5. Man, is this the same Atlanta team we saw last season?
I have vowed there will be no Super Bowl hangover for this Falcons team, but after a lackluster week one win over the Bears, even the most optimistic Falcons fans had to have some initial concerns. The offense, that returned nearly every starter, struggled. The one significant replacement, Wes Schweitzer, was manhandled for the majority of the game by what appeared to be a very solid Chicago defensive line. Matt Ryan and Austin Hooper were the lone bright spots, as Steve Sarkisian’s first game as an offensive coordinator was probably shakier than he might have liked. The defense was dominated for the majority of the game, but late in the game when it mattered, they collapsed in similar fashion to last year’s Super Bowl. Luckily, the Falcons were bailed out by two dropped passes on the Bears final drive. A win is a win, but this is light years away from what this team is capable of.
4. The Austin Hooper Era has begun
It has been predicted by many that after an impressive rookie season Austin Hooper would take off as the team’s starter heading into 2017. After one game, the hype has already turned into reality. After zero catches in the first half, Hooper came up with the biggest play of the game when Matt Ryan was able to find him wide open down the field. From there, the 255-pound tight end bullied his way to the end zone, stiff arming a would-be defender to the dirt for an 88-yard touchdown. Hooper then added another 40-yard catch and run to set up the Falcons final score. Those were his only two catches of the game, but he was easily the difference between a win and a loss on Sunday. Ryan has always shown his tight ends love, and as his chemistry with Hooper strengthens throughout the season, the former fifth-round pick will become just another toy in this loaded Falcons offense.
3. Offensive Guard remains a concern
It was briefly mentioned in the first start, however, this is arguably the biggest concern for the Falcons going forward this season. There is really only one thing that can prevent this Falcons offense from being elite, and that is problems along the offensive line. This is an offensive line was among the best in the NFL last season. If you give Matt Ryan time with these weapons, it is over. It’s that simple. It is clear Atlanta has confidence in Schweitzer, and perhaps even Garland, but Sunday was a horrific debut for the former sixth-round pick. Pro Football Focus hit him with an atrocious grade of 30.8, as he gave up more pressures than the rest of the other lineman put together. It was a day to forget for Schweitzer, and it will be interesting to see if the Falcons give in-game opportunities to Garland, or even Patszor or Sambrailo.
2. Was that Clay Mathews in Brooks Reed’s jersey?
Unfortunately for Brooks Reed, he has been tabbed as a poor man’s Clay Mathews both on the field and among hairdressers. But on Sunday, the veteran defensive end was the Falcons best pass rusher. He had five tackles, among which were two sacks, including the game saving stop with a sack on Mike Glennon. Ever since recording six sacks in his rookie season, Reed has not been much of a sack guy. He has not topped three sacks in a season since, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say he achieves that this season. Dan Quinn loves pass rushers, and he wants all of his lineman, even guys who have been labeled as run-stoppers to develop as pass rushers. Brooks Reed has clearly worked and improved in this area, which will be necessary for the entire team if they want to return to the Super Bowl.
1. It’s just week one
Thinking about last year’s week one, and remembering my reaction (head in my arm’s inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings wondering “What the hell all the hype was about?”). Yeah, I think everything is going to be just fine. Steve Sarkisian’s first game as offensive coordinator could have gone better. Wes Schweitzer’s debut could have gone way better. The whole team has strides to make to get back to where they were last season. But they found a starting point, and they know where to go from here. Top-to-bottom there is too much talent for this team not to figure it out offensively. The Falcons have a marquee Sunday night matchup next week against the Packers. There we will see a little bit more about just exactly where this Falcons team is at. For now, there is no reason to panic. After all, Atlanta is 1-0.