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Falcons’ season took dramatic turn after rout of Rams in Week 14

Atlanta Falcons players whoop it up Sunday after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.
Atlanta Falcons players whoop it up Sunday after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Are the Rams the reason the Atlanta Falcons are in the Super Bowl?

Well, that might be overstating it. But some of the Falcons pointed to their 42-14 victory in Los Angeles in Week 14 as a turning point for a team that was coming off a 29-28 home loss to Kansas City.

Since that defeat to the Chiefs, Atlanta has won six in a row, never scoring fewer than 33 points.

“I don’t know if it was when we played the Rams or what have you, but something clicked and we started playing great,” defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “We continued that, we’re continuing that, and hopefully we can continue that one more time.”

There’s something about teams that dip in the middle season, get their second wind, then take off at a sprint. Green Bay was 4-6 at one point, then won eight in a row (before losing Sunday). The Falcons were 7-5. Pittsburgh, which lost in the AFC title game Sunday, dropped four in a row from Weeks 6-10.

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“Definitely after the Rams game I felt that turn,” Falcons receiver Mohamad Sanu said. “We just made up our mind and went out there and executed. The way we started putting the extra week in each week, together as a group, uplifted us a lot.

Rough road trip

Getting to Atlanta was quite a hassle for the Packers, who couldn’t fly out of Green Bay-Austin Straubel International Airport Saturday after the chartered flight that was supposed to take them couldn’t land because of heavy fog. They were due to leave at 2 p.m., but instead had to ride two hours south in buses before they could fly.

The team took six buses and got a police escort to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, 125 miles south. The Packers got out of there successfully, landing in Atlanta around 8:15 p.m., three hours later than they had originally planned.

Those type of travel problems have been exceedingly rare for the Packers — a beat writer who has covered the team for two decades could not remember a similar one — although other teams have had some similar issues. In December, the Minnesota Vikings had to land in nearby Appleton, Wis., because of foul weather, and their plane skidded off the runway.

Straight talk

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t mince his words.

His summation of what happened Sunday?

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” he said. “Those guys performed great, and we didn’t have enough to keep up with them, and with that, here we are. … This is clearly not the way we anticipated or prepared for our season to end, but I think it’s more a credit to the Falcons, and we just ran out of gas.”

Seeing double

The Falcons did a good job of frustrating Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who put up respectable numbers (287 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) but never threatened to take over the game. Part of that was defenders being mindful that with Rodgers, who can extend plays with his feet, the threat isn’t over until the whistle.

“When you have somebody like Aaron, he’s so good, that you’ve got to try to keep him in the pocket,” Freeney said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to. He can get out if he wants to get out.

“But it’s up to everybody to play a second play. The first play starts, then the second play starts. That means that the [defensive backs] have to restart, the linebackers have to restart. That’s how it went. You do that for however long it takes. If you don’t hear no whistle, you’ve got to keep going.”

Reasonable feast

The Falcons are taking a novel approach when it comes to food at their new stadium: They aren’t gouging the customers.

The club plans to charge $2 for refillable sodas, $2 for hot dogs, $3 for pizza, $5 for a 12-ounce beer, and the like. All round numbers, all fair prices, akin to the food-pricing model at The Masters.

Surely, the team will make up the revenue with expensive tickets and pricey merchandise, but it’s a start.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer


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