The Falcons ran the same play and got an even better result from rookie tight end Austin Hooper on Sunday.
Quarterback Matt Ryan rolled to his right and threw back to the left sideline to Hooper, who was wide open in the Panthers’ secondary. He caught the ball and easily scored his first career touchdown on the 43-yard play that put the Falcons ahead 24-10 in the third quarter.
Hooper had a 42-yard catch against the Raiders in the previous game on a play that looked similar.
“Same design, same exact play,” Hooper said. “The linebackers were being real aggressive, trying to sell out the run, so that’s kind of our counter to that. It kind of keeps them honest. Kyle (Shanahan) called it, we executed it, Matt threw the perfect ball and I just caught it and turn around and run.”
Hooper said the moment was so “surreal” that he didn’t do much celebrating. He handed the ball to a game official before Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo, his former teammate at Stanford, retrieved it.
“Levine is like, ‘Don’t do that!’” Hooper said. “He grabbed the ball said, ‘You need to keep this one. It’s special.’”
The Falcons selected Hooper in the third round of the draft with the expectation that he would improve the passing game with his speed and receiving skills. For the season Hooper has five catches for 140 yards and the TD.