The Falcons Ran the Packers All the Way Off the Table
The Falcons just as surely re-established themselves as Super Bowl favorites.
Oh, they brought that fire, alright. Photo by Jason Getz—USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Rodgers' now-iconic, offhand "I feel like we could run the table" quote from Week 11 carried his Green Bay Packers to eight straight regular- and post-season wins. He even performed a few miracles along the way.
But even as the football world was anointing Rodgers as this season's Chosen One, Matt Ryan and the Falcons were proving they were the real team of destiny. Their four-quarter dominance of the Packers ended a 44-21 final score, and a second-ever Super Bowl berth for the Falcons franchise.
The Packers' first-half implosion felt even more surprising than the Packers' first-half dominance against the Dallas Cowboys—but maybe it shouldn't been. For all the (rightful) buzz about Rodgers' stretch run, Ryan statistically outproduced him over the same stretch. The Packers needed one of the greatest throws Rodgers (or anyone else) has ever made to close out a best-case-scenario performance against the Cowboys, which should have been a sign that fulfilling the "run the table" prophecy wasn't going to be automatic.
Ryan had a monster day—with the benefit of a healthier, better-receiving corps and a run game that kept the Packers' defense off-balance. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 392 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions; the Falcons scored five times before the Packers scored once.
Atlanta seemed to benefit from some of the minor miracles that helped Green Bay's run up until today, especially a second-quarter fumble by running back Aaron Ripowski that stopped a likely Packers touchdown drive and started a Falcons one:
A potential 10-7 scoreline swinging to 17-0 feels like an awfully big swing. But if Packers fans are looking for scapegoats, their ire shouldn't fall on Ripowski. The Packers couldn't run; Rodgers' 46 scrambling yards outstripped his tailbacks' collective production (39 yards on 12 carries). Rodgers threw the ball well, but his deep heaves didn't always miraculously find their way to his receivers:
Though the Packers' run ended when they plunged off the table, they did more than enough to save head coach Mike McCarthy's job—and in fact, re-established themselves as perennial NFC contenders.
But the Falcons just as surely re-established themselves as Super Bowl favorites.