FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons are still trying to find their groove.
With the defending Super Bowl champions coming to town, this would be a good week to do it.
The Falcons (2-2) are coming off another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance, racing out to a big lead against struggling Seattle, then barely hanging on for a 30-28 victory over the Seahawks.
In many ways, the win typified the first quarter of the season for Atlanta, which was projected as a Super Bowl contender but had yet to put together a complete game.
The offensive line had been the biggest concern, but it did a good job Sunday. Matt Ryan wasn’t sacked once after going down 13 times in the first three games.
Now, coach Mike Smith is worried about the defense, which was burned for four touchdowns and 372 yards by a Seattle team that had scored just 30 points coming into the game. That won’t do against high-powered Green Bay, which visits Atlanta on Sunday for a prime-time rematch of last year’s playoff rout by the Packers.
“They have a great pedigree,” Smith said Monday, still looking a bit bleary eyed after the overnight flight from the West Coast. “They have an outstanding quarterback with a lot of weapons. That’s the biggest concern for us, being able to slow these guys down. In all four games, they have moved the ball and put a lot of points on the scoreboard.”
Indeed, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers (4-0) are averaging a league-best 37 points a game, looking just as prolific as they did in January, blowing out the Falcons, 48-21, in a division-round playoff game.
Atlanta has stewed over that game ever since, making a major deal on draft day to land receiver Julio Jones and signing Ray Edwards shortly after the lockout ended to bulk up the pass rush that kept letting Rodgers slip away.
But those moves have yet to transform the Falcons, who actually appear to have taken a slight step backward instead of another giant leap forward.
“I felt we played a solid game through the first half,” Smith said. “In the second half, we didn’t play as well as we needed to play. There’s a lot we need to fix. One thing I will say about our team is we responded to the challenge. We held up in the fourth quarter when we had to.”
Given the way they ran all over Atlanta last time, the Packers present a daunting challenge.