- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - A furious second-half rally by Atlanta fell just short at one of the toughest road venues in the NFL.

Star receiver Julio Jones spent the last few minutes of the game hobbling on the sideline following a career night.

And the Falcons lost out on a chance to claim sole possession of first place in the mediocre NFC South.

Leave it to veteran receiver Roddy White to find a bright spot in a 43-37 loss Monday to the Green Bay Packers.

“We scored 37 points tonight. If you can’t believe in that, then you don’t need to be in this locker room - we need to cut some people,” White said.

On the road at Lambeau Field, the Falcons showed fight in a place where most other NFC foes had folded down the stretch. They fell to 5-8 and back into a first-place tie with New Orleans, but found positive signs for the season’s final three weeks.

Now if only they hadn’t fallen behind 31-7 at halftime, the outlook might have been rosier for Atlanta.

“We’re at the point of the season where it’s time. We’ve got to play the kind of football that we’re capable of playing for 60 minutes,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We’re in the mix, but we’ve got to win.”

Jones had a career-best 259 yards receiving before leaving with a hip injury in the fourth quarter. Ryan threw for 375 yards and four scores, including a 1-yard touchdown catch by White with 6:20 left that trimmed Green Bay’s lead to 40-30.

Jones didn’t come out for Atlanta’s failed 2-point conversion attempt.

“Difficult. There’s probably never a good time for an injury, but that’s part of the game,” Ryan said.

Mason Crosby kicked a 53-yard field goal with 4:37 left, helping the Packers withstand Atlanta’s final punch.

Ryan’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas with 2:15 left got Atlanta within six, but the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick. Backup running back James Starks effectively ended the Falcons’ upset hopes with a 41-yard run to the Atlanta 6 with 1:37 left.

“There’s been some ups and downs on both sides of the ball all season,” Rodgers said. “But we’re really getting this home-field advantage thing going, with the crowd noise, with the footing, with the way we’re playing, being really balanced on offense.”

Rodgers, who threw for 322 yards, acknowledged there may have been a “slight relaxation” at halftime up 24.

What matters most in the end to Green Bay (10-3) is that it held on for a victory and stayed a game ahead of Detroit in the NFC North.

“Defensively, a tale of two halves. You have to give Atlanta’s offense a lot of credit,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We have plenty to clean up.”

Eddie Lacy ran for a touchdown and caught one of Rodgers’ three TD passes to help Green Bay build its 24-point halftime lead. Lacy had 73 yards on 13 carries, and 33 yards on five catches.

The tough running back wiggled from side to side to celebrate his 1-yard touchdown reception with 4:20 left in second quarter. The score was set up by safety Morgan Burnett’s interception.

Later, Rodgers sidestepped his way out of a late blitz by Kroy Biermann and found Jordy Nelson in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left. That gave Green Bay its 24-point lead at halftime.

Instead of folding, the Falcons fought back.

Ryan found Jones for a 79-yard catch-and-run to the Packers 3 on the first play of the third quarter. The quarterback hit Eric Weems over the middle on fourth down for a 5-yard touchdown pass later in the drive.

It was a sign of things to come in the second half before Green Bay was able to hang on at the end.

NOTES: Lacy was pulled in the fourth quarter with a hip injury. He said he thought he would be OK, though he was sidelined as a precaution. Asked when the injury occurred, Lacy joked, “Whenever I ran into the two big dudes.” … McCarthy tied Vince Lombardi with 98 career victories, second on the franchise list behind Curly Lambeau (209). … S Dwight Lowery had a team-high 13 tackles and a forced fumble for Atlanta.



AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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