Ryan’s 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left lifted Atlanta to a thrilling 33-32 victory over the Packers Sunday afternoon.
Ryan out-dueled Aaron Rodgers in the contest, but both quarterbacks were brilliant in combining for 534 yards passing and seven touchdowns.
Ryan completed 28 of 35 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns for a stellar 129.5 quarterback rating. Rodgers was his close behind with a 125.5 rating, completing 28 of 38 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
Neither quarterback threw an interception, and Rodgers was the Packers leading rusher with six runs for 60 yards, with several key runs for first downs.
Atlanta improved to 5-3 on the season, while Green Bay fell to 4-3 and possibly two full games behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North division race. The 5-1 Vikings travel to Chicago to face the 1-6 Bears tonight.
“I fully expected to win, put ourselves in a position to win,” head coach Mike McCarthy lamented in his post-game press conference. “I think this is an excellent illustration, as I told the team of what these tough games come down to. You have to make key plays at key times, and we didn’t make enough plays to win.”
Ryan and the Falcons, who lost two heartbreakers in a row, finished this time.
Atlanta drove 75 yards in 11 plays for the game-winner after Green Bay had taken a 32-26 lead with 3:58 left on Rodgers’ 7-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Janis.
Cornerback LaDarious Gunter, who performed admirably in defending the NFL’s best receiver Julio Jones for most of the evening, missed a golden opportunity to intercept Ryan on the final drive.
But the opportunity slipped—literally—through his hands. And Ryan made the most of the second chance.
Jones, who has torched defenses all season, was held to just three catches for 29 yards—an amazing stat. The All-Pro receiver was slightly hobbled by an ankle injury suffered in the game.
Rodgers and the depleted Packers offense had one last chance to drive 40 yards in half a minute for a possible 55-yard field goal attempt to win the game. They failed, as Rodgers misfired on three passes, with his fourth-down throw on the run under pressure falling short of Davante Adams.
Despite a near-record injury list, Green Bay’s valiant effort fell short in Atlanta. Sidelined Sunday were Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, Jared Cook, Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, and Quinten Rollins.
The defense had to protect its decimated secondary and could not blitz enough to pressure Ryan, who is assembling a league MVP-type season.
The Packers host the 3-5 Indianapolis Colts in a near must-win situation at Lambeau Field Sunday.
The game will be televised exclusively at 3:25 p.m. in Western Wisconsin by FOX 25/48. Green Bay’s next three games are on the road against the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles.