Devonta Freeman rushed for two touchdowns and Desmond Trufant added one for the defense to lead the Atlanta Falcons to a 34-23 win, and their third in a row, over the Green Bay Packers.
Packers quarterback A-aron Rodgers had quite a few snarky comments about the functionality of the iris roof atop Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He also threw a barb at Chick-fil-A being closed.
One thing is for certain, Chick-fil-A tastes a million times better than the crow and turf Rodgers ate Sunday night.
Atlanta established itself as the better team right from the start, the way good teams are supposed to do. It took three passes and six rushes to cover the 85 yards the Falcons needed to set Freeman up for a 1-yard touchdown run. “It felt good to get the first touchdown in the first game of the first year opening the stadium, so I’m just thankful,” said Freeman.
A 1-yard touchdown by Green Bay running back Ty Montgomery evened up the score for the first and last time. Atlanta outscored the Packers 31-0 until Mason Crosby split the uprights six minutes into the third quarter. “They just put us in a hole that was insurmountable,” said Clay Matthews.
Freeman started the second quarter like he started the first, with a touchdown. Four passes and six rushes equaled seven points. The only difference in the drives was the number of big plays. On the opening drive, Julio Jones caught two passes for 53 of his game-high 108 yards receiving. Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy got in on the action on the second scoring drive. The receiver trio accounted for 82 yards on the drive.
As well as the offense was playing, the defense was playing equally well. Atlanta affected Rodgers in manner Head Coach Dan Quinn directs. The defense hurried Rodgers seven times, sacked him three times, intercepted him once, and forced him to fumble the ball.
Throughout OTA’s and training camp, speculation about how good the front seven was the talk of the city. The addition of top draft pick Takk McKinley and free agents Dontari Poe and Jack Crawford to a front that returned Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, and De’Vondre Campbell gave Atlanta the kind of depth they need to contend for another run.
Rodgers was rarely allowed to stand in the pocket without being harassed. Pressure from the rotation of fresh players held the Packers to 102 total yards in the first half. Rodgers was 10 for 18 through the air but amassed just 77 net yards.
The pressure created by the front in the last minute of the first half and first minute of the second half put the game out of reach for Atlanta.
Penalties against the Packers made their offense start at the five and also erased a 36-yard reception. Green Bay tight end Martellus Bennett was flagged for pass interference nullifying Randall Cobb’s catch and run. Then Cobb false started pushing the line of scrimmage back to the 3 of Green Bay. The defense took its course from there.
Rodgers stepped up to avoid Crawford coming from around the left and Adrian Clayborn up the middle and overthrew Geronimo Allison but not Trufant. “I know they take shots,” said the 5-year pro out of Washingon. “They hadn’t taken one on me yet and I knew it was coming eventually. I just turned around and was in great position and he threw me the ball.”
The offense capitalized on the turnover before the half expired. Ryan found Tevin Coleman by the pylon for a 3-yard touchdown.
Trufant doubled down on big plays on the first play of the third quarter. Once again it was the pressure of the defense that made it possible. In an attempt to escape the rush of Poe, Rodgers turned to run and found only Vic Beasley at warp 9. Trufant scooped up the fumble and dashed into the end zone.
“It always starts up front,” said safety Ricardo Allen. “If our defensive line can cause havoc, there is not very much you can do.”
Green Bay scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive and twice more in the fourth quarter but the game was out of reach.
Atlanta heads to Detroit next week for their third consecutive game against an opponent from the black and blue division.
All photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports