Falcons’ domination of Packers serves notice that ’16 was no fluke

Desmond Trufant celebrates a big victory on SNF. Credit: Atlanta Falcons

A down-to-the wire game against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 might have had fans wondering if the Falcons were still the powerhouse team they were in 2016. Now after Week 2 of the regular season, this question is no longer being asked. The Falcons’ dominating 34-23 win over the Green Bay Packers in the inaugural regular-season game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium ensured all Falcons fans that their team’s success won’t be limited to one season.

The first half of the game was all Falcons. Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones two times for a total of 53 yards on their opening drive. Ryan then pitched the ball to Devonta Freeman on the 1-yard line, and Freeman barreled his way into the end zone to put the Falcons up 7-0.

The Packers responded with a touchdown of their own. After 11 plays Ty Montgomery carried the ball into the end zone for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Not only had the Falcons lost their lead, but defensive end Courtney Upshaw suffered an ankle injured during the drive and remained on the sidelines for the remainder of the game.

This was only the calm before the storm, however. Ryan, in the shotgun formation, connected with receiver Mohamed Sanu for 24 yards to set the Falcons up on the Green Bay 39-yard line. With 11:10 left in the half, Freeman rushed his way into the end zone from 2 yards out for his second score of the night.

Matt Bryant at age 42 remains one of the most productive kickers in the league. After a 35-yard run by Tevin Coleman and a 27-yard reception by Jones, Bryant showed his ageless talents by knocking in a field goal from 51 yards out.

The Falcons’ successful first half wasn’t done just yet. Aaron Rodgers, who threw just seven interceptions last season, attempted a deep pass intended for Geronimo Allison that was picked off by a diving Desmond Trufant. Thanks to Trufant’s acrobatic catch, the Falcons were set at the Green Bay 36-yard line but had just 47 seconds to score before the end of the first half.

With less than 20 seconds left to play, Ryan connected with Tevin Coleman on a 3-yard pass to put the Falcons up 24-7 as the first half came to an end.

Green Bay received the kickoff to start the half looking to shift its offense into gear and put some pressure on the Falcons. With Rodgers’ favorite target and star wide receiver Jordy Nelson sidelined with a quad injury from the first quarter, the task seemed difficult to say the least. The Packers comeback did not take shape during their opening drive. After being absolutely crushed by outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. and nose tackle Dontari Poe, Rodgers was forced to get rid of the ball quickly.

While attempting to dish the ball out and avoid being sacked, he tossed the ball laterally near the line of scrimmage. What looked to be an incomplete pass was scooped up by Trufant and returned into the end zone. After taking a long look at the play, officials came to the conclusion that the ball did not progress forward, and the play was ruled a fumble, resulting in an Atlanta touchdown. The Falcons now led 31-7 with 14:04 left in the third.

Following the costly turnover, the Packers bounced back and were moving down the field. Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb three times for a total of 37 yards to help put Green Bay on the Atlanta 3-yard line. Rodgers then tossed the ball back to Cobb, who ran it 3 yards into the end zone. But while the Packers thought they had begun their comeback, the referees saw otherwise. An offensive pass interference call on Allison brought the scoring play back, and Green Bay had to settle for a field goal.

Atlanta would score one last time with another 53-yard bomb from Matt Bryant in the third to extend the lead to 34-10.

Green Bay didn’t give up by any means. A 33-yard touchdown pass to Devante Adams, who dove his way into the end zone and into the pylon to make the play, gave the Packers some hope of a comeback. The Packers then attempted a two-point conversion to bring the deficit to 16 points. Rodgers would look to Adams again to come through but was unable to connect.

Green Bay would go on to score one more time on a pass from Rodgers to Montgomery, making Falcons fans perhaps a little uneasy, but in the end, the Packers would fall short. The Falcons’ 34-23 victory over the Packers makes them one of seven undefeated teams left in the league. Next week, they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions and the highest-paid quarterback in the league, Mathew Stafford. If the Lions win their matchup against the New York Giants tonight, they too will remain undefeated. With the potential of having two teams with spotless records playing, only one can remain unscathed.

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