ATLANTA – There's no denying that the Falcons have an explosive offense. Now, two games into the 2017 season, it looks like Atlanta has a defense to match.
And that could be scary for the rest of the NFC.
The Falcons (2-0) did something on Sunday night that not too many defenses have done over the last 10 years: shut down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for most of four quarters. Atlanta hit and harassed Rodgers for most of the night as it came away with a 34-23 win in the first regular-season game played in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Rodgers finished with 343 yards passing, but 234 of those came in the fourth quarter. He was picked off once, hit seven times and finished with a 90.7 passer rating. Atlanta's defense sacked Rodgers three times and have now registered seven takedowns for the season. The Falcons got to Bears quarterback Mike Glennon four times a week ago.
On a somewhat down note for the Falcons, pass rusher Vic Beasley left the game with a hamstring in the third quarter and did not return. He finished with a sack (see below) and two tackles.
Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell also picked right up where he left off a week ago. He finished with eight tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a hit on Rodgers. Cornerback Desmond Trufant also had a big night, picking off Rodgers once and recovering a fumble and returning it 15 yards for his second career touchdown.
"So, that was just a big play by him getting the interception at the end of the half, and then a smart play to start the second half on the forced fumble – you've got to scoop it up and take it back," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "So, it was his awareness, and, man, what a great way to have him back and that kind of performance tonight. We're really pumped for him."
The Packers finished with 367 total yards of offense – 260 of those came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons nursing a 24-point lead – and just 59 rushing yards. A week ago they held the Bears to 176 passing yards and 301 total yards of offense.
During the offseason Atlanta revamped its defense, signing defensive tackles Donatri Poe and Jack Crawford, and drafting defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.
The added depth along their defensive line has helped in terms of being able to have fresh rushers on the field. Atlanta has rotated eight to nine pass rushers through the first two games.