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Flynn, Packers snap losing skid with win over Falcons
Green Bay, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Flynn threw for 258 yards and a touchdown in a solid substitute start, helping the Green Bay Packers to an elusive first win since Aaron Rodgers' injury with a 22-21 edging of the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.
Flynn shook off an interception that was returned 71 yards for a touchdown by the Falcons' Sean Weatherspoon near the end of the first half to rally the Packers for 12 unanswered points, the last six coming on his 2-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with 12:01 remaining.
He made good on 24-of-32 attempts in a critical victory for Green Bay (6-6-1), which closed within a half-game of Detroit for first place in the NFC North after the Lions lost in snowy Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Packers also entered the matchup with four losses and a tie over their previous five outings, a stretch that began when Rodgers fractured his left collarbone in an eventual 27-20 setback to Chicago on Nov. 4.
"Good to win. It's been a while," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy remarked. "I forgot what it felt like."
Quarless finished with 66 yards on six catches, while Eddie Lacy added 65 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Matt Ryan put up 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a 20-of-35 completion rate for Atlanta (3-10), but was intercepted once and lost a fumble during a scoreless second half.
"We weren't able to get it done offensively in the second half," Ryan said. "We had chances. We moved the ball in a couple different situations, but stalled out when we got into scoring situations. We have to be better than that."
Roddy White caught eight Ryan passes for 74 yards, with Steven Jackson recording 71 yards on 15 rushes in the loss.
Weatherspoon's touchdown put the Packers in a 21-10 hole at the break, but Green Bay dominated the third quarter and moved ahead early in the fourth after its defense came up with a big play of its own.
Flynn's 46-yard deep strike to Jordy Nelson set up a Mason Crosby 33-yard field goal that began the comeback, and the journeyman quarterback directed a 12-play, 68-yard drive after the Packers' defense forced a quick three-and-out to close the gap further.
He hit on his first three passes during the trek, the last a 13-yard delivery to Quarless that brought the ball down to the Atlanta 13. Green Bay's offense stalled thereafter, though, causing Crosby to come on for a successful 25-yard try that cut the lead to 21-16 late in the third quarter.
Mike Neal sacked Ryan three plays into the ensuing possession, forcing a fumble that the Packers' Johnny Jolly recovered at the opposing 21-yard line.
After eventually getting down to the Falcons' two, Flynn hit Quarless on a back-shoulder toss in the right corner of the end zone to give Green Bay a one-point edge with 12:01 remaining. The 2-point conversion attempt was no good when Flynn misfired in the direction of James Jones.
Atlanta, which hadn't produced a second-half first down up to that point, was able to get in range for a 52-yard Matt Bryant field goal attempt that the veteran kicker came up short on with 6:42 left. Head coach Mike Smith opted not to have Bryant try a would-be 51-yarder on the Falcons' next trip, and lost the gamble when Tony Gonzalez failed to hold on to Ryan's short pass on 4th-and-5 from the Green Bay 33 with 1:55 to go.
"We had missed from the 33-yard line on the prior attempt and came up two or three yards short, and this was one yard longer, so we went for it," Smith explained. "We felt like in warmups that was right at the line for us to kick it. [Bryant] hit it good, the ball just didn't carry on the first one."
The Falcons did get the ball back deep in their own end with 44 seconds remaining, but Ryan was intercepted by Jarrett Bush to seal the outcome.
"Our defense did a great job of keeping them out of the end zone the rest of the game," said McCarthy. We played our best football in the second half, and that's what you look for from your football team."
Atlanta spotted the Packers a 7-0 lead after one quarter, then put together back-to-back touchdown drives to forge ahead before extending the margin further behind a heady defensive play from Weatherspoon.
Ryan deftly led a 7-play, 78-yard series that he capped with an over-the- middle bullet to Drew Davis that the Atlanta wideout took 36 yards into the end zone after shaking off a Green Bay defender, tying the contest just under four minutes into the second quarter.
Falcons safety William Moore then forced a Flynn fumble with a jarring blindside sack on the ensuing snap from scrimmage, with Malliciah Goodman pouncing on the loose ball for Atlanta at the Green Bay 13. Four plays later, Ryan hit a wide-open Gonzalez off a play fake for a 2-yard touchdown and a 14-7 advantage.
Flynn and Nelson teamed up for a pair of completions that positioned the Packers for a Crosby 40-yard field goal with 3:39 left in the half, and Green Bay got back the ball just before the two-minute warning after an Atlanta drive went nowhere.
After marching his team down to the Falcons' 35, Flynn's short pass went through the hands of fullback John Kuhn and caromed off the right foot of Falcons' linebacker Paul Worrilow. Weatherspoon alertly snatched the ball in midair before following his blockers all the way for a 71-yard score that sent Atlanta into the break up 21-10.
Flynn directed a massive 18-play, 90-yard sequence that chewed up most of the first quarter on Green Bay's opening possession, though an illegal contact penalty on Worrilow kept the trek ongoing after the Falcons had come up with a third-down stop. Lacy took a screen pass 16 yards later on to give the Packers a 1st-and-goal, then powered in from a yard out on the final play of the period for the game's initial points.
The victory was the Packers' 13th straight at Lambeau Field in regular-season games played after Dec. 1, the longest current home streak in the NFL ... Nelson amassed a game-high 85 receiving yards on four grabs ... The Falcons were visiting Lambeau for the first time since Week 5 of the 2008 season, a 27-24 Atlanta win ... Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud sustained a head injury while colliding with Lacy on the latter's TD run and did not return ... The Packers will visit Dallas in a key NFC clash next Sunday.
12/08 20:33:21 ET