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Early Bird Report 9/11: Defense can build off Falcons' win; Packers' defense dominates

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons (1-0) earned a tough road victory against the Chicago Bears (0-1) for the first time since 1983 on Sunday afternoon thanks in part to a praiseworthy effort by the defense. Now, the team is back in Flowery Branch to begin preparation for Sunday's home opener against the Green Bay Packers on "Sunday Night Football."

Today's Early Bird Report looks back at yesterday's victory and its positives and negatives, it also includes some insights into the Packers' win against the Seattle Seahawks and a look at the biggest news from around the division.


FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY Falcons survive Bears' comeback bid

Kevin Patra of doesn't waste any time in discussing Atlanta's offensive performance in the Falcons' season-opening win. In his recap of the contest, Patra notes that the offense "looked little like the high-flying, multifaceted, deep-strike offense we saw in 2016," but adds that after not having the full starting lineup on the field together for much of the preseason, things may look different once they start to gel.

The other points of interest that Patra touches upon in his piece were the Falcons' performance in the trenches – he wasn't impressed – and the team doing just enough to avoid another late-game collapse.  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Falcons win without offensive flash

Atlanta's defense helped seal the win on Sunday, but the offensive performance was disappointing to those Falcons fans who have been turned into "scoring snobs," says the AJC’s Steve Hummer. Outside of the long 88-yard touchdown pass to Hooper, the debut for Steve Sarkisian was a bit lackluster in Hummer's opinion. Learn to use your failures as fuel

In an enjoyable twist on the trite storyline about whether or not Atlanta can bounce back from its Super Bowl loss, Don Yaeger, a motivational speaker and contributor to, wrote an article about the leadership that Dan Quinn and have shown in the months following that defeat.

Yaeger relays clear admiration for the Falcons' ability to accept what happened, learn from it and move past the loss. He believes Atlanta's decision to use the Super Bowl as a motivating factor and not as an emotional burden is an approach that should be applied far beyond the football field.

Chicago Tribune: Game-winning stand serves as a building block for Falcons defense

After showing consistent improvement throughout the second half of the 2016 season, Atlanta's young defense had another statement moment in the closing seconds of Sunday's win, writes the *Chicago Tribune*’s Colleen Kane. The Falcons had to sit with their loss to the Patriots for the past seven months, Kane states, but the goal line stand against the Bears provided a good start to moving past any type of emotional hangover.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Falcons' report card vs. Bears

In the NFL, the outcome of games is really all that matters. As this is a spectator sport, however, the quality of play is also of great importance to those watching the game. The Falcons left Chicago with a victory, but D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC graded the team’s level of play in his report card of the game.

Ledbetter assigned Atlanta's run game, which gained 64 yards on 23 carries, the lowest grade of all of the Falcons' respective units. The run defense and special teams didn't fare much better than Atlanta's ground attack, in Ledbetter's opinion, but the passing offense and defense received higher marks.

NEWS ON THE FALCONS' OPPONENT: Green Bay Packers Mike Daniels leads way in Packers' dominant defensive performance

Like the Falcons, it's not often that an Aaron Rodgers-led team needs to rely on defense to secure a victory, but that's exactly what the Packers did in their 17-9 win against the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels was the star of the day for Green Bay's defense, according to Rob Demovsky of

Over a three-play stretch at the start of the third quarter, Demovsky writes that Daniels had a half-sack and a forced fumble on another sack, which the Packers then recovered on the Seahawks' 6-yard line. Daniels finished the game with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, four hits on the quarterback, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss.

USA Today: Seahawks' lapse against Aaron Rodgers gives Packers a familiar win

Containing Rodgers, one of the most improvisational and fearless quarterbacks in the NFL, on any given play is difficult. When a defense gives him a free play to take even greater risks with the hope of an even greater reward, it's a recipe for disaster. USA Today Sports' Jarrett Bell wrote about the Seahawks learning that lesson the hard way in their 17-9 loss.

Late in the third quarter, Seattle's defense was flagged for too many men on the field – a penalty Rodgers' often tries to force with a quick snap – and Rodgers found receiver Jordy Nelson for a 32-yard touchdown on the free play.


The Charlotte Observer: Instant analysis from Panthers victory against 49ers

The Falcons weren't the only NFC South team to earn a win in Week 1, as the Carolina Panthers rolled to a 23-3 victory against the San Francisco 49ers in their season-opener. Joseph Person of *The Charlotte Observer *touched on the game in his instant analysis piece and provided some insights into how the contest unfolded.

Person begins his article by highlighting that former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan went for it on a number of fourth-and-short situations, but his team was largely unsuccessful against the Panthers defense. Quarterback Cam Newton was just 8-of-19 for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the first half but looked much sharper in the second half, according to Person, completing all six of his pass attempts for 66 yards.

The Times-Picayune: Recent history makes Week 1 a 'must win' for Saints

Football fans across the country often overreact to the first week of the NFL season, but more often than not, their concerns or praises are just that: an overreaction. As the New Orleans Saints prepare for their Week 1 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, *The Times-Picayune's *Larry Holder explains why saying this game is a “must win” for the Saints isn’t hyperbole.

Since 2006, the year Drew Brees and Sean Payton joined the organization, Week 1 has seemed like a strong predictor for whether or not the team will make the postseason. In their 11 seasons with the team, the Saints have won their first game five times. All but one of those seasons resulted in a playoff berth. Conversely, New Orleans has only made the postseason once over the past 11 years after losing in Week 1.

USA Today: Bucs 'in survival mode' as Hurricane Irma hits Florida

With their season-opener against the Miami Dolphins rescheduled, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers braced themselves on Sunday for a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, according to Lindsay H. Jones of *USA Today* Sports. The team did not officially evacuate Tampa, per Jones, but the organization chartered four planes for any players, employees and their families to evacuate to Charlotte on Saturday. For those who stayed, the Buccaneers secured a shelter space in Tampa.


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