5 things to know after Packers beat Falcons 22-21

By GENARO C. ARMAS - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-09 02:33

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Finally, the Packers got the all-around effort they needed to make up for the loss of Aaron Rodgers.

Maybe, just maybe, things are starting to break Green Bay's way after a 22-21 win Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons snapped a five-game winless streak.

Backup Matt Flynn threw for 258 yards and a score in his second straight start, while the defense bounced back with a clutch performance after recent struggles.

With three games left in an injury-filled season, the Packers (6-6-1) stand just a half-game back of the division-leading Detroit Lions, who lost to Philadelphia on Sunday. The Bears (6-6) host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

As for Rodgers, he appears to be getting closer to returning from a left collarbone injury he sustained Nov. 4 in a 27-20 loss to Chicago.

''Hopefully he takes another step next week toward getting healthy,'' guard T.J. Lang said. ''But until then, I think Matt's done a nice job.''

Five things to know after Green Bay notched its first win since a 44-31 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 27:

BOUNCING BACK: A smattering of boos cascaded down on the Packers late in the first half, trailing by double digits on a bone-chilling afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Coach Mike McCarthy went into the locker room wondering how much energy his players had with the team's playoff prospects in jeopardy. Green Bay responded with its most complete performance in weeks.

Mason Crosby kicked three field goals. Reserve cornerback Jarrett Bush made two critical plays in the fourth quarter. Flynn cashed in on a Falcons turnover with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Quarless with 12:01 left in the game for the 22-21 lead that completed the comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit.

''I really like the football team, particularly at halftime, coming in, getting booed at home, and just the energy in the locker room. They never blinked, they stayed the course,'' McCarthy said.

OUT OF BREATH: The comeback overshadowed an improbable 71-yard interception return for a touchdown by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon that gave Atlanta a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter.

A pass from Flynn appeared to carom off linebacker Paul Worrilow's shoe and into the hands of Weatherspoon. He lumbered back up the field past Packers who thought the ball touched the ground.

Weatherspoon said he was just doing what he's been coached to do since he was a child.

''Even if it hit the ground, you still have to take that chance,'' he said. ''That's something that started with me a long time ago playing pee-wee ball or whatever.''

GOOD TIMES: The defense responded with a strong performance after an embarrassing 40-10 loss on Thanksgiving Day to Detroit. Of the two offensive touchdowns scored by Atlanta, one came after Flynn lost a fumble at his own 13 after getting sacked.

It came down to defense in a nail-biting fourth quarter.

Mike Neal's sack forced Matt Ryan to fumble, and defensive lineman Johnny Jolly scooped up the loose ball and celebrated with a little belly dance. Quarless scored four plays later.

''We needed to have fun. That's what we did today,'' Jolly said. ''We went out there and left everything that we had and made plays and had fun.''

MISSING OUT: It was 9 degrees when the game started, with a wind chill of minus-1. Still, the Falcons, who play home games at the Georgia Dome, didn't think the weather was a big factor.

Coach Mike Smith was more concerned about the missed opportunities.

Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal attempt into the wind with 6:42 left. The Falcons got to the 33 with 2 minutes left, but Tony Gonzalez dropped a short pass from Ryan under tight coverage by Bush.

''We can't talk about one specific play that was the difference,'' Smith said. ''We had our chances to make some plays in all three phases and we didn't.''

Just another loss in a frustrating season for Atlanta.

TIGHT PLAYS: Found in the Packers offense: the tight ends.

Until Sunday, Green Bay didn't get much production from the position since Jermichael Finley sustained a season-ending neck injury in October.

Quarless (six catches, 66 yards) had his best day of the year, while Brandon Bostick (two catches, 28 yards) also got into the mix. The passing game had more diversity and didn't have to rely as much on receivers Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org


Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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