GB-ATL grades: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones star as Falcons rout Packers

Highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Falcons' NFC championship win over the Packers.

| 4 months ago
Julio Jones

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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.

Atlanta Falcons

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.

Matt Ryan vs. pressure

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.

Green Bay Packers

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.

Aaron Rodgers vs. pressure

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

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Anthony Schroeder

    Really rough game from GB. The WR drops and missed blocking assignments (and Rip fumble) made the situation completely untenable.

    • Hey Now!

      havent seen much of this game at all, do you think GB was just so wounded they never had a chance or are the Falcons the real deal?

      • Nelson Cobb

        It was a combination of both. Falcons deserve all the credit in the world, but I think we lost 6 starters today, and Green Bay just kept shooting their own selves in the foot. Started with a missed FG. Then driving, potentially able to keep it 10-7, Rip loses a fumbled inside the 10. Before you knew it, it’s 17-0. Multiple drops, couple on 3rd down. Multiple pressures. Run D did a pretty good job, but the pass D was non existent. Falcons are definitely the real deal, and they were just the better football team, but the Packers sure didn’t do anything to help themselves pull the upset.

        • Hey Now!

          Oh ok. I was pulling for GB. Probably watch it back on DVR. Really missed Sam Shields there vs. an elite WR like Julio. Well the Falcons will get a real test in NE.

          • Nelson Cobb

            There’s no doubt, Sam Shields was 1 of the more underrated injuries this year. Expectations were for the young CBs to get help and hopefully progress as the year went on, while Shields isolated one on one most the day. Once he was knocked out, a serious wrench was thrown into that plan, and it put the young CBs in the spotlight, and they weren’t close to ready, and then injuries early made it even worse. I told everybody it was a horrible idea to let Hayward walk with Shields injury history and these young CBs, who were both considered very raw coming into the NFL. But few people believe me, and unfortunately, I was proven right. If the Packers don’t do anything else this offseason, replacing Sam Shields with AJ Bouye, Trumaine Johnson or Stephon Gilmore is a must. Maybe Joe Haden if they wanna make that trade, but why do that and pay him a lot of money when you can possibly sign one of those 3 guys. Should be a hell of a Super Bowl though, with a lot of points scored.

      • crosseyedlemon

        The game played out almost exactly as I expected. The Packers were just plain flat which often happens after an emotional last second win like they had in Dallas. Psychologically it’s very hard to sustain that adrenaline high for another game on the road.

    • Thinkaboutit

      What game? IDK if I would call one team heartlessly sh**&ing on another a “game”. Maybe Sam Shields can hook up the team with some weed to help them forget about getting so ruthlessly embarrassed.

    • McGeorge

      The Rip fumble was due to good play by the Falcons.
      And the Falcons dropped a lot of balls too.

      I was rooting for the Packers, but the Falcons crushed them. No excuses, falcons were a lot better. Good luck to them in the Super Bowl, they earned their way in.


    Packers lost to a better team but Rodgers deserved better than being down 31-0 a minute into the second half. Hope Atlanta can play that well in the super bowl.

  • Rolo Tomassi

    Erin Rogers is MVP
    Most Vocal Pansy.
    She cries for a flag on EVERY play. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Now go back to Chico with your FAKE GIRLFRIEND and pure breed rescue dog.
    EVERYONE knows what you are about Erin.
    BTW you played better when you were living with your “personal assistant ” Kevin Lanflisi

    • McGeorge

      Sounds like Tom Shady you are talking about.
      She cries all the time to the refs about everything.

  • Paul

    PFF is brutal whenever they write about QBs.

    • crosseyedlemon

      I think it has a lot to do with the money they see these guys get. They probably wouldn’t kick Brock Osweiler if he was lying helpless on the street…at least not with steel toe boots.

  • rodrell green

    What’s Jeff Janis grade? Rodgers snubbed his best healthy boundary WR. I think he got two targets. The first being an underthrown ball and the second drawing a penalty on Alford. Maybe I’m just pissed because I thought Rodgers would go to probably his fastest receiver yesterday who stands 5 inches over a CB who struggles against tall corners (Alford) and so I drafted him on Draftkings.

  • AKjester

    How did Letroy Guion do as an offensive lineman? The Seahawks are always looking.