By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Oct 30, 2016 at 9:16 PM

In an alternate universe – perhaps one populated entirely by Packers fans – Aaron Rodgers rolled left on that last-gasp fourth down and, seeing speedy No. 83 burning past his defender down the sideline, hurled a 60-yard hero-ball bomb to Jeff Janis, who caught it for the game-winning touchdown in Atlanta on Sunday evening, giving Green Bay an incredible, inspiring and adversity-overcoming victory.

Instead, though, Rodgers rolled right, targeted increasingly dependable wide receiver Davante Adams, who didn’t break his route quickly enough and wasn’t in the vicinity of Rodgers’ 25-yard pass, resulting in the attempt falling meekly to the Georgia Dome turf and the quarterback looking disappointed and frustrated, as he has more often than usual this season but not as much against the Falcons, in what was a thrilling but unsatisfying 33-32 Packers loss.

The offense – at least the passing game – did suddenly seem to be back, which will no doubt produce the storylines and soundbites that surround this week, not to mention the everlasting hope that Green Bay’s depleted roster might finally (maybe?) get a little bit healthier.

On Sunday, without their top three cornerbacks, top two running backs, the two talented receivers who’d been filling in at running back, and, oh yeah, their best pass rusher, the injury-strained and (somewhat) staggering Packers – three-point underdogs against the league’s best offense – had to throw a lot, score a lot and pressure Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan if they were to beat the first-place Falcons.

And they almost did.

It was impressive. It was familiar-looking. It was fun! And, though it showed some offensive improvement and suggested better things to come, it was ultimately another loss – Green Bay’s third in seven games, tying it with two other teams for the NFC’s sixth-best record. Indeed, we’re not even halfway through the regular season, but for context and perspective, remember that six teams from the conference make the playoffs.

But enough long-winded soliloquy; this battered team is certainly far from buried and, in the spirit of Halloween tomorrow, here’s hoping some of their walking wounded recuperate and come undead to help the Packers progress toward, if not the Super Bowl, then at least postseason contention.

Here's everything you need to know, or just forgot, or missed because you stopped watching in protest after FOX showed the 12-men-on-the-field replay for the 450th time, plus all kinds of other wacky whatnots, from the Packers' Week 8 loss to the Falcons on Sunday.

Who starred?

From 2010 through 2014, this was always a foregone conclusion and it became almost boring to write about Aaron Rodgers playing peerlessly every week. That hasn’t been the case for about the last year – which has been comprehensively chronicled – but Rodgers looked every bit his old two-time MVP self on Sunday, completing 28 of 38 passes for 246 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 125.5 passer rating.

He had three completions of at least 20 yards, including a 58-yard vintage connection with Jordy Nelson that was perfectly timed and weighted, leading Nelson and letting him run under it, looking just like the good old days. With a limited running game, Rodgers also rushed six times for a career-high 60 yards, with a few long scramble gains. He did everything; it just wasn’t enough. Over his last two games, Rodgers has completed 71.3 percent of his throws for 572 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions, for a 111.7 passer rating. That’s more like it.

Who stunk?

With the defensive backfield as banged-up as it is – missing Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins – Green Bay needed its linebackers to make life a little easier on the secondary. The Packers had to get a consistent pass rush from its veteran outside backers and playmaking and sound coverage from its young inside guys. It got neither. Clay Matthews was out with a hamstring injury, and Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and the rest were barely a nuisance for Ryan, who was sacked twice and only hit twice by linebackers, giving him time to find receivers who eventually were able to get free from the cornerbacks that actually played unexpectedly well.

Inside, Jake Ryan missed a couple tackles, made the wrong read on Atlanta’s third-quarter, goal-line touchdown run and was beaten in the end zone by Mohamed Sanu for the game-winning score; Blake Martinez was out of position too often in coverage and seemed to be late in diagnosing plays. Fill-in cornerbacks LaDarius Gunter and Demetri Goodson more than held their own – allowing 277 yards, which were 42 fewer than Atlanta averages – but they can’t defend Julio Jones and the NFL’s best passing offense forever.

Unsung hero

Despite appearing not to be on the same page with Rodgers on the Packers’ final play, Adams was once again fantastic. One week after catching a career-high 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Bears, Adams hauled in 12 receptions (on 14 targets) for 74 yards, becoming Rodgers’ most dependable option. He was the only one of Green Bay’s five active wide receivers that didn’t catch a touchdown pass, but his consistent production extended drives and kept the Packers in the game.

McCarthy score

(Mike McCarthy isn’t renowned for his play-calling, having fired and then rehired himself for that role last year, but he does try his best. Here we rate his coaching performance, on a score from one to 10 McCarthy heads.)

He’s getting better; this was probably McCarthy’s best-called game, getting Rodgers moving around and mixing in intermediate and deep throws with the spread-out short stuff that worked so well last week. Without a running game and apparently still not really trusting Don Jackson and Knile Davis (they rushed a combined seven times for 14 yards), he was inclined to have fullback Aaron Ripkowski carry the ball (six rushes for 34 yards, including a draw play) and used Adams in the backfield-receiver role Montgomery and Cobb have filled previously. He at least was trying to do different things. Eight heads.

And yet, a few head-scratchers: accepting a first-quarter penalty that made it second-and-15 rather than third-and-10 on a drive Atlanta would later get a field goal on; calling a fullback bubble screen for Ripkowski that lost a yard; running Ripkowski twice in a row inside the Falcons’ 15; and once again not demonstrating foresight or awareness in using his timeouts. In the first half, he could have stopped the clock near the end of an Atlanta drive to give the Packers time to try and score before halftime, and in the second half, Green Bay should have either managed the clock smarter or let the Falcons score quickly so it could get the ball back. McCarthy still often seems to be calling the plays and making the decisions he thinks he should be making at a given time.

Two-word reaction

Moral victory.

Dumb #hottake

The Packers need to try harder to get healthy. They’re clearly going out there and just getting injured way too much. It’s time to stretch better, be more careful and lucky and execute when it comes to avoiding injuries.

Good quote

"A good number of us are playing because we were the young backup that had to play because of injury, so it's next man up. Those guys, I think they did a good job. I think they did a good job overall. But when you're playing a good offense like that, just doing enough is not enough. You've got to go above and beyond and us veterans are supposed to take that thing by the horns and do that." – defensive tackle Mike Daniels.

Best photo

Encouraging thing

Last week was encouraging because Rodgers and his receivers finally completed some passes and scored some points, but it was a lot of short and underneath stuff. This week was still more encouraging because the Packers took shots downfield, Rodgers was making throws – especially the touchdown passes to Trevor Davis and Janis – that resembled those he makes when he’s in a groove and Nelson had a big game, with 94 yards and a touchdown.

Alarming thing

Green Bay’s offensive line, typically one of their best and most reliable position groups, had perhaps its worst game. T.J. Lang admirably played through an obvious injury, but even against a Falcons team with an unimposing pass rush, the unit struggled, allowing three sacks that could have been many more if not for Rodgers’ nifty evasiveness. Facing better pass-rushing defenses – like two of their next four opponents, Tennessee and Philadelphia, who are both among the league’s top four in sacks – the line will need to play better, especially with no ground game and injuries elsewhere.

Looking ahead

At 4-3 and sitting in second place in the NFC North Division, the Packers host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts this week, a 3:25 p.m. game (CBS) Sunday at Lambeau Field. Following that contest, Green Bay will play its next three – against the Titans, Redskins and Eagles – on the road.

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.