Sun, Sep 17, 2023 6:08 PM
By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — When Arthur Smith sent the word to his offense — we're going for it on fourth down — the Atlanta Falcons were fired up.
Bijan Robinson and his blockers were determined to make it the right call.
Capping another dynamic day for the rookie running back, Robinson ripped off a 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 to set up Younghoe Koo's 25-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining as the Atlanta Falcons rallied for a 25-24 victory over Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
“When you get told, ‘Get the first down,’ you've got to do everything you can to do it for your team,” Robinson said.
He rushed for 124 yards on 19 carries and hauled in four catches for another 48 yards, showing why the Falcons (2-0) selected him No. 8 pick in the draft even though running backs aren't supposed to go that high anymore.
“When you get the right guy for your team, that's all you can ask for," Robinson said, breaking into a big smile.
The fourth-down conversion came with the Falcons in field-goal range at the Green Bay 23, but 2:08 left on the clock. Smith decided to gamble, not wanting to leave the Packers plenty of time to drive for a field goal of their own.
“It shows he's got a lot of confidence in us,” left tackle Jake Matthews said. “It was exciting to get that fourth down.”
The Packers (1-1) squandered a 24-12 lead and three more touchdown passes from Love, who now has a half-dozen scoring throws in his first two games as Aaron Rodgers' replacement.
Atlanta's young quarterback, Desmond Ridder, sparked the comeback by bootlegging for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4 with just under 12 minutes remaining.
Then it was Ridder and Robinson teaming up for drives that set up two of Koo's four field goals, including a 39-yarder with 8:13 remaining.
Robinson had 56 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving in his NFL debut, a 24-10 victory over the Panthers.
He was even better against the Packers.
Love completed 14 of 25 passes for 151 yards and hooked up with a pair of rookies on his three TDs — not too shabby considering the injury-depleted offense around him.
But the Packers offense dried up in the final quarter, allowing the Falcons to move to 2-0 for only the 11th time in franchise history.
“It just comes down to execution and being better in the fourth quarter and being able to play a full game,” Love said.
In their last three possessions, the Packers managed just 11 yards and no first downs, with Love failing to complete any of his six passes.
The Falcons pounded Green Bay into submission, finishing with 211 yards rushing and 446 yards overall. The Packers had just 224 yards, including 84 on the ground.
“They shredded us consistently,” Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said.
The first three quarters went much better for the Packers.
Love connected with second-round pick Jayden Reed for touchdowns of 10 and 9 yards — the first scores of the receiver's young career.
Love also went to Dontayvion Wicks on a 32-yard touchdown that gave the fifth-round draft choice his first TD as a pro.
The Packers were missing three injured starters on offense and lost another during the game, leaving Love to play behind a patched-together line.
BOTCHED FOURTH DOWN
While the Falcons converted a couple of huge fourth-down plays in the final period, the Packers messed up one of their own that could have helped them fend off the Atlanta comeback.
After the Falcons closed to 24-22, Green Bay decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at its own 34. Love dove through a gap on the right side, but there was a problem.
He didn't have the ball. It was never snapped and no one else on offense moved.
“I said the wrong thing, so it’s pretty much not a play until I give the live word," Love conceded. "I gave the wrong live word on that one.”
The Packers were penalized for a false start and had to punt. The Falcons drove for the winning field goal.
Ridder threw his first career interception and had a couple of other errant passes that should have been picked off.
He came through when it mattered, though.
“He's a winner,” Smith said. “The guys believe in him. You can see it in their eyes, In critical situations, he's at his best.”
Ridder finished 19 of 32 for 237 yards passing, including a 3-yard touchdown to Drake London with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons quarterback also ran 10 times for 39 yards.
Packers: FB Aaron Jones (hamstring), WR Christian Watson (hamstring) and LT David Bakhtiari (knee) didn't dress, and Green Bay lost another offensive starter when left guard Elgton Jenkins went down in the first half with a knee injury. In the second half, LB Lukas Van Ness was sidelined by an elbow injury.
Falcons: No injuries were reported during the game, but RB Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) did not play for the second straight week even though he was not included on the team’s final injury report.
Packers: Face another NFC South team, the New Orleans Saints, in Green Bay's home opener at Lambeau Field.
Falcons: Stay in the NFC North for their first road game of the season, traveling to Detroit's Ford Field to meet the Lions. A victory would give Atlanta only its seventh 3-0 start in 58 seasons.
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