Matt Ryan, Julio Jones Propel Falcons to Easy Win vs. Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2017

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works against the Green Bay Packers during the first of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

It's a different season but the same result for the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.

Atlanta prevailed 34-23 over Green Bay in Sunday's home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in an NFC Championship Game rematch. The Falcons reached last season's Super Bowl with a win against the Packers after beating Aaron Rodgers and Co. during the 2016 regular season as well.

The Falcons moved to 2-0 Sunday behind their triumvirate of offensive stars in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, while Green Bay dropped to 1-1 and couldn't overcome a slow start and 24-point deficit in the second half.  

Green Bay had no answer for the balanced Falcons offense. Ryan spearheaded things with 252 passing yards—108 of which went to Jones—and a touchdown throw to Tevin Coleman, while Freeman took advantage of the open lanes with 84 rushing yards and two scores.

Rodgers lost the game, but he did earn bragging rights over Ryan in the yardage battle with 343 passing yards and two touchdown throws. His second one was the 300th of his career:

However, he also failed to protect the ball in two critical moments while amassing the impressive totals.

Vic Beasley's pressure on the first possession of the second half forced a backward pass from Rodgers, which Desmond Trufant scooped up and ran back for a game-breaking touchdown. Trufant also notched the only interception of the contest.

The star-studded quarterback showdown made headlines, but it was the respective rushing attacks that found the end zone in the early going with Freeman and Green Bay's Ty Montgomery trading touchdowns on the opening two possessions.

It appeared as if Green Bay would enter halftime facing a manageable 10-point deficit after Freeman added another rushing touchdown in the second quarter, but Atlanta parlayed Trufant's interception into Coleman's touchdown reception and commanding 24-7 halftime lead.

Green Bay lost on the field and on the depth chart, which made a potential comeback all the more difficult.

With starting offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari already both out for Sunday's game, Green Bay announced wide receiver Jordy Nelson suffered a quad injury and defensive lineman Mike Daniels suffered a hamstring injury during the first half. 

The Packers also announced wide receiver Randall Cobb suffered a shoulder injury in second half.

Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated pointed out Rodgers was severely missing his go-to option when Trufant scored on Rodgers' lateral to break open the game:

Atlanta's lead climbed as high as 34-10 lead after a Matt Bryant field goal, but it was unable to dial up the same pressure on Rodgers after Beasley left with a hamstring injury, per William McFadden of the Falcons' official website.

The result was a diving touchdown catch from Davante Adams and then an eight-play, 85-yard drive for Green Bay that ended in a Montgomery touchdown reception. Suddenly, the Packers were down just 34-23 in the fourth.

This was no repeat of Super Bowl LI, however, and the Falcons turned to the rushing attack and short passes to keep the clock running and avoid a letdown.

Fortunately for the Packers, they have a golden opportunity to get back on track in their next two games against the winless Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears.

Atlanta will hit the road for Week 3 and play its third straight NFC North opponent when it takes on the Detroit Lions.

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