Falcons 27, Packers 24
Next game: Sunday, Oct. 12 at Seattle
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- It was a gritty performance reminiscent of you-know-who. But Aaron Rodgers' ability to play through pain wasn't enough to pull the Green Bay Packers out of a tailspin.
Playing despite a sprained right shoulder that kept him out of practice for most of the week, Rodgers started slowly but got better as the game went on -- even as signs that his shoulder was bothering him became more obvious.
Rodgers' attempts to lead the Packers to a Brett Favre-like comeback fell short, and the Atlanta Falcons beat them 27-24 on Sunday for their third straight loss. So far, Green Bay (2-3) has shown a few flashes of being the team they were last year.
They just aren't nearly as consistent.
"That's the problem," Rodgers said. "We've played five games now and we have not played a complete game in any of those. We've had stretches where we've looked like a really good football team. I thought the second half we did some really nice things, got the momentum back. But it's been like that every game, and coach has been harping on it."
Meanwhile, the new and apparently improved Falcons (3-2) suddenly don't look like laughingstocks of the league.
Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and new running back Michael Turner finally brought the success they've been having at home with them on the team plane, winning their first road game of the season.
Ryan completed 16 of 26 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Turner ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, while wide receiver Roddy White caught eight passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Are the Falcons surprising people?
"You know what? I don't know what people are thinking," Ryan said. "That's not for us to kind of think about at this point. We've been positive and upbeat since the beginning of training camp."
It was Ryan's first trip to Lambeau, and he remarked to coach Mike Smith during pregame warmups that it was "pretty cool" to play there. But Ryan was able to soak in the stadium's aura without being intimidated.
The same thing seemed to apply to his teammates, who hadn't won in two tries on the road coming into Sunday.
"This is confirmation of what we're doing as a football team," Smith said. "I really believe that. This confirms that we can do it on the road and win in a hostile environment. I think it's very big for our young football team."
While the Falcons appear to be trending upward, the Packers need to find a way to stop their slide. Rodgers certainly did his part.
He hurt his shoulder at Tampa Bay last Sunday, and insisted during the week that the quarterback-record consecutive starts streak held by his predecessor didn't place any additional pressure on him to play.
While Rodgers said his shoulder was "definitely painful" on Sunday, it didn't stop him from pleading with coach Mike McCarthy to let him play.
"Mike wanted to look into my eyes and see if I wanted to play, and I told him 'I want the ball. I want to be out there,"' Rodgers said. "Then I just knew I was going to have to deal with the pain."
Wincing and grabbing at his arm more and more as the game dragged on, Rodgers nevertheless showed a flair for the dramatic on a few plays that could have come right out of Favre's playbook.
Facing third-and-1 at the Falcons 44 in the second quarter, Rodgers sold a play fake, reared back and threw a dart through an impossibly small space between two defenders for a touchdown to Donald Driver.
Then, while trying to lead the Packers to a comeback late in the fourth quarter, he flipped a ball underhand to tight end Donald Lee for a touchdown.
But Rodgers also made a big mistake before his ad-lib pass to Lee. With the Packers trailing by three with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, he threw an interception to Falcons linebacker Michael Boley.
And if all that didn't vaguely remind you of Favre, this certainly will: Rodgers explained away the interception by saying he was "trying to make a play."
At least Rodgers went on to admit he shouldn't have thrown it.
"I probably should have checked it off the back," Rodgers said.
He finished the game 25-for-37 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. The Packers didn't win, but Rodgers won more respect.
"I saw a quarterback that was giving his all, despite his situation," Packers receiver Greg Jennings said. "He wanted to put it on his shoulders, win or lose. Rain, sleet, snow, whatever, he just wanted to be out there to lead his team. A gutsy performance by him. My hat goes off to him. I wish we could've pulled it out for him today."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)