GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A review of four key issues from the Atlanta Falcons’ 22-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:
For starters: Rookie cornerback Robert Alford knew early last week he would start at left cornerback in place of Asante Samuel. The coaching staff remained coy about the decision, although defensive coordinator Mike Nolan implied it was Alford’s time to surpass Samuel. In fact, Samuel didn’t even play, as Alford took all the reps. "I think it’s a big jump for me," Alford said. "I feel good about it. I played good [Sunday]. There were a couple of plays that I can improve on. I’m going to go and watch film and get better each day." Alford played all 71 snaps on Sunday.
Youth movement: Speaking of the young players playing, another rookie defensive back got more reps at the expense of a veteran. When safety Thomas DeCoud left the game with a head injury, Zeke Motta saw his most extensive playing time of the season in his place. Motta had a few hiccups, including slipping in coverage on an 18-yard pass play from Matt Flynn to Jordy Nelson. But Motta showed he could be a sure tackler and finished with six tackles. Also, rookie right tackle Ryan Schraeder finished the game ahead of Jeremy Trueblood, who started. "I think the guys have worked hard, and they deserve the opportunity to go out there and play," coach Mike Smith said of the rookies. "And they need to play in games where there’s something on the line. You want to see how they respond to it. Our No. 1 mission is to win the football game. No doubt about that. But we felt like those young guys had the opportunity to go out and participate in a game for the entire game or most of the game. And that’s what we were looking at [Sunday]." Motta played 55 of 71 snaps on defense, and Schraeder played 42 of 59 offensive snaps.
Running on empty: There was much lobbying all last week for Antone Smith to get more touches at running back based on his explosiveness on every carry. Well, Smith never got going on Sunday after apparently tweaking his knee on special teams. Smith told ESPN.com he was scheduled to undergo an MRI for what was thought to be a patella injury. The Falcons actually ran the ball pretty effectively behind Steven Jackson, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry while gaining 71 yards on 15 carries, including a long run of 22 yards. Jackson left at one point with an undisclosed injury but was able to finish the ballgame. It will be worth monitoring the injury report this week to see where both Jackson and Smith stand in preparation for the Washington Redskins.
Tackling machine: Although rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow's most memorable play from Sunday was his kick assist on Sean Weatherspoon’s 71-yard interception return for a touchdown, Worrilow again put up impressive individual numbers. He finished with 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and one pass defense. It marked the sixth straight game Worrilow had reached double figures in tackles. And he’d be the first to say he missed a couple he should have had. Maybe Worrilow should get some rookie of the year votes.