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What we learned: Five things the Falcons win over the Bears tells us with Packers looming

Posted Sep 11, 2017

What did we learn from Atlanta's Week 1 win ahead of the primetime matchup against the Green Bay Packers?

ATLANTA – The Falcons took care of business on the road defeating the Chicago Bears 23-17 at Soldier Field on Sunday.

So what did we learn from Atlanta’s gritty win as the team now prepares for the Green Bay Packers (1-0) to come to town?

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Here are five things the win over Chicago (0-1) tells us as we look ahead to Week 2:

Ryan’s ability to improvise continues to be a strength

Matt Ryan completing 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards and one touchdown good for a passer rating of 116.1 on Sunday should quiet any talk of a possible regression for the NFL’s MVP in 2016.

But outside of the positive stat line that has Ryan ranked No. 2 in the league in passing yards, what proved to be even more impressive is his ability to improvise in the pocket and create one the most explosive plays of the day for Atlanta’s offense.

Backed up inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line, Ryan dropped back, facing pressure from both sides. Ryan scrambled from left to right, stepped up in the pocket, and found tight end Austin Hooper down the field for an 88-yard touchdown play. Ryan’s toughness was also on full display as he got mauled by Chicago’s defensive line while completing the pass.

On a day where the Falcons (1-0) struggled to run the ball against Chicago’s formidable defensive front, Ryan found a way to generate momentum and help his offense put points on the board.

This type of performance from Ryan and the passing game could prove to be invaluable as Atlanta prepares to face Green Bay’s defense on Sunday night.

Why?

Because the Packers’ defense showed well in their regular-season debut against the Seattle Seahawks (0-1), especially in the run game. Green Bay limited the Seahawks to just 90 yards on the ground.

Ryan proved that even if opposing defenses try to limit the production of Atlanta’s running attack, he and the multitude of weapons he has to catch the ball can beat you in the air – yet another reason why the Falcons’ offense is so hard to defend.

Hooper shows ‘sneaky’ ability to run, on teams’ radar now

While most of the talk about the Falcons’ offensive weapons often surrounds receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and the running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper showed he’s a name that shouldn’t be forgotten.

And he did it by showing his speed on the 88-yard touchdown play where he darted down the field into the end zone. Hooper finished the day with two receptions for 128 yards.

“I knew he had some speed,” Matt Ryan said of Hooper. “He’s sneaky with his ability to run.”

With so much speed coming from Atlanta’s offense across the board, opposing defenses will certainly have to account for it moving forward.

No overreaction necessary to run-game woes

Dan Quinn was not pleased with the outcome in the run game on Sunday, but it’s certainly not something to panic about after one game. On 23 run plays, the Falcons averaged 2.8 yards per carry and were held to just 64 yards on the ground.

What’s important to keep in mind when assessing the performance is the commitment offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian showed to the run game.

That’s where it all starts for the Falcons.

Atlanta’s offense is predicated on the balance between the run and the pass, and despite the execution of the rushing attack on Sunday, the commitment was there.

“There was times where could we have stuck our foot in the ground and go as a back? Yes,” Quinn said of the run game production on Sunday. “There were other times where there wasn’t much space for them. [It all comes down to] really being an extension of each other in the run game, especially in the zone game where we want to press the line of scrimmage and then get north and south. We’re right back to it, we know it’s going to be an important part of what we do.”

As Quinn stated above, the emphasis on the ground game is too important to the Falcons for it to be an issue that lingers.

Falcons pass rush shows ‘relentless’ attitude, depth

One of the positions Dan Quinn targeted this offseason as an area he wanted to see improvement in was the defensive line. That improvement was certainly visible as his unit collected four sacks on Sunday.

Brooks Reed (2), Vic Beasley and Brian Poole all recorded a sack at Soldier Field.

Not only has the added depth the Falcons have along their defensive line now helped in terms of being able to have fresh rushers on the field, the unit is playing with a different mindset. Quinn said they had eight to nine pass rushers available against the Bears.

“We were just rushing relentlessly,” Beasley said. “Everybody came ready to play. We were able to get some good pressure in his face. That’s what we knew we had to do to get the win.”

The depth and swagger this group is playing with could be vital to Atlanta’s success in containing Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night. Rodgers has a proven ability to make plays with his feet, and the Falcons’ pass-rushers will have their hands full trying to slow him down.

But it’s a lot easier to do that when you have multiple players to rotate from.

A win is a win in the NFL, especially on the road

Although it came right down to the wire, the Falcons came away with a win on the road, something that’s not easy to do.

Often it’s wins like this that show what a team is truly made of.

Also, a win on the road to start the season 1-0 gives a sense of confidence as the team prepares for the big “Sunday Night Football” showdown with the Packers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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