Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out…… What a start to the 2017 season for the Falcons. It was stressful for fans watching the game as the Falcons let the Bears back in the game, but in the end Brooks Reed along with the defense were able to hold off the Bears, who were set up with first and goal from the Atlanta five-yard line with less than a minute go.
The Falcons have been notoriously lackluster during the first week of the NFL season, losing three of their last four openers. Matt Ryan picked up where he left off after winning the MVP a season ago and showed no signs of a Super Bowl hangover. With the Falcons receiving the ball first, Ryan led the offense to the 30 yard line, where 42-year-old Matt Bryant nailed his first field goal of the season from 48 yards. The Bears answered in the second quarter with a 54 yard field goal from veteran Conor Barth. Devonta Freeman, who didn’t have a great time running the ball, scored late in the second to put the Falcons up by seven. To end the first half, Tarik Cohen took a direct snap and ran it in from four yards out to send it to halftime notched at ten points a piece.
The Falcons defense showed up big time in the second half while forcing three Bear punts in the 3rd quarter. Matt Bryant made a chip shot field goal late in the third quarter to put the Falcons up 13-10. Julio Jones stayed quiet in the second half with only three targets, but tight end, Austin Hooper, made the best of it with a few big plays. On a 3rd and 3 just outside of our own ten yard line, Matt Ryan escaped from pressure and threw a ball off of his back foot to the 50 yard line where Hooper was wide open. He caught the ball and ran 50 more yards to the end zone, and in the process stiff-armed a bear in to the ground for an 88 yard touchdown reception.
The Bears scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Matt Bryant hit his third field goal of the game with 3 minutes left in the final quarter. Chicago got the ball back one last time and had a terrific drive. They went all the way to the five yard line of Atlanta and were setup first and goal with over 20 seconds to go. On first down and second down, Glennon threw two good balls in the end zone but Josh Bellamy and Jordan Howard both dropped perfect passes to set up a third down. Two plays later after an incompletion on third down, it was do-or-die for both teams… a 4th and goal from the Atlanta six. Glennon took the snap out of the shotgun and about three seconds later, Brooks Reed broke through the line and had Glennon on the ground to end the game with a turnover on downs. A final score of 23-17 gave the Falcons an ugly, but hard-fought first game victory.
The Falcons came up with a huge stop after some miscues by the Bears late in the game, but also made some terrific plays from keeping Chicago out of the end zone. Austin Hooper had a career-high receiving yards (128) and a touchdown on only two catches. Hooper said after the game, he felt like he had “lived a lifetime” while the ball was in the air on the 88 yard touchdown catch, also stating that he had almost “blacked out” on his trot to the end zone. Matt Ryan finished with 321 yards and a touchdown pass, going 21-30. The run game was shaky with Coleman and Freeman digging up just 53 yards on 20 carries. The offensive line was the main reason why, as it seemed like neither back had room to run every time they touched the ball.
The defense looked very fast and strong, allowing only 301 all-purpose yards on the day and held Mike Glennon to 176 passing yards. The Falcons are currently tied for the division lead, although it is wayyy to early to look at standings. The Panthers defeated the 49ers coached by Kyle Shanahan by a score of 28-3. Meanwhile, the Saints face off with the Vikings tomorrow night and the Buccaneers were postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
After all, the Falcons are in the win column and its great to hear that anytime. The Falcons play next Sunday Night and open up Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Packers (1-0). We whooped them to end the era of the Georgia Dome and hopefully we can start off the new stadium right by sending Aaron Rodgers home disappointed once again.