GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Atlanta Falcons (4-9) didn't just battle the Green Bay Packers (5-7-1) on Sunday. They battled themselves.
Atlanta was penalized 13 times for 101 yards, with six of those penalties giving a first down to the Packers. There were a number of impactful penalties on both offense and defense for the Falcons that changed the complexion of the game.
"As you went through it and looked at the game, or are going through the game, there’s certain periods of not getting stops, not scoring and too many times the result of that was penalties, mistakes and turnovers," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
Offensively, the Falcons had 78 yards wiped away on just three holding penalties. The biggest of those three fouls occurred in the second quarter after the Packers took a 17-7 lead on an interception returned for a touchdown. On Green Bay's 45-yard line, Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 32-yard completion that would have set the Falcons up in the red zone with an opportunity to keep pace with the Packers.
A holding penalty on Wes Schweitzer did away with that positive play and swung momentum away from the Falcons and towards the Packers. Atlanta ultimately punted on that drive and did not get the ball back again in the first half. Instead, Green Bay tacked on an additional 3 points and took a 20-7 lead into halftime.
The Falcons' offense made some plays against the Packers defense, and they noticeably ran the ball better than in recent weeks, but three of their biggest gains of the afternoon were negated by fouls. Atlanta was unable to overcome the mistakes they did make, and it played a key role in Green Bay scoring 34 unanswered points.
That 34-point run was also assisted by some unforced errors on the part of the Falcons' defense.
Atlanta gave the Packers' offense 61 free yards, and it committed a total of five penalties in the span of two Green Bay drives that book-ended halftime. Two penalties helped the Packers add 3 points to their lead at the end of the second quarter, and the other three penalties helped Green Bay move the ball downfield on the first drive of the third quarter, which ended in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb.
“We just need to execute and make better decisions in those moments," Falcons safety Sharrod Neasman said. "I think we definitely came out with a chip on our shoulder, but we made some poor decisions. We just have to make better decisions and keep our poise in those situations.”
Winning in Green Bay is not an easy task, especially when a team hurts itself with numerous penalties, which the Falcons did on Sunday. There were moments when Atlanta's offense went cold or its defense allowed Rodgers to be Rodgers for a few plays in a row, but the Falcons did have a number of positive plays that seemingly could have helped them fight back.
On several of those plays, however, a yellow flag brought back the positive gain or it undid a great defensive play that had occurred on an earlier down.
"The margin for wins and losses in this league is razor-thin," Ryan said. "And the reason we're 4-9 is because we've made mistakes in critical situations."