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The Atlanta Falcons’ offense was stagnant, stuck back somewhere on I-85 in Atlanta in rush-hour traffic with nowhere to go.

Then reigning MVP Matt Ryan stepped up and made a play, thanks, in large part, to the teammate he called “California Cool” last season.

Ryan avoided pressure, almost fell to the ground, kept his balance, then hurled a pass down the middle of the field to Austin Hooper. The second-year tight end was wide open after the Chicago Bears blew an assignment, and then Hooper proceeded to stiff-arm Quintin Demps down the right sideline and rumble all the way to the end zone for an 88-yard fourth-quarter score and a 20-10 Falcons lead.

“I was uncovered, and Matt threw it to me,” said Hooper, who had another catch and stiff-arm on a 40-yard reception that set up a field goal. “And I scored. That was basically what happened. That was, like, it. Caught the ball, was completely uncovered, stiff-armed the dude, kept running. That was it. It wasn’t, like, nothing crazy.”

That play was the boost the Falcons needed on a day the offense looked far from dominant in a 23-17 season-opening victory, a win sealed by Brooks Reed’s game-ending sack of Bears quarterback Mike Glennon. Remember, the Falcons averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season and went 12-1 in games in which they scored 30 points or more. But Ryan and the Falcons didn’t expect an easy time against a formidable Bears defense.

And it wasn’t.

“We won the game, and at the end of the day, that’s why we prepare all week, is to come away with a win,” Ryan said. “Can we play better? Absolutely. Are we going to try and work on that? For sure. But we’ll take a win any day.”

A little rust was expected, of course. The offense, coordinated by Kyle Shanahan (now the 49ers’ head coach) last season, is under the watch of first-time NFL coordinator Steve Sarkisian, whose first big third-down playcall resulted in a 1-yard loss for running back Tevin Coleman from the Bears’ 29-yard line. The Falcons had to settle for Matt Bryant’s 48-yard field goal.

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Ryan’s final numbers certainly looked impressive as he completed 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards, with the touchdown to Hooper and a passer rating of 116.1. And Hooper had two catches for 128 yards, along with two nasty stiff-arms. But receiver Julio Jones had a quiet day — four catches for 66 yards — despite starting with a bang. He said the Bears showed different pre-snap looks and switched up their coverage. But there were times when it appeared Jones had single coverage and was wide open down the field.cheap sports jerseys wholesale

“I pretty much have my guy beat every play,” Jones said. “That’s my confidence when I’m on the field.”

The running back combo of Devonta Freeman and Coleman managed just 53 yards on 20 carries, although Freeman scored on a 5-yard touchdown.

Naturally, the Falcons will have to fine-tune elements of the offense as they head into next Sunday’s NFC Championship Game rematch with the Green Bay Packers. Jones drew one-one-one coverage against the Bears and didn’t seem to get enough opportunities. The play-action game wasn’t so effective, although it seemed to work occasionally as it did so many times last season. Folks will question if Sarkisian was aggressive enough in certain situations. And the offensive line, particularly new starting right guard Wes Schweitzer, got beat up physically up front in too many instances.

At the same time, this offense didn’t have much time together during the offseason and preseason as Jones recovered from a toe injury, receiver Taylor Gabriel rehabbed a lower leg injury, and Freeman suffered a concussion during the preseason.

If the Falcons hope to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and win the NFC South over potentially potent offenses in Carolina, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, the offense has to click much better than it did Sunday.

But as Ryan said, a win’s a win.