The Falcons had clear lessons to take away from the first game against the Panthers, even though they won it handily. This was a team that needed to figure out how to start fast, how to get Desmond Ridder comfortable and making smart decisions with the ball, how to ensure they leaned on the run when pass protection was shaky, and how to not blow opportunities to make big tackles and conjure up pressure. All of that was there; little of it translated into Week 2 against the Packers.
Frankly, the Falcons were undone by the kinds of mistakes they made against the Panthers through three quarters. The difference this week was that the mistakes were more costly and the opponent was more disciplined and talented, which explains the drastically different results. The Falcons killed drives with brutally bad passes, awful pass protection, and an odd lack of commitment to the run when that commitment would have been welcome. They committed costly penalties on defense, saw communication problems and assignment confusion lead to big scores, and missed critical open field tackle opportunities. Hell, they even missed an extra point.
But! I added all that preamble to underscore how bleak things looked heading into the fourth quarter, when the Falcons were down by 12 points. Despite all the miscues and mishaps and mistakes, Atlanta turned it on in the fourth quarter for the second straight week, scoring 13 points and holding the Packers to zero points. They clamped down hard when they had to, came up with big drives when they absolutely had to, and wisely gave Bijan Robinson chances to decide this game for them. The end result was a furious rally that led to a one point victory, as the Falcons somehow overturned considerable sluggishness and sloppiness to go 2-0.
It’s hard to understate what a refreshing change this is for Atlanta, a team known for frittering away leads in the fourth quarter. Desmond Ridder gets better as the game goes on, the line seems to relish the late game challenge, and the defense certainly gains steam as the stakes rise, and the end result has been a pair of victories for a Falcons team trying to prove they belong among the NFC’s elites. Sure, the Packers were missing a few key starters on Sunday. The Falcons were missing a couple, too, and they have played lousy-to-merely okay in six of their eight quarters thus far and still are undefeated. You won’t catch me underrating the guile and resilience it takes to make that happen, regardless of how bumpy the road to victory may have been.
On to the full, drive-by-drive recap of the game you just watched.
The Packers started with the ball. On the first play, a fake handoff turned into a flea flicker with Jordan Love bombing it downfield, with A.J. Terrell picking up a pass interference penalty to prevent a possible touchdown. A.J. Dillon then took it three yards, followed by Love throwing it to Luke Musgrave, who didn’t even look up. A false start backed the Packers up five yards, but then Love threw it and the pass was deflected by David Onyemata and dropped harmlessly to the turf. A delay of game on Green Bay backed them up five yards on the field goal attempt, and then they punted.
Desmond Ridder threw a quick strike to Drake London, who picked up nine yards after the catch. Bijan Robinson picked up seven yards on the next carry to pick up a first down, and then Desmond Ridder threw a duck as he was getting hit and threw an interception. Green Bay ball.
Dillon took it four yards to kick things off, followed by Nate Landman getting a tackle for a loss on Patrick Taylor. Kaden Elliss then blew into the backfield untouched and sacked Love for an 11 yard loss, forcing a punt.
Robinson picked up about four yards on an initial carry outside, and then Ridder’s pass to Robinson fell incomplete. Jonnu Smith then caught a zippy pass over the middle and took it for a first down and then some. Allgeier picked up a couple of yards on first down, and then took it for a first down on the next carry. Ridder was a bit high on the next throw to Kyle Pitts, and then a play action throw to Jonnu Smith on the sideline got seven yards. Ridder then scrambled up the middle for a first down, and then hit Kyle Pitts for about eight yards on first down. A quick swing pass to Robinson saw Bijan do the rest for yet another first down. A designed run for Ridder picked up an easy first down and got close to the end zone, and then a pass to Pitts in the end zone was flagged for pass interference to bring Atlanta even closer. Ridder then threw the next one away—I hope, given that it was over Pitts’ head—and it was second and goal. Robinson was stopped just a bit shy of a touchdown, and then Riddder couldn’t connect in the back of the end zone. Fourth down the Falcons tried to draw an offsides and got a false start instead, settling for a field goal. Falcons 3-0.
Love hit Romeo Doubs for a first down over the middle of the field. Dillon then powered for almost a first down through considerable contact, but then was stuffed hard on second down. Musgrave got open and picked up a first down, however. An incompletion on first down, and then a bad miss on second down by Love. Unfortunately, Love scrambled on third down and went all the way to the 20.
Dillon was stuffed on first down by Calais Campbell and A.J. Terrell, and then a strike to Musgrave went for eight yards. Dillon managed to squeeze through, but they marked him down just shy of the first down. The challenge was successful and Green Bay got the new set of downs, after all. Then Love hit Jayden Reed, who turned on the burners and got into the end zone to give Green Bay their first lead of the game. 7-3 Packers.
Mike Hughes decided to bring it out and returned it 17 yards. Ridder’s pass was batted down by Lukas Van Ness, who came in hot, and an illegal hands to the face penalty on Jake Matthews backed the Falcons up further. Allgeier was hit almost immediately for a loss of two yards on 1st and 18, and then Ridder picked up about six yards on a scramble. On third down, he threw a nice ball to London for 22 yards to pick up the first down. Bijan Robinson followed that up with an impressive run that saw him juke two defenders and pick up an easy first down. Ridder then had a defender in his face and got rid of it to Robinson for no gain, and then Allgeier slipped on his carry but was able to pick up a yard regardless. Ridder had to run it on third down with Kaleb McGary unable to hold and was four yards shy of the first down. On fourth down, Ridder threw to London and was nearly picked off, but the pass was dropped.
