Originally created 01/05/03

Atlanta Falcons notebook

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Mark Simoneau had essentially no chance to play in base defense this season, but the Atlanta Falcons' third-year linebacker continued his knack for big plays on special teams Saturday night.

Eight weeks after teaming with Brian Kozlowski to recover a fourth-quarter punt at Pittsburgh, Simoneau had impeccable timing again midway through the first quarter of the NFC wild card game against Green Bay.

Atlanta led 7-0 when Simoneau lined up just left of long snapper Rob Davis and blasted through Packers protection to block Josh Bidwell's punt in the end zone. Artie Ulmer immediately fell on the loose ball for his first career touchdown.

The Falcons' special teams continued to shine. Early in the second quarter, Green Bay punt returner Eric Metcalf called for a fair catch at the 17-yard line, but a hard push by Kevin McCadam forced Tyrone Williams to back into his teammate. Metcalf fumbled, and George Layne recovered for Atlanta.

Four plays later, T.J. Duckett ran for a 6-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

Jay Feely hit a 24-yard field goal with three seconds left before halftime, and a 23-yarder midway through the third quarter with the snow falling to make it 27-7. Feely missed, though, from 45 yards with 9:52 left in the game.

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis had to be pleased when his field-goal rush factored in Ryan Longwell missing a 44-yard attempt to the right after Feely's second kick.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Brett Favre connected with Donald Driver for a 14-yard score to open the third quarter, which gave the Packers' star quarterback a touchdown pass in 13 straight playoff games. He also tied former Pittsburgh quarterback and Hall of Fame inductee Terry Bradshaw with his 30th postseason touchdown.

Favre, who threw six interceptions in Green Bay's blowout loss at St. Louis in the playoffs last year, also continued a knack for getting picked off in losses. The Packers trailed 27-7 with 9:27 remaining when offsetting penalties wiped out a midfield by pick by Atlanta cornerback Juran Bolden. Free safety Keion Carpenter, though, intercepted Favre on his next attempt.

Favre entered with nine interceptions in Green Bay's four losses this season. He had seven in the Packers' 12 wins.

BIG NUMBERS: One reason the Falcons had a 20-point lead with 7:41 to go was its ability to run the ball effectively. Atlanta had a 204-57 advantage in rushing yards and 13-4 lead in first downs on the ground. ... The Falcons also had almost an eight-minute advantage in time of possession. ... A crowd of 65,358 fans was record at Lambeau Field, which is undergoing a two-year renovation and expansion.

SAY WHAT? Packers coach Mike Sherman was booed lustily with 6:34 left in the second quarter and Atlanta leading 21-0. On fourth-and-goal at the 2, he decided to go for the touchdown instead of a field goal.

The plan backfired when Ellis Johnson stuffed running back Ahman Green for a 2-yard loss.


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