Green Bay Packers head coach Joe Philbin talks to Aaron Rodgers during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — An emotional week for
the Green Bay Packers ended with a sorely needed win that relied on a
They beat a warm-weather team on a chilly afternoon at Lambeau Field by building a big lead and forcing two turnovers.
Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and set an NFL record for interception-free football, and the Packers beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-20 on Sunday to win their first game under interim head coach Joe Philbin.
Aaron Jones ran for a 29-yard score in the third quarter. The defense forced two turnovers — their first takeaways in three games — and limited quarterback Matt Ryan after a game-opening touchdown drive to hand Atlanta its fifth straight loss and guarantee the Falcons a losing record for the first time since 2014.
The Packers (5-7-1) regained some swagger with Philbin taking over for the fired Mike McCarthy. They've still got work to do to avoid a losing record, but at least Green Bay snapped a three-game losing streak.
"It was an emotional week, we all know that. I feel very happy for the organization, players and staff that work so hard to make this a unique place," Philbin said. "I told the team I was very proud to be their head coach today."
And in return, the team gave the game ball to Philbin.
"I thought it was a great moment ... for Joe, for our guys," Rodgers said about the game. "We did what Joe talked about all week, about playing complementary football."
He was 21 of 32 for 196 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the left side of the end zone for a 27-7. That throw gave Rodgers 359 consecutive attempts without an interception, breaking the league record previously held by New England's Tom Brady (358 in 2010-11).
The Falcons (4-9) had trouble keeping up after their first series. When they did, they hurt themselves with eight defensive penalties.
"It's definitely frustrating, maddening, disbelief, all of those things when we don't execute on those," coach Dan Quinn said.
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Jones runs for a touchdown during the second half.
Linebacker Deion Jones also had a couple
chances to snap Rodgers' interception streak but couldn't hang on each
Atlanta found some semblance of a running game that it hoped to get to open up play action. Yet the Falcons still endured a long drought after Ryan found Julio Jones for a 16-yard touchdown pass on an easy opening series.
By the time Ryan and Jones connected for another score, from 12 yards with 13:34 left in the game, Atlanta was still down by 20.
Their frustrating and injury-filled season was epitomized by a botched snap in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Atlanta drove to the 8 when the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack hit Mohamed Sanu's leg while the receiver was in motion. Bashaud Breeland recovered.
Ryan finished 28 of 42 for 262 yards and three scores, connecting with Justin Hardy for a 19-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left. Ryan also tossed a 22-yard interception returned for a score by Breeland in the second quarter.
He was outplayed by Rodgers, who also hurt Atlanta on the ground with trademark scrambles. A scrum broke out in the second quarter after cornerback Brian Poole hit Rodgers as the quarterback slid near the end of a 21-yard run to the Atlanta 27.
Pushing and shoving ensued, with Deion Jones and Packers center Corey Linsley each whistled for offsetting personal fouls. After a sack, the Packers still got a 48-yard field goal as time expired to take a 13-point halftime lead.
Falcons: Host the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 16.
Packers: Visit the Chicago Bears on Dec. 16.