Packers coming to town to face Falcons with a new sheriff

FLOWERY BRANCH — Jordan Love waited his turn in Green Bay.

Over the offseason, the Packers traded long-time quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets and turned the offense over to Love.

Love and the Packers (1-0) are set to face the Falcons (1-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I’m excited to play them,” Falcons punter Bradley Pinion said. “Green Bay is a historic organization. I have some good memories (from his Tampa Bay days) of beating them (in the 2020 playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl title). Hopefully, I can add to that.”

The Packers lead the series 17-14, but the record is 2-2 in playoff games.

Love directed the Packers to a 38-20 victory against the Bears in their season opener.

“With good coaching, is what Matt (LaFleur) did,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He played to Aaron’s strengths. Now he’s got a younger quarterback that’s been there … but he obviously understands Jordan. He’s been with him for a couple of years. He’s calling it completely different, as he should.”

Love was drafted in the first round (26th overall) out of Utah State in the 2020 draft. He played in only 10 games and made one start.

“(Love) got to sit,” Smith said. “I think sometimes quarterbacks play too early. I think it can be a detriment to their career, especially if they’re not in the right situation.”

The Falcons moved on from Matt Ryan two seasons ago. They had Marcus Mariota as a place-holder last season before turning things over to Desmond Ridder with four games to play.

“When you have a veteran quarterback, you may want to do it one way,” Smith said. “And sometimes it’s not that hard to play to their the strengths. I think that’s what you saw. They’re comfortable together. There’s good communication. They’ve had a lot of stability there throughout the organization, and that pays off.”

Love, who’s 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, completed 15 of 27 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the dismantling of the Bears. He finished with a passer rating of 123.2, and he rushed three times for 12 yards.

The Packers had four explosive plays of 30 yards or more, and running back Aaron Jones had 11 touches for 127 yards.

“I know they’ve got two good running backs,” Falcons defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham said. “They’ve got A.J. Dillon, who’s more of a downhill runner, and Aaron Jones, who catches the ball out of the backfield a lot. I just saw him take that screen to the house.”

Graham was referring to Jones scoring a 35-yard touchdown to make the score 24-6 against the Bears.

“I know they have talented backs,” Graham said. “I know they have a pretty physical (offensive) line as well. We’ll be ready and prepared for them.”

Packers coach Matt LaFleur was the Falcons quarterback coach in 2015 and 2016.

Matt’s a terrific coach, and I thought (Sunday), they executed well,” Smith said. “When they (got) down in the red zone and they had a play extension, he worked back and got up one. We saw Aaron Jones take a short little route, and he took off.”

In addition to the big plays on offense, former Georgia and Crisp County High standout Quay Walker returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.

“They took advantage of the turnovers,” Smith said. “They played a sound football game. They didn’t beat themselves, and that’s what you see. The stat lines have to have context to it, which makes it fun. It doesn’t bother me that people look at stat lines because it keeps the game interesting.”

The Packers defense is coordinated by Joe Barry and also features former Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. The Packers had four sacks, two takeaways, six quarterback hits and seven tackles for losses against the Bears. They opened in a 4-2-5 nickel against the Bears.

“He’s adapted,” Smith said. “Different from probably the Rod Marinelli (Barry’s father-in-law) days.”

Marinelli currently is the Raiders defensive line coach. He entered the NFL under Tony Dungy with Tampa Bay and used a 4-3 scheme and helped to popularized the Cover-2 zones.

“(The Packers run) some of the coverage principles, I think they do a good job,” Smith said. “They play different packages as well.”

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