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Inside Tori's Notebook: Falcons go from demoralizing to demanding in Week 2 win vs. Green Bay

The Falcons could have let the game get out of reach, but they kept chipping away until they broke open the 25-24 win. 

Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori McElhaney re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened and why it's notable.


COULD USE AN ICED COFFEE -- When I took a look back at my notebook the morning after the Falcons' 25-24 win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, there were two words that kept coming up. Those two words were "demoralizing" and "demanding."

On Sunday, the Falcons were both, but maybe not in the ways you were thinking.

Looking back, the Falcons had moments that could have been demoralizing if they wouldn't have demanded differently for themselves in the end. The core root of the word demoralizing stands in a loss of confidence or hope. By the end of the game, the Falcons were demanding hope and confidence because -- at times -- they willed it to be so.

So, what were the moments that took the Falcons from demoralizing to demanding? Let's break it down.


On the one: In the first quarter of Sunday's game, the Falcons offense had productively marched down the field. When the Packers were called for defensive pass interference in the end zone, the Falcons moved up to the 1-yard line. They were looking at first-and-goal from the 1, no less. What came next was a frustrating end to a promising drive: A couple incompletions, a run that didn't gain that much-needed yard and then a false start when the Falcons were trying to go for it on fourth down. The Falcons couldn't punch it in, so they came away with only three points thanks to a Younghoe Koo field goal.

A disheartening response by the Packers then began the second quarter. They, too, marched down the field productively. Green Bay converted a couple key third downs and used a challenge to overturn a call that would have brought up fourth-and-short. They took the lead on the very next play with Jayden Reed's first of two touchdowns on the afternoon.

The touchdown that wasn't: My mother once told me: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So, I'll preface this section by noting that -- like Arthur Smith postgame -- I am not going to comment on the validity of a certain third quarter ruling. You know the moment I am referring to: The moment when Mack Hollins' 11-yard touchdown catch was not actually a touchdown.

I have read the transcript of why the officials overturned the call. You can read it for yourself. I've included it for you via a tweet from FOX5's Kelly Price.

I say all of this to say that the overturned call could have sucked the life out of the Falcons. This was a drive that saw dynamic runs strung together by Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson. The pass to Hollins in the end zone was only the second throw of the drive. And if the touchdown stood upon review, the Falcons would have cut their deficit to one point. Instead, the call was overturned, Allgeier was dropped for a loss on the next play and Desmond Ridder was sacked on third down. Instead of being down by one, the Falcons were down by five.

To add insult to proceedings, the Packers extended their lead to the largest margin on the day on their very next drive. On the first play of the series, Tre Flowers was called for defensive pass interference. It was a call that flipped the field, giving the Packers offense 43 yards. Four plays later, and Reed was back in the end zone to extend the Green Bay lead to 24-12 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter.

These turn of events, especially, could have been the nail in the Falcons' proverbial coffin. But they weren't. They weren't because the Falcons demanded differently in the fourth quarter.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #9 and Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III #3 celebrate the win the Week 2 Game against the Green Bay Packers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, September 17, 2023. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta Falcons)


Back to Mack: It didn't take long for the Falcons to dial up an explosive play of their own. That's what happened when Ridder spotted Hollins downfield to start the fourth quarter. Going up for the 50/50 ball, Hollins came down with a 45-yard grab. It's a play that set up a touchdown scramble by Ridder four plays later, in a weird symmetry to what Green Bay had just done to end the third quarter.

Also, as a storyteller, it's nice when a redemption arc is so obvious. Going back to Hollins immediately after the overturned touchdown? A nice touch.

The Falcons had answered, but there was still work to be done.

A defensive stand makes way for a gutsy play: You can't talk about the Falcons' win without talking about what this defense was able to do in the final quarter of Sunday's game. We've already broken down that performance, but I wanted to highlight one moment in particular: The end to the Packers' second drive of the fourth quarter.

The Packers were attempting to bleed the clock. They handed the ball off to A.J. Dillon twice, but on third down (with Green Bay only needing one yard), inside linebacker Nate Landman came up with a key third down stop. Landman was pretty impressive Sunday. He was filling in for Troy Andersen, who's working through concussion protocol, and he made some plays for the Falcons that -- when looking back -- were notable. This third down stop was one of them.

Landman demanded his presence be known in that moment, but then, on the very next play, so did the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Packers decided to go for on fourth down, or better yet, they tried to draw the Falcons offsides. What happened instead was the exact opposite, with Jordan Love stumbling into the back of his protection. He was called for a false start and the Packers punted it back to the Falcons with plenty of time left on the clock.

This stop set up what became the Falcons' game-winning drive. It was a drive where Robinson could not be denied. The rookie running back had 27 key yards of offense for the Falcons in that series. It was also a drive where head coach Arthur Smith demanded something close to respect for his gutsy play calling: Going for it on fourth-and-inches just before the two-minute warning instead of taking the points that would have come from a potential Koo kick. They'd take the points later, but thanks to a seven-yard pick-up by Robinson on that fourth down, the Falcons left little time on the clock for the Packers to do much.

From demoralizing to demanding

So, why write any of this? Well, because it matters.

After the game, Ridder was asked about being "down for the count" and coming back to life in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. Ridder cut the question off.

"Nah, nah, nah, never down for the count," Ridder said. "When you see the Atlanta Falcons out there we'll never be down for the count. We're going to fight until that clock hits zero."

The moments that could have been demoralizing? Yeah, they matter. You can't talk about this game without them. The Falcons will want to rectify the fact that they couldn't punch it in from the 1-yard line. They'll want to limit those big DPI calls. But for every moment that could be deemed demoralizing, the Falcons demanded something different in the fourth quarter. Ridder demanded that six-yard touchdown run of his. Landman demanded that third-down stop for no gain. Robinson (and Smith, too) demanded respect for that fourth-and-inches, game-changing call.

After the game, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was quoted saying the Falcons "shredded" the Packers "consistently." They didn't do so all game, but they definitely did when it mattered most: When their backs were against the wall in the fourth quarter.

They did so, because they demanded something different: They demanded that win.

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Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers during Week 2.

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