Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Falcons' opener? Unimpressive. But openers can deceive

Were I equipped with no institutional memory – or were I utterly disingenuous – I’d take the Atlanta Falcons’ exceedingly halting victory over the Chicago Bears as evidence to support my oft-stated contention that Steve Sarkisian will never be half as good as Kyle Shanahan . But, to be fair, after one game last season I’d counted out Kyle Shanahan . Meaning: Season openers can fool anybody, yours truly especially.

In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, the 2016 Falcons scored 24 points and managed 374 yards. They also lost. Over 16 games, those Falcons would average 33.8 points and 415.9 yards. Of the many excellent things about that team, Shanahan’s play-calling – yes, up to a certain point in a certain game in February – was the most excellent. Meaning: I was as wrong about him as I’ve ever been about anything , which given my history is saying something.

Also meaning: I’m willing to give Sarkisian a dollop of a doubt. The Falcons had 23 points and 372 yards Sunday, almost exactly what they’d mustered in last year’s opening tilt. If those wind up being season averages, this team won’t do much. For all the blather about the Faster Better Defense, it had a hard time halting an offense headed by Mike Glennon. The Bears were unlucky not to win. If they had, we’d be affording nobody based in Flowery Branch the benefit of any doubt.

Even as we stipulate that it’s only one game, here’s the part about that game that bothers me – 88 of those 372 yards and seven of those 23 points came when the Bears failed to cover Austin Hooper. The tight end had more yards on two catches than Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu did on 10. This is no knock on Hooper, who could become a fine player, but if he’s the leading receiver in this offense, this offense needs a rethink.

The temptation is great to say that, “If you nearly lose to Mike Glennon, what’s Aaron Rodgers going to do?” Well, Rodgers comes here Sunday night, perhaps to work under a gloriously unclosed petal roof. Let’s defer any real judgment until Week 2, after which – hey, two weeks is one-eighth of a season! – all restraints will be removed.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.