Atlanta, GA – Matt Ryan’s 252 yards through the air along with running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman’s 126 yards on the ground, coupled with two Packers turnovers evolved into a dominating 34-23 inaugural game-winner for the Falcons at Mercedes Benz Stadium Sunday night as they cut the ribbon on the new home. After a quick start by both teams to start the game, things rapidly slowed down for Green Bay, while Atlanta kept rolling all the way to a 24-7 halftime lead. Here’s how it all went down in the ATL.
Green Bay won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. This allowed the Falcons the opportunity to strike first in their new home, and they did not disappoint. After a short run by Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a 19 yard gain moving the Falcons near midfield. Then two plays later, Ryan again found Jones, this time for a 34 yard gain to make it 1st and 10 Falcons at the Packers 22 yard line. Freeman would then cap off the 9-play 86 yard drive with a 1 yard TD run to make it 7-0 early on Atlanta.
Then it was Aaron Rodgers and the Packers turn to answer. Facing back to back 3rd downs to start their drive, the Packers were able to easily convert. Then on 3rd and 8 from the Atlanta 40 yard line, the Falcons made a stop, however, a pass interference penalty would give the Pack a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, a second pass interference call in the endzone made it 1st and goal Green Bay at the 1-yard line. Ty Montgomery would make the Falcons defense pay for their mistake, sealing the deal with a 1 yard TD run to tie the game up at 7 with 3:43 left in the 1st quarter.
The ensuing possessions for both teams would not be as successful for both offenses. Atlanta’s drive would end on an 11-yard sack by Clay Matthews and Joe Thomas on a 3rd and 8 from the ATL 14-yard line. Green Bay’s drive ended just as quickly after picking up their first penalty of the game on 2nd down with a holding call against Corey Linsley making it 2nd and 15 from their own 31-yard line. Two plays later, the Pack would punt it away after Rodgers was unable to connect with Cobb.
Atlanta took over at their own 13-yard line and once again, quickly got to work putting the Packers defense on their heels. First, it was a 24-yard connection from Ryan to Mohamed Sanu to move the ball across midfield. Then it was a 15-yard connection with Ryan and Jones on 3rd and 12 to keep the drive alive, setting up a 1st and 10 at the Packer 26 yard line. Freeman would end up capping off the drive with a 2nd rushing TD to make it 14-7.
The next four Packer possessions of the first half would amount to a total of 14 yards. After a Falcons field goal from Matt Bryant made it 17-7, an Aaron Rodgers interception was picked off by Desmond Trufant, to set up the Falcons with a 1st and 10 at the GB 36 yard line with just 40 seconds left on the clock. Matt Ryan would then take just 21 seconds off the clock before finding Tevin Coleman for the 3 yard TD score to give Atlanta a commanding 24-7 lead at the half.
At the half, the Falcons had 257 net yards of offense, compared to just 102 yards for the Packers. Matt Ryan had a stellar passer rating of 114.8, completing 13 of 20 passes for 201 yards and his 1 TD pass to Coleman. The momentum for Atlanta would roll on into the 2nd half.
Green Bay’s opening drive of the 2nd half ended in complete disaster with Rodgers getting hit as he was throwing, by Vic Beasley on 2nd and 5 at their own 30-yard line. The pass was ruled to be going backward and Trufant picked it up for the Falcons and ran it in for the 15-yard score to put Atlanta on top 31-7 with just 56 seconds expired off the 2nd half clock.
The 2nd drive of the half for Green Bay would end in disappointing fashion for them as well. After driving downfield somewhat easily, Rodgers found Randall Cobb in the endzone for what looked like a 3-yard touchdown. However, an offensive pass interference call would negate the touchdown. Then on the next play, Adrian Clayborn made his way into the backfield for the Falcons and hunted down Rodgers for a 12-yard sack, making it 2nd and goal from the 25-yard line. Green Bay would have to settle for a 28 yard Mason Crosby field goal that the lead to 21 with 9:33 left to play in the 3rd.
Atlanta was able to follow suit on their ensuing possession with a field goal of their own coming in the form of a 53 yarder off the foot of Bryant. This would push it back to 3 scores with just 4:19 left in the 3rd quarter. Green Bay would again get things moving on their next drive, however, it took them 6 minutes and 37 seconds to drive 75 yards down the field. After Rodgers found Davante Adams in the endzone for a 33-yard score, the Packers elected to go for two, failing to convert. This made the score 34-16 with just 12:42 left in regulation.
The Packers defense was able to stall the Falcons on the next drive and force a punt. Rodgers would again lead his team down the field for a late score on an 8 play, 85-yard scoring drive with Ty Montgomery catching a 1-yard shuffle pass from Rodgers to get into the endzone. This touchdown pass was also the 300th of Rodgers’s career. The Packers kicked the PAT and cut the lead to just 11 points with 5:41 to play, but it was too little, too late for the Pack.
After the Packers elected to kick deep instead of going for the onside kick, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense would milk nearly all the rest of the clock out. They were able to pick up two first downs on 3rd down conversions, as the Packers used all their timeouts. Green Bay would force a punt, however, they got possession with just 1:13 left on the clock.
As time expired, the Falcons were able to stamp their inaugural game inside the new Mercedes Benz Stadium with a dominating win over Green Bay. After the game Falcons head coach Dan Quinn gave the game ball to owner Arthur Blank as the entire team thanked Arthur for the new home.
“It’s pretty nice in here! So, thank you, Arthur! From a player’s standpoint, honestly, there is nothing else you could want from a building,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan as he looked at team owner Arthur Blank. “We have every opportunity to get ourselves ready. We have space, the fields’ perfect, it’s loud, you could tell that. The place was rocking tonight! You know, I think it’s something we can build on, we are going to start some traditions here that’ll be things that last here for a long time and will become a fabric of this organization and our city. But I thought tonight was a great start. The environment was electric and as players, we certainly feed off that.”
The Falcons will now turn their attention back on the road as they prepare for the Detroit Lions in week 3 of the season. They are set to kickoff against the Lions Sunday, September 24th at Ford Field, before heading back home for a two-game homestand against the Buffalo Bills and then the Miami Dolphins.