The Packers next HC may already be in house.

Cubbygold's picture

This is an important game. GB successfully loses and they move ahead of ATL in the draft, thats not meaningless

LeotisHarris's picture

Should be plenty of good seats available!

Cubbygold's picture

Nah, leave em empty. Best way for fans to tell Murphy things need to get better

Roscoe's picture

I laughed last week as they made a mistake a couple times with cameras and you could see empty seats all over the place. Yet at one point, one of the announcers said something to the effect that it was "An SRO crowd here at Lambeau.". The NFL is a little hard to take sometimes. Is it bread or a circus? Or both?

John30856's picture

True long term fans stay in their seats

Rebecca's picture

Seats at Lambeau? More like a small number on an aluminum bench, lol. True fans get drunk and fight.

Bert's picture

No kidding. I've been pulling for them to win and they lose. Now I want them to lose and they'll totally "F" it up and win.

The TKstinator's picture

1 vs 2
Airman vs Mandarich
How’d that one turn out?

HankScorpio's picture

It's a shame they didn't win their last 2, instead of just their last 1. Then they might have gotten Barry Sanders, who was the best player in that draft class, IMO.

The TKstinator's picture

Barry’s brother Deion was ok too.

Old School's picture

There's no real point in pulling for a loss. Right now, it looks like we're going to finish about 10th in the draft, and it'd take a series of small miracles to move us up to #5.

Even if we won all our remaining games (insert laughter here) we'd be 8-7-1. That'd probably put us around #18 . Even if we lost our remaining games I still don't think Oakland and SF and Buffalo are going to win enough games for us to lose our way get into #5. It could happen if everything works perfect, but the most likely scenario I see for the Packers has us winning no more than 2 of our remaining games, finishing 6-9-1, and somewhere 9-11 in draft order.

Nick Perry's picture

First thing I thought of Cubbygold...Draft position and that's really what's important to me right now other than no one else suffering an injury.

Packers lose and they're in front of Atlanta AND own the tie-breaker should the Falcons have a tie after this weekend and they end up with the same record. I have a feeling though Joe Philbin is going to give us exactly what we've all been screaming for since week 3...Aaron Freaking Jones...And a lot of him. Jones will have over 150 total yards from scrimmage but most of them on the ground.

flackcatcher's picture

Playing for the draft now. (Maybe we should have let MM coach out the rest of this season, At least we would have secure our draft position for next year.....:)

Severo Henry's picture

Rodgers lost his 1st meeting with Ryan 27-24.

Kb999's picture

Win a game!!! Please

Old School's picture

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

-----Vince Lombardi'-----

Never, ever, ever stop trying to win.

John30856's picture

Of course those of us that are true long time fans want them to win. Packers never play to lose

Lphill's picture

this is a crossroads for both teams, the Packers for many years making the playoffs would always be picking late in the first round and never getting those high picks that other teams did year after year, probably the first 10 picks in the draft are really only considered true first rounders, look what happened when the Packers moved up for Clay Mathews, imagine if the Packers were building a defense with first high first rounders every year, this is the trade off for winning, now it looks like they will be getting someone in the top ten and a later pick so Gute will also have to blend in some free agents to compensate, I believe with a good draft next year and the right free agents the Packers will absolutely contend , plus Rodgers is taking some heat for his play yet he has an offense with one veteran receiver on the field.

badaxed's picture

" imagine if the Packers were building a defense with first high first rounders every year",

not hard to imagine "Browns" nuff said.

Lphill's picture

I think the Rams D line all 1 st rounders.

Old School's picture

And how many Super Bowls have the Rams been to?

It wasn't long ago when we had a bunch of high draft picks on defense:

Raji, Datone Jones, Matthews, Perry, Peppers...…..

ILPackerBacker's picture

Another WOWZA moment.

Who would ever guess a packer writer would put into print that Matt R is the "BEST QB" drafted in franchise history?

Tim Backes's picture

He is the best quarterback drafted in the Falcons' franchise history, I don't think that's debatable.

Skip greenBayless's picture

You don't think Brett Favre was better than Matt Ryan? lol.. I bet you forgot about him didn't you. Good ole' Jerry Glanville and his Elvis tickets drafted him in 1991.

Old School's picture

An interesting question. When you go to and look up Ryan, it says that the player his career most closely resembles to this point is Aaron Rodgers. Second closest is Marino.

Given that both of those guys are at least as good as Favre, I don't think it's as cut and dried as you make it out to be. After 10 years in the league, he's been an MVP and gone to the Super Bowl. His career passer rating 10 points better than Favre's.. his TD/Int ratio is quite a bit better than Favre's, his completion % is better than Favre's and his average yards/attempt are better.

So.....I wouldn't be laughing out loud at this. And that's before I started talking about how many big games each has choked away.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Brett Favre's consecutive starts streak of 297 games is the longest all-time. That's the only stat that matters in this current day with all the protections on the quarterback. 297 games? Kevin King can't even get to two games without being hurt. Brett Favre was the toughest son of a bitch I ever saw play the game. Matt Ryan is twinkle toes compared to Favre. Sorry Old School but I am still going to lol at you for taking Ryan's side.

Johnblood27's picture

I really do not think the Pack has the horses on defense to win this week.

Just way to thin with the IR list expanding faster than my waistline at Holiday parties.

Ryan, Sanu, Julio, etc will be just too much, think about it... the steamrolling juggernaut that was the 2018 (formerly last ranked) Cardinal offense blew through the Lambeau home 11 IN THE SNOW just last week.

Its gonna be ugly, but the draft is looking goooood.

12guage's picture

The Mccarthy firing could be the galvanizing moment that Aaron was talking about. I wouldn't be surprised if they win out and back into the playoffs.

Old School's picture

But if that happened, it would mean that all the people who insist that we just don't have the players are wrong, wouldn't it?

We're not going to win out, but I could see us winning a game or two. I mean, seriously, just an improvement in special teams could have made this much of a difference in the record:

1) Crosby makes the field goal in Week 2 against Minnesota. We win instead of tie.

2) Crosby makes a couple of kicks against Detroit and we win instead of lose.

3) Montgomery's Boner doesn't screw the Packers and we kick the game winner against the Rams.

Just other changes. No bogus Roughing calls. Nothing else, and our record would be 8-4 and we'd still have the same HC and players.

Special teams really, really, really hurt this team this year.

4) Crosby makes the kick against AZ, we win in overtime.

Lare's picture

If you're one of those that wanted McCarthy fired, you should be sending Zook & Crosby Thank You cards this year.

Lphill's picture

Yes this team is a few plays away from being maybe 9 and 2 but things just didn’t go the Packers way this season , bad Karma since the Clay roughing penalties. MM would still have a job and no negatives in the press , but it is what it is and let’s move forward and get back on track next season.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Beating the Falcons is winning the Battle but loosing the War.

Oppy's picture

All I have to contribute is a single word, and that word is..


Discuss amongst yourselves.

The TKstinator's picture

Less is more, brother.

PatrickGB's picture

How did two contenders like the Falcons and the Packers get a losing record? Answer, one game at a time. How does one win? The answer is one play at a time. Play well and the game takes care of itself.

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