The Atlanta Falcons experienced heartbreak in back-to-back games leading up to Monday night’s Week 4 showdown with the Green Bay Packers, but they may have experienced something even worse while falling victim to Aaron Rodgers in prime time: Confirmation that they are among the worst teams in the NFL through the first quarter of the 2020 campaign. Decimated by injuries as well as their own defensive ineptitude, the Falcons didn’t finish Monday’s showdown with star wideout Julio Jones, who left early after aggravating a hamstring issue, but they did finish it with a fourth straight loss – this one courtesy of Rodgers, who was nearly flawless in another MVP-caliber performance alongside a breakout game for tight end Robert Tonyan en route to a 30-16 rout.
Here are some immediate takeaways from the Packers’ big win in prime time:
Why the Packers won
As has often been the case early in 2020, Aaron Rodgers absolutely had his way. And then some. Picking apart a decimated Atlanta secondary, No. 12 made yet another strong case to be an MVP front-runner with one wide-open strike after another. He was so good, capitalizing on virtually every opportunity afforded him by the Falcons “D,” that it was easy to forget Green Bay didn’t have either Davante Adams or Allen Lazard on the field. Side note: What do you think Jordan Love is worth on the trade market? Kidding, but Rodgers is on fire, and that continued Monday. The trio of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Robert Tonyan stepped up big time to offset the absence of Adams, meanwhile, utilizing ridiculously open space to keep Green Bay comfortably in front all night. Defensively, the Pack were solid enough, too, getting some pressure on Matt Ryan but, more importantly, holding up in a defensive backfield without Chandon Sullivan and Darnell Savage for various stretches.
The Chiefs and Packers won again and there’s a lot to go over. John Breech, Ryan Wilson and host Will Brinson break down the two Monday games on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Why the Falcons lost
It’s the same reason Aaron Rodgers looked like he was playing a JV team: Dan Quinn’s defense was – and is – utterly in shambles. Injuries are part of the equation, no doubt, with the secondary, in particular, hit hard. But there’s no reason a Packers offense cut down on some of its own starters should’ve averaged a first down every two plays. Atlanta almost always looked out of position, out of energy, or both. And let’s not sugarcoat it: The offense wasn’t much better. Again, injuries played a part, with Julio Jones forced off the field after one half of gutting it out at, what, 75 percent? But you’re telling us Matt Ryan, Todd Gurley, Calvin Ridley and the rest of the gang aren’t capable of more? It shouldn’t be surprising, but they looked more desperate than comfortable in far too many important situations, including in the fourth quarter with an 0-4 start staring them right in the face.
Third down. Just under two minutes to go in the first half. Falcons down by 10. And Matt Ryan gets sacked on a third-and-short, confirming a three-and-out right after an 11-play, 75-yard Packers TD drive. The momentum stays right with Green Bay, and the Pack proceed to march another 50 yards in 51 seconds, with Rodgers hitting Tonyan on a score to go up 20-3 right before halftime. The Falcons did pull things a bit closer early in the second half, but by that point, the deficit had already been built up too much.
Play of the game
The Falcons were so bad on defense that pretty much all of the Packers’ big plays were wide-open breaks, but Robert Tonyan’s third TD of the night was especially charming considering he somersaulted on his way to an easy score:
The Packers (4-0) will get some well-earned rest on their bye in Week 5, sitting comfortably and alone atop the NFC North through the first quarter of the season. The Falcons (0-4), meanwhile, have some serious soul-searching to do ahead of a divisional showdown with the Carolina Panthers (2-2), who are fresh off an upset of the Arizona Cardinals.