ATLANTA (AP) — The Green Bay Packers have a certain way of doing things, even with a new face of the franchise.
From Atlanta's point of view, the Jordan Love-led Packers look much the same as the team that had Aaron Rodgers at quarterback all those years.
“It's a stable organization," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “They’ve got their way of doing things that probably hasn’t changed.”
After moving on from Rodgers — whose fresh start in New York was cut short by an Achilles tendon injury on his very first series for the Jets — the Packers have rallied around his young successor.
When Green Bay (1-0) faces the Falcons (1-0) on Sunday, Love will be looking to build on the solid numbers he put up in a 38-20 victory at Chicago.
He threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start after backing up Rodgers the last three seasons.
“I kept telling myself, ”I'm going to play great, we're all going to play great,'" Love said. “That's what I just kept telling myself over and over again.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said it's important for Love to keep progressing from week to week.
“This game is all about consistency and you’ve got to build upon a solid performance,” LaFleur said. “And I think the more reps he gets, the more confident and more comfortable he will get."
The Falcons find themselves in strange territory after opening the season with a 24-10 victory over Carolina.
For the first time since the end of the 2017 season, Atlanta has a winning record.
“Don’t care. Just looking toward the 2023 season,” Smith said. "All I care about is trying to get this team better so we can play in the postseason.”
The Falcons promised to get top draft pick Bijan Robinson involved in the offense in multiple ways — and the rookie didn't disappoint in the opener.
Robinson's first career touchdown was a thing of beauty: The running back caught a swing pass, faked out one defender, smashed through two more and scored on an 11-yard play.
Robinson also broke off a 21-yard run that set up the go-ahead touchdown against the Panthers.
“That's the stuff we see every day in practice,” Smith said. “We’ll line him up all over the place and there’s still more he can do. He’s such a unique player.”
The Packers are leaning heavily on their kids to launch the post-Rodgers era.
Green Bay played 12 rookies against the Bears — the highest number of rookies the Packers have used in a season opener since 1952, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Many of those rookies contributed right away. First-round pick Lukas Van Ness and sixth-round selection Karl Brooks each recorded a sack. Anders Carlson, another sixth-round pick, kicked a 52-yard field goal.
The two second-rounders – tight end Luke Musgrave and wide receiver Jayden Reed – combined to catch five passes for 98 yards. Reed also had a 35-yard punt return.
When the Falcons devoted much of the free-agent spending to rebuilding a porous defense, safety Jessie Bates was one of their most significant additions.
It sure looks like money well spent.
In his first game for Atlanta, Bates intercepted two passes, forced a fumble and was credited with 10 tackles.
“I think safety is a big deal,” Bates said. “You’re the quarterback of the defense. If you watch that film and you communicate at a top level, usually that starts with the safety.”
Love will be looking out for No. 3 lurking in the secondary.
“He’s a ball hawk,” the Packers QB said. “He’s a very instinctual player, and he plays on the quarterback’s eyes, and that’s how he made his plays last week. Definitely a guy we've got to be looking out for and just know where he’s at at all times.”
A couple of Green Bay's top offensive playmakers are dealing with hamstring issues.
Aaron Jones was hurting on his second touchdown against the Bears, though he described it as “just a little bite.” It was enough to keep him from practicing at mid-week.
Christian Watson, the Packers’ top returning receiver from 2022, missed the season opener with a hamstring injury.
“We’re going to give him through the course of the week before we make any determination on him,” LaFleur said.
The Falcons are building around their own young quarterback.
Desmond Ridder passed for only 115 yards against the Panthers, but Smith brushed off any questions about the shortage of big plays in the passing game.
Most notably, top receiver Drake Young failed to make a catch and was targeted only once.
“We'll never apologize for winning,” Smith said.
Ridder has yet to throw an interception in his first five career starts.
“Don’t jinx him,” Smith said. “We have a lot of confidence, but we know there’s a lot of things that we have to fix.”