GB-ATL grades: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones star as Falcons rout Packers
Atlanta Falcons 44, Green Bay Packers 21
Here are the highest-graded players and most noteworthy performances from the Falcons’ Conference Championship victory over the Packers.
Quarterback grade: Matt Ryan, 90.6
Ryan earns first trip to Super Bowl with stunning showing
We knew the Packers’ defense provided a favorable matchup for the exotic and explosive Falcons’ offense, but there were question marks, and they chiefly centered around Matt Ryan. This was a quarterback who, however unfairly, has been labeled as not good enough in the postseason. No more. If Ryan was mistake free against Seattle in the Divisional Round, today he was much more than that. He worked over the Packers’ young cornerbacks at all levels of the field, ultimately completing eight of his 14 attempts that went further than 10 yards downfield. In the biggest game of his life, Ryan was at his best, and while he had a couple of balls almost picked off, that can’t dampen a performance worthy of setting up a maiden Super Bowl appearance.
Top grades on offense:
WR Julio Jones, 94.4
QB Matt Ryan, 90.6
FB Patrick DiMarco 82.0
WR Mohamed Sanu, 80.3
RG Chris Chester, 79.2
Unstoppable offense ensures historic sendoff to Georgia Dome
In a year where the Ryan-to-Jones connection has set records and created memories aplenty for Falcon fans, it was fitting that in the curtain call to the Georgia Dome, that partnership took center stage. Jones effectively ended any Green Bay hopes with the knockout punch in his repertoire—an in-breaking route with plenty of yards after the catch and a couple of broken tackles for good measure. The Atlanta passing attack was too good, and while they struggled to consistently run the ball, they simply didn’t need to, with Mohamed Sanu coming up with a big first half to vindicate his big offseason deal.
Top defensive grades:
LB Deion Jones, 83.2
FS Ricardo Allen, 80.4
DT Ra’Shede Hageman, 79.8
CB Robert Alford, 79.5
CB Jalen Collins, 77.1
Secondary stars send Packers home
All five starters in the Falcons’ secondary have a maximum of four years NFL experience. Even the loss of Desmond Trufant could not disrupt their dominance, however. Robert Alford and Jalen Collins were excellent on the perimeter, limiting the Packers’ receivers to small chunks. The latter made possibly the key play in the entire game, forcing a fumble from fullback Aaron Ripkowski on the Packers’ second drive. Ricardo Allen was equally impressive, using his combination of aggression and instincts to eliminate plays underneath. Even slot corner Brian Poole made an impact, laying Rodgers out on a couple of slot blitzes. Behind their youthful secondary, the Falcons’ defense should continue to improve.
Admirable performance from Rodgers not enough to carry offense
Quarterback grade: Aaron Rodgers, 77.9
While the resurgence of the Packers’ offense led to the team’s late-season win streak, Green Bay’s early-season form returned at the worst possible time. Up front, the offensive line allowed pressure on 20 of Rodgers’ 49 dropbacks, struggling to comprehend the Falcons’ multiple blitzes and stunts. The Packers’ receiving corps also dropped five passes. Despite an admirable performance from their quarterback, even Rodgers’ was unable to overcome the drops, missed assignments and turnovers.
Top offensive grades:
QB Aaron Rodgers, 77.9
RG T.J. Lang, 77.0
RT Bryan Bulaga, 77.0
WR Randall Cobb, 76.0
TE Jared Cook, 74.1
Front suffers from serious shakeup
The Packers’ offensive line was in such a state that defensive tackle Letroy Guion was forced to come into the game late in the fourth quarter. The disruption began prior to the half, when LG Lane Taylor was banged up, forcing Don Barclay into the lineup. The injury appeared to impact the group as a whole. Left tackle David Bakhtiari suffered his worst game of the year, giving up a hit and four hurries. In the middle, Corey Linsley also struggled, allowing his first knockdown of the year. The right side of the line fared better, until injury also forced T.J. Lang from the game. Rookie Jason Spriggs had a particularly tough game in relief. The lack of continuity up front proved decisive in the NFC Championship game.
Top defensive grades:
DE Mike Daniels, 81.4
LB Jake Ryan, 77.4
S Morgan Burnett, 74.5
LB Blake Martinez, 70.2
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 65.9
Packers’ defense dismantled at all levels
If Green Bay was going to have any chance of slowing the Atlanta offense, the Packers needed to get pressure. On the surface, pressure on 11 plays out of 40 isn’t terrible, but it was the nature of those pressures that tell the story. They were rarely quick, and were often the result of Matt Ryan extending the play, inviting the pressure in order to open up throwing lanes. It meant the Green Bay corners had to win their matchups; they were unable to, with Ladarius Gunter exposed as overmatched as he fruitlessly tried to track Julio Jones. His 20.4 grade was the lowest of any player, getting beat for 144 yards, two touchdowns, two penalties and missing a tackle for good measure. The streaky Gunter has flashed talent, but this is a postseason that has not been kind to him.
PFF Game-Ball Winners: Falcons WR Julio Jones and QB Matt Ryan
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