Green Bay Packers 21 – 44 Atlanta Falcons

This will be a shorter than usual Post Game Play Action. The reason for that isn’t just my heartbreak, but that I want to try and focus on positive things as we head into our first offseason together. With that said, let’s get going on a roundup of the NFC Championship Game!

Green Bay headed to Atlanta for the final game in the Georgia Dome – high on the fruits of an 8 game winning streak – hoping to find a way to slow down a historic offense led by 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan. However, it was apparent from the first series of the game that the Packers just did not have any steam left in that engine; the Atlanta offense diced the Packers up to the tune of 31 points before Green Bay managed to score. Playing from behind the entire game, this led to the final score of 21-44 in one of the most heart wrenching defeats of recent memory.

Key Moments

Ripper, RIP. – Key To The Game
I said I’d be positive. Early in the game, the Packers were moving the ball well. Mason Crosby uncharacteristically missed a field goal, which I can look past after what he did in Dallas. Then on the second drive, the Packers marched down to the Atlanta 23 yard line. Fullback, folk hero, and possessor off a great beard Aaron Ripkowski took the hand-off and rumbled forward 10 yards before fumbling the ball for an Atlanta recovery. The Falcons scored on the ensuing drive, and a game that should’ve been 10-10 but for the Packers own mistakes was suddenly 0-17 halfway through the second quarter.
I wouldn’t, however, put this all on Ripkowski. He’s a fullback who ran the ball 6 times in college who has been leaned on as Green Bay’s primary power back due to Ted Thompson’s decision to come into the season with 2 running backs on the roster, both of whom have an injury history. Ripkowski has had a remarkably successful year stepping up into the shoes of John Kuhn and, fumble be damned, I’m still proud to be able to call him a Packer.

Jordy ‘Ironman’ Nelson – Ty Mongtomery Player of the Week Award
6 receptions, 67 yards, 1 touchdown. 2 broken ribs.
That’s the stat line of a guy who went out there, could be seen wincing in pain, and putting his body on the line for this team and us fans. Per various media reports, Jordy spent the game with a Kevlar vest to try and offer him some protection. But football is not a game where you’re going to be able to ignore the fact you have 2 broken ribs. In contrast to many players on this team (defense), Jordy played with fire and determination. Who knows what he could have done were he healthy.
This week, he was announced as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for 2016. It’s going to be great to see him get healthy again over the offseason and see what he can do next year. Jordy, you’re a tough bugger, and we salute you.

(I rolled the Player of the Week Award into this section for Jordy, as I just don’t feel this game earns a player of the week section by itself if I’m to keep this theme of only talking positively.)

While the Falcons were clearly the better team, and a few officiating errors wouldn’t have made a difference in the grand scheme of things, some of them early on shifted momentum so heavily in favour of the Falcons you can’t help but wonder what could have been.
This third down play – pictured to the right – was on the opening Falcons drive of the game. You can clearly see a stop 2+ yards from the line to gain a first down. The ball was spotted about three yards past there, not reviewed, and the Falcons went on to score a touchdown. That’s a killer for a defense that, while historically terrible, managed to get a stop on an opening drive. Who knows what getting that stop could’ve meant for the game and the team. The fact it wasn’t reviewed when he’s so clearly short is astonishing.

Totally-Not-Knee-Jerk Reactions

1. Continuing with the positive topics, I expect this defense to improve mightily next season (if only because they couldn’t realistically be any worse). If somebody can teach Damarious Randall in the offseason that you’re meant to cover a wide receiver not stand 8 yards away from him as he catches the ball, we could see a totally different unit. I do not, however, expect Dom Capers to survive this. But, with the Old Boys network that Mark Murphy runs where nobody but junior coaches is ever accountable for failure, who knows?
2. I’m hoping the success of Jared Cook may spur the team to spend a little in the off-season in light of Aaron Rodgers post-game presser comments about needing the team to be reloaded. Hopefully the pressure of Rodgers will force the Packers to finally spend a little and bring in some help. I am aware that this is entirely hope and nowhere near reality.
3. Thus ends the first regular season of Pack To The Future having its own site, its own staff of writers, podcasters, video makers and other awesome people. This whole thing has made this by far the most exciting season I’ve had. It has made me think more deeply about the game and about how I consume it, so I first want to thank Brian for bringing me on board, and second to all of you who take 5 minutes of your life to read my crazy-man ramblings. Looking forward to the 2017 season already!