Falcons fans have dreaded the fourth quarter since that incident back in 2016 (that will never be mentioned in one of these articles). However, after Sunday, it seems that the era of the Atlanta Falcons unable to finish games is slowly fading away! With a 12-point comeback win over the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta is now 2-0.
From the beginning, it seemed like the game was slowly fading away from the Falcons. An early trip to the red zone that should've resulted in six points only resulted in three points on the board. The Falcons would then score their first touchdown of the game near the end of the first half on a three-yard pass to Drake London (his first of the year). Atlanta would go into the half with a one-point lead over Green Bay, 10-9.
The second half started rough for the Falcons, as Green Bay would pull away with a 12-point lead after two Jordan Love touchdown passes in the 3rd quarter; Atlanta would only muster a field goal in the 3rd. But it wasn't until the fourth quarter that Atlanta found more of that Dirty Bird energy to shut Green Bay down and steal the win. The 3rd drive for Atlanta in the second half was beautiful, with what started at the end of the third quarter and continued into the fourth quarter. Atlanta would score the touchdown they needed to get back within striking distance. Ridder would end up taking it in himself (on 4th down) for the score, but there was a more significant play in that drive that gave ATL the chance to score. It was 3rd and three on Atlanta's own 43-yard-line. One would think why not hand it off to either Tyler Allgeier or Bijan Robinson, but Green Bay was playing the run. So, what does Arthur Smith do instead? Call a double flee-flicker and have 6'4", 221-pound WR Mack Hollins run deep down the middle of the field and catch a 45-yard bomb from Ridder while being covered. That call takes a lot of guts, especially on a third and manageable and with a young QB. But hey, if you want to play with the big dogs, you have to be able to make gutsy calls.
Younghoe Koo would kick a 39-yard field goal after the Ridder touchdown to bring the score 24-22. Atlanta's defense would come up huge in the fourth quarter; after letting up the two scores to Love and the Packers, the Falcons would force two three-and-outs to give the offense a chance to go and win the game. A 12-play, 66-yard drive would be enough for Atlanta to drive and allow Koo to give Atlanta the lead. Koo would make the chip shot field goal for the information, but once more, another gutsy call from Smith gave Koo the chance. 4th and 1 on GB 23, Atlanta could've kicked the field goal then and given the Packers offense more time to go down and win the game themselves. However, Smith gave the ball to his best ball carrier, Bijan Robinson. Robinson would take a toss for seven yards and give Atlanta a fresh set of downs with the bonus of taking more time off the clock. The ball was returned to Green Bay with 57 seconds left on the clock. At this very point, I was shivering in fear due to flashbacks of all the times Atlanta's defense just gave away games on the last drive. Somehow, someway the Falcons' defense wouldn't even allow a yard to the Packers, and they would force a four and out to walk away 2-0.
Finally, here are a few quick player breakdowns, starting with the Offense. Desmond Ridder had another "okay" game but showed more potential. Ridder would finish with two total touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), 237 passing yards, and 39 rushing yards on ten carries. Ridder did throw his first NFL interception in the game. However, it wasn't entirely his fault, as he got hit while throwing the ball. Ridder threw two other interception-worthy passes, but luckily, Green Bay defenders dropped both. Again, mistakes were made, and wrong reads were made, but to be able to lead your team back from a 12-point deficit, Just doesn't happen from any no-name QB. My favorite play from Ridder on the day was probably a 22-yard completion to Drake London on 3rd and 15th on ATL's own 12. To stay in the pocket and make a great pass over the middle to your number-one receiver while GB's best defensive back covers him is a true talent and something ATL has lacked since Matt Ryan.
I will say Ridder's performance was boosted by the running game, specifically Bijan Robinson. Robinson took most of the workload in this game, rather than Allgeier. The Falcons rookie would finish with 172 total yards on 19 carries and four receptions. As stated above, Robinson was also a part of converting some of the big downs of the game, especially fourth downs. Robinson is just a heck of a talent, whether he's lined up at receiver or behind the QB. The cuts and jukes he can make are nothing short of impressive. One of the announcers on FOX compared him to Barry Sanders, and it is true how he can move around with the football. Look how he embarrasses three Green Bay defenders on this one run.
On the defensive side ball, I want to focus more on the secondary. First, Tre Flowers. Flowers did not have his best game; he was constantly getting targeted and beaten by Packers receivers. It came to the point that they scored on the last Packers drive; Flowers had to be replaced by Dee Alford. This could be an issue for Atlanta if Flowers remains CB2; now, once Jeff Okudah returns (which could be this week), I would assume Okudah would take most snaps at the second cornerback position. On the other side, AJ Terrel had a really nice game, specifically on the play below. I want to quickly mention Jordan Love, as he threw for three more touchdowns this week, a tip of the cap to GB's new QB1; he looks a lot like Aaron Rodgers, recreating those step-back sidearm throws.
Atlanta will go on the road next week to face the Detroit Lions. It would be wrong of me to say that the Falcons don't have a chance to go 3-0, but Dan Campbell's team is no joke. Atlanta will need another strong performance from their offense, in which they put up 446 total yards against GB, and the Dirty Bird defense will need to come alive before the fourth quarter. Look out for a preview of the game at the end of the week, right here on Third Down Thursdays!
Oh, absolute dub by Falcon's Twitter.
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)