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A Green Bay Blueprint


It's quiet around Flowery Branch on Tuesdays. The players, observing the 24-hour rule, have moved on from Seattle's nail-biting win and are ready for another primetime game. This one may have a little extra dose excitement.

Falcons fans have been anticipating a Green Bay rematch since that difficult night back in January. After that night, Green Bay buzzsawed through NFC in the playoffs and took the Super Bowl championship. Since, everyone has asked, "How do you beat this team?"

There's so much talk about how the Falcons will defend Sunday's opponent on offense, but the forgotten topic is what Atlanta can do against the Packers on offense.

Atlanta's home playoff loss to the Packers is embedded into the minds of everyone who follows the Falcons, but don't forget the Falcons limited Aaron Rodgers and the Pack to 17 points at home in last season's Week 12 matchup. On offense, they scored 20 points and there's reason to believe they'll have to surpass that output to beat the defending champs this time around.

The Falcons have shown this season they can score, posting 35 and 30 in Weeks 2 and 4. Against the Packers they'll surely want to keep the ball out of Rodgers' hands and the dangerous weapons they have on offense. The balance of run and pass they've been working to create this season almost seems to be geared toward this game.

This season the Packers defense is second in the league, allowing 71 rushing yards per game. They've only given up one touchdown on the ground. Through the air, Green Bay has allowed the second-most passing yards in the league, 335 per game. One of the reasons their run yardage is so low and their pass yardage is high is because most of their opponents have played from behind this season, needing to pass to score points in bunches and quickly.

One thing that should come as no surprise is Green Bay is tied for first with eight interceptions. On the flip side, they're tied for second with the most touchdowns allowed through the air with nine.

What's it all mean?

The Packers can be scored on, and minimizing mistakes on offense lessens the chance that the opportunistic Green Bay defense can beat you.

Big plays on offense will be necessary. The Saints in Week 1 gave a blueprint on how to defeat the Packers, but couldn't get it done in the end. The Falcons have the potential to be more balanced and more ball-controlling on offense than the Saints and the theory remains that if they can do so, they can limit Green Bay's touches.

The Saints produced eight plays of 20 yards or more against Green Bay; two of them went for touchdowns. Atlanta's big-play production has improved this season and last week they posted five plays of 20-plus yards.

The key in all of this will be the recipe the Falcons have made famous: Get running back Michael Turner going and the field will open up. Grind out the defense and hit your big plays when they present themselves.

Perhaps the biggest key of all is if Green Bay has an answer for rookie Julio Jones. Jones has two straight 100-plus yard games and his most overlooked stat is Jones' status as the third-best receiver in the entire league in producing yards after the catch. Jones' 5.6 yards are second only to Wes Welker and Steve Smith.

The last Falcons loss at the Georgia Dome came to the Packers in that playoff defeat, but otherwise the home team is very difficult to defeat on their turf. After three of their first four on the road, the Falcons return to the dome for some home cooking and a chance to spoil Green Bay's undefeated run through the NFC in 2011.

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