A new stadium equals a fresh start. For the Atlanta Falcons, opening their new stadium against the Green Bay Packers meant a new beginning and an opportunity to make a statement.
For some, that declaration was loud and clear.
Since October of last season, the Falcons have defeated the Green Bay Packers on their home turf three separate occasions, as Kendall Jackson will chronicle a little later today. One was a back-and-forth slugfest that ended with a Mohamed Sanu touchdown reception with 32 seconds remaining. The next was the 2016 NFC Championship Game in which the Falcons posted a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter, en-route to a Super Bowl berth.
This third rendition of the Falcons & Packers came on the heels of that game that is played in February. Many in the media wanted to see if the Falcons were able to hold their own after such a distraught ending to their season and a week one performance that was not spectacular yet it resulted in a victory nonetheless.
Those who wondered if offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was capable of filling the void left by former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will probably continue their negativity next week. Only because his play calling against Green Bay was eye-opening. It consisted of play action plays, pistol formations, and even a "Wild Sanu" play on a late third down play to help ice the game.
The offense flowed like running water against Green Bay and reminded many of why the Falcons were a scary team to deal with last season. Running back Devonta Freeman was picking up chunk yards, Tevin Coleman showcased his versatility, Sanu was dependable as usual, Julio Jones was unfair to cover at times, and Matt Ryan was as efficient as many expected him to be.
On defense, Vic Beasley was an issue for the opposing Packers offensive line, Deion Jones was a speedy demon, and Desmond Trufant reminded millions why he's one of the more underrated players in the NFL.
Which brings us back full circle. Beating the Packers was more than just a key win. It was a victory over a team that the Falcons may very well see again. A team that most consider a Super Bowl contender. It was clear that the team wanted to make it known that week one was not the true Falcons. If there is one thing the Falcons have shown in the past two seasons, it's that they can more than hold their own against the league's finest.
The confidence has grown within the Falcons. Especially after many question their mental aspect to the game. Beating Green Bay did not just state "let's get a win in week two". It was more of "let's show why we are Super Bowl contenders and defending NFC champs". It appears that many are starting to take heed.