The next drive saw Dillon catch one for eight, pick up five and a first down, and then pick up five before a pass picked up another first down, with Green Bay rolling. Wilson picked up about seven yards on his next carry, and a quick pass to the tight end picked up another first down. A couple of quick passes picked up about four yards to set up a 3rd and 6 inside the 20, and a shot at the end zone hotly contested by A.J. Terrell resulted in an incompletion. 10-3 Packers.
A quick pass to London resulted in about a six yard pickup, and then Bijan took off with his lightning speed to pick up about nine yards and a first down to take us to the two minute warning. Robinson then pick up another first down on an impressive run, with a pass to Mack Hollins picking up nine yards before Robinson got another first down. Ridder then connected with Pitts on a rollout for about seven yards, with Robinson picking up a couple on the next play. A Ridder sneak on third down fell a little bit short, setting up a 4th and 1 that Robinson picked up easily and then some, running out of bounds to stop the clock. Then Ridder threw a dart down inside the three yard line to Jonnu Smith, and then Ridder tossed a touchdown to Drake London. 10-9 Packers after Koo missed the extra point.
The Falcons started from their own 25. Ridder tried to find MyCole Pruitt on first down, but Pruitt couldn’t come up with it, with a penalty added on. Then Ridder rolled out on the next play and threw one to London, but it was into the dirt. Then on the next play, Ridder tried to throw it over the middle toward Kyle Pitts, but threw it right into the hands of a Packers defender who dropped it. Punt.
The Packers quickly got a first down through the air, and then Dillon was stuffed after a yard on first down. Love then hit Doubs on the sideline for a first down, and a short out to the tight end went for a yard, and a run play to Wilson went nowhere before a defensive holding call gave them five yards and a first down. The next play went to Dontayvion Wicks, who shook off tackle attempts by a pair of defenders and went for a touchdown. 17-9 Packers.
Robinson took a carry that would’ve gone nowhere for a mere mortal and turned it into an easy first down and more, and then fought for five yards on his next carry. Some nice blocking helped a short pass to Jonnu Smith turn into a big gain, as Smith continued to look like a trusted option for Ridder. Allgeier then took it seven yards on his next carry, and then another six or seven on the next carry for a first down. Another five yards on the next carrry for Allgeier, and then Allgeier fought through contact for yet another first down. Ridder had to throw it away on first down after the play action, but Robinson took care of business on the next play for the first down run. Ridder then rolled away from pressure to hit Mack Hollins in the back of the end zone, but it was ruled out of bounds on review. Allgeier went nowhere on second down, and then Ridder was sacked on third down. Koo hit the field goal attempt. 17-12 Packers.
Love took a deep shot to Doubs working against Tre Flowers, and a pass interference call on Flowers gave the Packers a huge gain. Eight yards on first down gave way to Dillon picking up several yards, and then a nine yard pass. An easy touchdown for Jayden Reed followed to give the Packers a double digit lead. 24-12 Packers.
An encroachment call on the Packers led to a five yard gain and a first down, and then Bijan Robinson picked up a couple of yards. On the next play, Ridder threw one along the sideline to Scotty Miller, and an illegal use of hands call on the Packers picked up five yards and a first down. Robinson got about seven yards to end the quarter.
Allgeier got nowhere despite a game effort on second down, but Ridder then took advantage of some trickery on a flea flicker and flung it downfield to Mack Hollins for a huge gain. Then Allgeier got a yard on first down, followed by Robinson getting nowhere, and then a six yard pickup on a quick pass to London. On fourth down, Ridder faked the handoff to Robinson, the Packers bit hard, and Ridder ran it in for a touchdown. 24-19 Packers.
Love missed badly on first down, and then Dillon only got a couple of yards on second down. Love then tried Terrell on the next pass, and Terrell almost picked it off. Punt, and a facemask call led to a 15 yard penalty that helped Atlanta to quality field position.
Allgeier picked up four yards on first down, and then four yards on second down before giving way to Bijan. Ridder then scrambled for a first down, and then hit Ridder on the sideline for a first down and like 20 more yards. Robinson then had nowhere to go on first down, losing two yards, and then Ridder evaded pressure to pick up about five yards on a scramble. The pass on third down was a little behind Hollins, who never really had possession of it despite a game effort, and then Koo hit the field goal try. 24-22, Packers.
Dillon picked up about six yards on first down, and then Dillon fell just short of a first down on his next carry. On third down, Dillon came up just short again. On fourth down, Love stumbled into his own center and caused an offsides penalty, and the Packers were forced to punt.
Ridder hit London for 23 yards on first down, and then threw it away on first down with pressure coming. He got Hollins for about six yards on second down, and then Robinson for a first down. Robinson picked up about four yards on first down, and then Allgeier snagged three yards on the next play. The Falcons tried to run it with Ridder on the next play, which fell short and was held up after review. On fourth and inches, Bijan Robinson picked up the first down easily. Allgeier picked up a couple of solid gains on first and second down, forcing Green Bay timeouts. Then Robinson was stopped just short of a first down. Koo hit the field goal. Falcons 25-24.
Love missed on first down, and then was hit by Arnold Ebiketie on second down before throwing a duck. Then he missed again on third down to the sideline, and an illegal shift wiped out the first down catch. On fourth down, after review, it was an incomplete pass and the Falcons won the game.