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Packers at Falcons: Final score, offense returns to form and 4 other takeaways

Posted Sep 17, 2017

It was an exciting night for the city of Atlanta, and an important win for the Falcons, who looked sharp for much of the game.

ATLANTA -- In a much-anticipated rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game, the Falcons (2-0) jumped out to an early lead against the Packers (1-1) and held on for a 34-23 victory in the first regular season game played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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It was an exciting game for the city of Atlanta, and an important win for the Falcons, who looked sharp for much of the evening.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Sunday night:

Offense gets off to a fast start

On their opening drive against the Packers, the Falcons offense looked eerily similar to the one that averaged nearly 34 points per game last season. Atlanta covered 86 yards in nine plays, and Devonta Freeman punctuated the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian showed creativity on the initial drive and called six run plays to three pass plays. Receiver Julio Jones caught two passes for 53 yards on the drive, while Freeman had 24 total yards.

Injuries pile up for Falcons and Packers

The most notable injury for the Falcons on Sunday night came early in the third quarter. Starting defensive end Vic Beasley, the NFL’s reigning sack leader, left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return. Beasley was not the only player to leave the game, however, as both teams dealt with notable injuries early on.

Starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder suffered a concussion on the Falcons’ opening drive, and he did not return to the game. Falcons defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw also left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter, and he did not return.

The Packers had two critical offensive and defensive pieces leave with injuries early in the game as well. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who had 1.5 sacks in Green Bay’s Week 1 victory, suffered a hamstring injury that kept him from returning, while star receiver Jordy Nelson left with a quad injury.  

Running backs effective in all facets of the offense

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman provided a reminder of why they are one of the NFL’s most lethal running back tandems on Sunday night. Freeman scored the game’s first touchdown with a 1-yard run and followed that up with a 2-yard run in the second quarter. Coleman also reached the end zone in the first half on a 3-yard touchdown catch with 19 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

It was Freeman who led the way on the ground against the Packers, carrying the ball 19 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns while also catching two passes for 16 yards. Coleman gained 42 yards on six carries and added three yards and a touchdown on two receptions.

Defense continues to make strides

Against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense, the Falcons defense allowed just 23 points. The pass rush harassed Rodgers all night long, and he looked notably uncomfortable in the pocket. Atlanta sacked Rodgers three times and forced a pair of turnovers, including a fumble that Desmond Trufant returned 15 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

The Falcons were stout against the run, holding the Packers to just 59 yards on the ground and not allowing many explosive pass plays. One week after an inspiring performance and clutch goal line stand against the Bears, the Falcons defense continues to make an impact.

Julio has another big night against the Packers

Prior to Sunday’s game, we noted how Julio Jones has a history of bouncing back after being held relatively in check. That streak continued on Sunday night. Against the Packers, he responded by catching five passes for 108 yards, the 36th 100-yard game of his career.

Over the past three years, in the games following ones in which he was held under 70 receiving yards, Jones has averaged 6.9 catches for 114.9 yards and .5 touchdowns. Last week against the Chicago Bears, Jones was held to 66 yards on four catches.

In the two games against the Packers last season, Jones caught 12 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Check out our game archive below for additional commentary from Sunday night:

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