Falcons rally to pull out 25-24 victory over the Packers
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With 34 seconds left in the game, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder encouraged the crowd to get loud as the Falcons beat the Green Bay Packers 25-24 on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Maybe there are some magical traits in the Falcons’ red throwback helmets.
Down by double-digits, the Falcons, behind the running of rookie Bijan Robinson and some timely passing from quarterback Desmond Ridder, rallied to defeat the Packers 25-24 on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“We have so much belief in our guys, when we get in those critical situations, going for it on those fourth downs,” Smith said. “Our guys keep swinging.”
The Falcons trailed 24-12 with :56 left in the third quarter. For the rest of the way, the defense put its foot down and the offense went into high gear. The Falcons got a 6-yard touchdown run by Ridder, and two more field goals to pull out the victory.
Younghoe Koo, who has missed an extra point earlier in the game, made a 25-yard field goal with 57 seconds left for the game-winning points.
The Falcons improved to 2-0 for the first time since the 2017 season. The Packers dropped to 1-1.
“We have to go out there and set the tempo as the offense,” Ridder said. “We have to be the ones that set the tone and set the tempo early.”
Robinson had 19 rushes for 124 yards, including a 7-yard gain on a fourth down-and-1 from Green Bay’s 23 that practically wrapped up the win. It was a gutsy call by coach Arthur Smith, who thought Ridder had picked up the first down and challenged the spot.
“I wanted to be aggressive,” Smith said.
Robinson was glad that Smith had confidence that he could pick up the first down.
“It’s huge,” Robinson said. “Especially for us, we are a young group. We are very physical at the point of attack. I have to give credit to the (offensive) line. Those dudes opened up so many holes all day. You can just follow their blocks and try to set them up for success on the run game.”
The Falcons rushed for 211 yards on 45 carries for an average of 4.7 yard per carry.
Robinson was injured slightly on the big run.
“I got the wind knocked out of me,” Robinson said. “It was weird. I got hit right in my stomach. I had to take a couple of plays so that I could breathe.”
Ridder completed 19 of 32 passes for 237 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He finished with a passer rating of 79.8.
“There are a couple of passes that I wish I could have back,” Ridder said. “A couple of runs we wish we could have back. We did a enough to go out there and get the win.”
The Packers held a 10-9 lead at halftime.
The Packers came out and threw a flea flicker pass on the first play of the game and cornerback A.J. Terrell was called for a pass interference after he tackled the wide receiver before the ball arrived. But the Falcons defense rebounded and forced a punt.
The Packers lined up for a 50-yard field goal, but took a delay of game penalty and punted.
On the Falcons’ first possession, Ridder, while under duress and getting pounded by Green Bay defensive tackle Kenny Clark, tossed his first NFL interception.
Ridder’s pass intended for Kyle Pitts fluttered and cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted the ball.
The Falcons’ defense forced a three-and-out as linebacker Kaden Elliss sacked Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love on third down.
“Great call by (defensive coordinator Ryan) Nielsen,” Elliss said. “It was sweet. It was fun. One of the best things about a sack is the crowd’s eruption after you get it. It was awesome.”
The Falcons went on the move and put together a 15-play drive, but had to settled for a field goal after they couldn’t punch the ball in from the 1-yard line.
They elected to attempt a pass, run Robinson and then another pass. The Falcons were lined up to go for it on fourth down-and-1 but rookie left guard Matthew Bergeron jumped offsides. On fourth down-and-goal from the 6, Smith sent out the field goal unit.
It was a blown opportunity.
The Packers answered with a touchdown drive that was capped by Love tossing a shovel pass to wide receiver Jayden Reed, who scored from 11 yards out to make it 7-3. The Packers converted three third downs during the drive.
The Falcons stalled after and fourth down-and 4 pass was incomplete, but nearly intercepted by Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander.
The Packers added a 33-yard field goal by Anders Carlson to make it 10-3.
With just over 3:00 left in the half, the Falcons went on the move. Robinson broke two runs of 13 yards to help them move to the 3-yard line. Ridder tossed a touchdown pass to London with 12 seconds to play. Koo missed the extra point attempt.
The Falcons had won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
The Falcons had a chance to come out and take control of the game, but they went backwards. Packers linebacker Quay Walker dropped another potential interception on third down-and-20 and the Falcons punted.
Failing to come out of the locker room and sustain a drive was another blown opportunity by the Falcons.
After a 45-yard punt (4.88 seconds of hangtime) by Bradley Pinion, the Packers struck again. Love tossed a nice 32-yard touchdown pass to rookie Dantayvion Wicks, who slipped a tackle from cornerback Tre Flowers and a miss by safety Richie Grant.
The Falcons had to settle for a for a 33-yard field goal, after an apparent 11-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins was overturned by review. He was ruled out of bounds, but the replay on the big screen appeared to show that both feet were in the end zone. The league office contended that Hollins’ left heel came down out of bounds.
With the Packers up 17-12, Love went back on the move and tossed a 10-yard touchdown to Reed to make it 24-12 with :56 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons pulled out their flea flicker and Ridder connected with Hollins for a 45-yard again after Drake London pitched the ball back to him.
Ridder capped the eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. Koo’s extra point made it 24-19 with 11:48 to play.
The defense got the ball back twice and lead to field goals of 39 and 25 yards.
The last time the Falcons started the season 2-0 was in 2017, when they went to 3-0 and finished 10-6. They went to the playoffs and reach the divisional round. The Falcons had started 2-0, 10 other times in franchise history.
The Falcons are set to play the Lions (1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.