Here are the top performers from the Packers’ clutch 22-21 victory against the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnny Jolly – According to Coach McCarthy, Sunday was J0lly’s “best game of the year,” and after reviewing the game footage, it’s hard to argue that. Jolly recorded five tackles, one tackle for a loss, a fumble recovery, and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. All five of Jolly’s tackles came on run stops at or near the line of scrimmage.
Jolly also got good penetration, especially on the 2nd-and-nine play midway through the fourth quarter when Jolly threw his man aside and burst into the backfield to tackle the back for a three-yard loss. This play forced Atlanta into attempting a 52-yard field goal two plays later, which ended up short and kept the Packers in the lead.
Jolly’s fumble recovery deep in Atlanta territory was also hands-down the play of the game. It set up a Packers’ touchdown that put them in the lead in the fourth quarter.
Nick Perry and Mike Neal – You could argue Jarrett Bush deserves some recognition here with his pass deflection on fourth down late in the game and interception to close out the win. However, after watching the game on NFL Rewind, I tried to pay close attention to how the Packers front seven was holding up against the Atlanta offensive line. With this in mind, I was surprised how good of a game the outside linebackers had, specifically Nick Perry and Mike Neal.
A glance at the stat sheet only tells you that Perry finished with three tackles. After reviewing the game play-by-play, Perry not only held up really well against the run on the outside, but I also counted six instances where Perry beat his man and got pressure on Matt Ryan.
Four of these pressures forced an incompletion, making Ryan rush his throw. Two of these pressures came at a crucial time near the end of the game when Atlanta was looking to drive downfield for the go-ahead score.
Perry collapsed the pocket more than any other Green Bay defender in the game.
Overall, Sunday was a good day for the Packers outside linebackers. Neal had a couple of quarterback pressures that forced incompletions, and coming from the blindside, Neal sacked Ryan and forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter. It was a huge turnover at a crucial point in the game. When Jolly recovered, it put the Packers offense in scoring range. It was a momentum-shifting play and put the Packers on top for the win.
Andrew Quarless – The fourth-year tight end had a breakout game. He led the team in receptions with six, recorded 66 receiving yards, and had a clutch touchdown reception that put the Packers in the lead in the fourth quarter. He made some big catches in the game.
His first catch came in the Packers’ opening drive on a key 3rd-and-five play to convert the first down and keep the chains moving. Later in the second quarter, Quarless made a 12-yard catch to convert another third down and then made an impressive nine-yard reception near the sideline while falling out of bounds and with a defender all over him.
Add to that a 21-yard and a 14-yard grab in the third quarter, and that makes four out of Quarless’ six catches came at times in the game when the Packers desperately needed a first down.
Eddie Lacy – This was not one of Lacy’s prettiest performances, but the Packers’ rookie running back ran hard and fought for every yard. He only gained 65 yards on 20 carries, but Lacy showed the tenacity needed to run successfully in cold weather. He broke numerous tackles on runs of eleven, six, five, and eight yards.
Lacy didn’t get a lot of help from the offensive line, but he showed the unique ability to turn runs that should have been for a loss into four-yard gains. On his two-yard touchdown run to cap off the Packers’ opening drive, Lacy got hit at the line of scrimmage, but kept his feet moving and spun into the end zone.
Lacy also had 25 yards receiving on three catches, giving him 90 total yards on a bitter cold day. Not bad for a kid who had never seen snow in person until he got to Green Bay. With Rodgers out, Lacy may be the Packers’ most valuable player on offense.