Packers Maven

Packers beat skidding Falcons in Philbin’s debut

Green Bay Packers head coach Joe Philbin jogs off the field following a 34-20 win against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on Sunday.Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With a 34-20 win over the Falcons, Packers interim coach Joe Philbin could afford to joke about his failed challenges.

Philbin burned both of his challenges in the first minute-and-a-half of the game, meaning he had none left to use should the need arise at a key moment in the game.

“I had enough big decisions to make during the course of the day that I didn’t want to have to make anymore, so I kind of got that out of the way,” Philbin said. “Plus, the flag didn’t fit very good in my pocket. I didn’t know if it was going to fall out.”

Fortunately for Philbin, there were no key moments late in the game. A week after longtime coach Mike McCarthy was fired after an embarrassing home loss to Arizona, the Packers led 34-7 through three quarters to snap their three-game losing streak. At 5-7-1, they remain on the fringes of the playoff race.

The Falcons (4-8) dropped their fifth consecutive game. Incredibly for their offensive firepower, they haven’t scored more than 20 points in any game of their skid.

Said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of the message to his players: “I said, ‘As dark as this is, that the men that will get it right here in three weeks are the men that are standing in this room.’ Just wanting it to get better isn’t a great way or real progress. You’ve got to make changes that are consistent to playing better, whether that’s turnovers, whether that’s fouls. All those things contribute to not scoring points or to allowing points.”

The Falcons took a quick 7-0 lead on Matt Ryan’s 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Julio Jones. On the second play of that drive, Philbin lost a challenge of a 28-yard completion to Jones in which the ball popped out when Jones hit the ground. After a false start, Philbin lost another challenge of a 19-yard completion to Jones in which Jones’ second foot was close to being out of bounds.

With that, Philbin was out of challenges, not to mention two of his three timeouts for the remainder of the half. It didn’t matter, though. The Packers scored the next 34 points, including touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams and Randall Cobb and an interception that Bashaud Breeland returned for a touchdown.

On the pass to Cobb, Rodgers set an NFL record with a 359th consecutive pass without an interception.

“Joe’s been a part of a lot of great wins around here,” Rodgers said. “A lot of incredible moments over the years as an important part of what we’ve done as the offensive coordinator. But it’s fun to give him his first win as the head coach. He’s a passionate guy, he really cares about the guys and I thought, he was in a tough situation as well this week with the change and trying to get the right messages across to get guys motivated at a time where we’re (4-7-1) and most people expect us to maybe throw in the towel. Guys responded.”

Ryan completed 28-of-42 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had eight catches for 106 yards and two scores.

“The only ones that can change this is us and we’ve got to find a way to do that,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to put the work in during the week and make sure we’re executing a lot better, because we’re capable of it.”