The Packers didn’t track down the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Weatherspoon on his score, but they did catch up with Atlanta in the second half.
Matt Flynn threw for 258 yards and the Packers’ defense forced a key fourth-quarter turnover in a 22-21 win on Sunday to snap a five-game winless slide. Green Bay finally found a way to win without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers’ comeback on a bone-chilling afternoon at Lambeau Field overshadowed Weatherspoon’s highlight-reel play that gave Atlanta a 21-10 lead with 23 seconds left before halftime.
“It was a great play and something that sparked us, but we came out a little bit lackadaisical on defense if you ask me in the second half,” Weatherspoon said.
A short pass from Flynn appeared to carom off linebacker Paul Worrilow’s shoe and chest and into the hands of Weatherspoon. He slowly trudged his way back up the field past Packers who apparently thought the ball touched the ground.
“That play is one of those crazy weird plays. I think we all thought it was incomplete,” Flynn said.
Lineman T.J. Lang had the best chance to take down Weatherspoon, but whiffed on a tackle around the 22-yard line.
From there, the 6-foot-2, 244-pound Weatherspoon had a slow-motion escort into the end zone.
“It was awesome. I thank Worrilow for the nice kick. I just tried to finish,” he said.
He celebrated with a break, kneeling for several minutes on the sideline to catch his breath after giving the Falcons an 11-point lead. A smattering of boos cascaded down from Packers fans in the stands.
It turned out to be Atlanta’s last score of the game.
Mason Crosby kicked field goals from 40, 33 and 25 yards, the final one with 45 seconds left in the third quarter to get Green Bay within 21-16.
In the fourth quarter, Mike Neal’s sack forced Matt Ryan to fumble. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly scooped up the loose ball and celebrated with a little belly dance.
Four plays later, Flynn found Andrew Quarless for a 2-yard touchdown pass for the 22-21 lead with about 12 minutes left for the Packers (6-6-1).
The score completed the comeback and whipped the fans bundled up in parkas, fleece vests and knit caps into a frigid frenzy.
“I really like the football team, particularly at halftime, coming in, getting booed at home, and just the energy in the locker room,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They never blinked, they stayed the course.”
It was 9 degrees when the game started, with a wind chill of minus-1. The stadium looked as if it was encased in a snow globe at times with much of the game played while light, powdery snowflakes gently fell to the worn turf.
Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal into the wind with 6:42 left for Atlanta (3-10). The Falcons got to the 33 with 2 minutes left, but Tony Gonzalez dropped a short pass from Ryan with tight coverage by Jarrett Bush.
The Falcons, who play home games at the Georgia Dome, didn’t think weather was as much of a factor as the missed opportunities.
“We can’t talk about one specific play that was the difference,” coach Mike Smith said. “We had our chances to make some plays in all three phases and we didn’t.”
Flynn finished 24 of 32 with an interception in his second start for Rodgers, who’s been out since fracturing his left collarbone on the first series of a 27-20 loss to the Bears on Nov. 4.
It’s been a struggle ever since for Green Bay, which fell from first place in the NFC North to fighting to stay in the playoff chase.
Sunday’s win gave them a huge lift in an injury-filled season, with Rodgers appearing to be getting closer to a return.
Ryan finished 20 of 35 for 206 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Steven Jackson had 71 yards rushing on 15 carries. Gonzalez finished with three catches for 25 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.