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Falcons – Packers Takeaways: Bijan Robinson leads Atlanta to an impressive win

Sunday’s performance was far from perfect, but the Falcons still are.

Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This had the makings of a down-to-the-wire contest between two teams with playoff aspirations in the NFC. That’s exactly what we got with the Falcons emerging with a narrow 25-24 victory to move to 2-0 on the season. It was a 25-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo that gave the Falcons the deciding lead.

Sunday’s performance was far from perfect, but these are the types of games that good teams win. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that about Atlanta. Then again, it’s been a while since the Falcons started a season 2-0.

With that, let’s get to some takeaways.

Falcons continue to show team resiliency

There have been several moments in the Falcons’ first two games of their young season where the outcome threatened to get away from them. In those instances, Atlanta’s response was impressive.

The best response for the Falcons on Sunday came in the fourth quarter. After Green Bay took a 24-12 lead late in the third quarter, Atlanta’s goal of starting 2-0 looked unlikely. Offensively, the Falcons once again turned to their run game to lead the way, and some explosive pass plays helped keep the Packers off-balance. Defensively, a determined run defense bogged down Green Bay.

The result was a lopsided fourth quarter in the Falcons’ favor that allowed the home team to earn an impressive victory in what felt like an early fight between two NFC playoff teams. Smith’s tenure so far has been defined by his team’s ability to stay in games down to the wire. That was once again the case Sunday, but the on-hand talent is now sufficient to emerge with actual victories instead of moral ones.

Bijan Robinson crosses 100 yards on the ground

In only his second career NFL game, Robinson topped the 100-yard mark on the ground. While it’s been touch-and-go for the Falcons’ offense so far this season, Robinson has been electric with the ball in his hands.

His vision, burst and body control have all translated fully to the professional level, and one can’t help but hold one’s breath each time he has the ball. Against a stout Packers front, Robinson was incredibly efficient and the driving force for Atlanta’s offense.

It was Robinson who broke free for 7 yards on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter, which was arguably the deciding play of the game. The highly touted rookie finished with 19 carries for 124 yards – an average of 6.5 yards – and caught four passes for 48 yards.

What is Atlanta’s offensive identity?

It’s still very early in the season, and I would actually be quite surprised if we already had an answer to this question. But the fact that I can’t really identify what this Falcons offense is right now is either a really good thing or a really bad thing. Since the positive outcome is a longer-term theory, let’s go ahead and address the concerning side of the coin.

This unit’s production seems to vacillate wildly from drive to drive. Consider the first two possessions after halftime. The first: a three-and-out that featured four consecutive incomplete passes by Ridder. The second: a 13-play, 60-yard drive that featured eight runs and four passes, only one of which – a tight end screen – was completed.

Smith has not been secretive about his desire to show more balance offensively this year, but it’s clear at this point in the season that the Falcons’ run game is getting results and their pass game is getting them in trouble. It’s not wrong for Atlanta to continue throwing the ball, because it does ultimately need that balance. The right mix just hasn’t been there consistently yet.

Hollins’s tip-toe touchdown overturned

Atlanta’s offense returned to its roots in the third quarter, turning to its talented running backs to impose its will on the Packers. Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier responded, carrying the ball eight times for 49 yards and reestablishing the Falcons’ rhythm.

The team looked to be all the way back when Desmond Ridder found Mack Hollins in the back of the end zone for a leaping grab. Initially, it was ruled a touchdown with Hollins getting both sets of toes down in bounds. After reviewing the play, however, the call was overturned and the Falcons faced a second-and-10 from the 11-yard line.

Atlanta lost 2 yards on each of its next two plays, and Arthur Smith sent in Younghoe Koo to close the deficit to 17-12. It was yet another missed opportunity for the Falcons in the red zone, a defining theme of Sunday’s game.

Hollins had an impressive outing in his second game for Atlanta, catching three passes for 60 yards, including a deep shot on a trick play. Ridder struggled at times on Sunday, but he finished with a respectable stat line: 19-of-32 for 237 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

A tale of two red zones

Each offense in this game started with a three-and-out – the Packers had two - before putting together lengthy drives that resulted in points. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the Packers came away with seven points while Atlanta could only muster three.

After reaching the 1-yard line due to a pass interference penalty, the Falcons had three attempts to cross the goal line but came up short each time. The sequence involved two pass plays and one run from Bijan Robinson that was stuffed. Atlanta lined up for a play on fourth-and-1, doubling down on its attempt to walk away with seven points, but a false start brought Younghoe Koo on for the triple.

The Packers, meanwhile, earned fresh life near the goal line when an A.J. Dillon run was deemed long enough after a challenge by Matt LaFleur. Green Bay reached the end zone on the very next play when rookie receiver Jayden Reed turned the corner on a reverse and crossed the pylon for a 9-yard score.

Koo’s miss the difference at halftime

After the Packers padded their lead with an impressive drive in the second quarter, the Falcons used their final possession of the first half to tack on their first touchdown of the game. The drive featured a gutsy fourth-down call that was converted by Bijan Robinson and ended with a touchdown pass from Ridder to Drake London.

It was the second time Atlanta sustained a drive, offensively, and a good sign for the team heading into halftime. The team’s positive momentum was undercut slightly when the normally reliable Younghoe Koo pulled his extra-point attempt to the left. Of course, he’d later redeem himself.

The Falcons also missed a big opportunity to double up their opponent by getting the ball to start the second half. Consecutive errant passes by Ridder resulted in a three-and-out for Atlanta, keeping Green Bay’s lead intact. The Packers added to that lead on their first possession after halftime when Love connected with Dontayvion Wicks for a 32-yard touchdown.