Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons
December, 8, 2013
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 22-21 loss against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
What it means: At least the 3-10 Falcons showed they could compete in the elements. This was their first true cold-weather game of the season after playing nine of the first 12 indoors. They jumped out to a 21-10 lead, and though the conditions contributed to a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Matt Bryant, the Falcons didn’t seem to be affected at all by the scattered snow, light wind and temperatures in the teens and below. The only other game the Falcons play that would be affected by weather is at San Francisco (Dec. 23), where rain sometimes is a factor.
Dropping the ball: Rather than allow Bryant to attempt a 51-yard field goal after his miss from 52 yards, the Falcons went for a critical fourth-and-5 from the Green Bay 33 in the final minutes. Matt Ryan tried to find tight end Tony Gonzalez, but the ball was a little behind him. It allowed Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush to make a play on the ball, and Gonzalez couldn’t come up with the catch despite having it in his hands. Gonzalez is tough on himself, so he’ll probably chalk that up as a drop. When the Falcons got the ball back for a final drive, Harry Douglas had a crucial drop in the final seconds that might have helped set up a game-winning field goal.
Stock watch: Linebackers for the Falcons saw their stock soar. Sean Weatherspoon took a ball that deflected off fellow linebacker Paul Worrilow's foot and rambled 71 yards for an interception return when most of the Packers thought the play was dead. Outside of his soccer-style assists, Worrilow once again surpassed double digits in tackles and came blitzing for a sack. He also assisted on another sack. Maybe he should get some rookie of the year consideration.
Youth movement: The Falcons continued to groom some of their young players for the future. Rookie cornerback Robert Alford started ahead of Asante Samuel at left cornerback, and Ryan Schraeder didn’t start but took most of the snaps at right tackle ahead of Jeremy Trueblood. Both had their hiccups, but that’s part of the growing pains. Also, rookie Zeke Motta stepped in at safety after starter Thomas DeCoud was knocked out of the game with a head injury. Motta showed his ability to tackle, but had some problems in coverage. Not to be forgotten was wide receiver Drew Davis, who hauled in a 36-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
What's next: The Falcons return to the comfort of the Georgia Dome for a matchup with the struggling Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III has lost some of the luster that followed his outstanding rookie season. Still, the Falcons have to be aware of his capabilities.