By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons picked up where they left off against the Green Bay Packers, building a big halftime on the way to a dominating victory Sunday night.
The rematch of last season’s NFC championship game was essentially a repeat: Ryan threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, Devonta Freeman had a couple of scoring runs, and Desmond Trufant raced to the end zone off an attempted pass by Aaron Rodgers that was ruled a fumble, leading the Falcons to a 34-23 victory over the Packers that wasn’t really that close.
Last season, Atlanta earned a trip to the Super Bowl by racing to a 24-0 halftime lead and a 31-0 edge early in the third quarter on the way to a 44-21 blowout of the Packers.
In the first regular-season NFL game at $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the first sporting event with in which the facility’s camera lens-like roof was open, the Falcons put on a show to mark the occasion.
They were ahead 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 less than a minute into the third period.
Unlike the Super Bowl , Atlanta (2-0) made sure this lead stood up.
After struggling a bit offensively in a season-opening victory at Chicago that was preserved with a goal-line stand in the closing season, the Falcons dominated right from the start in an early showdown for conference supremacy.
On the opening possession, Ryan guided a nine-play, 86-yard drive that was reminiscent of the league’s highest-scoring team a year ago. Julio Jones hauled in two passes for 53 yards and the Falcons didn’t get to third down until they were at the Green Bay 1. Freeman powered in from there to make it 7-0.
Jones finished with five catches for 108 yards.
The Packers (1-1) responded with a 75-yard drive of their own, capped by Ty Montgomery’s 1-yard TD run. But it was downhill from there for Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which was missing both of its starting tackles with injuries and lost receiver Jordy Nelson early on with a quadriceps injury.
Atlanta led 17-7 after Freeman’s second TD run from 2 yards out and Matt Bryant’s 51-yard field goal. Then, the game totally got away from Rodgers and the Packers near the end of the first half. Three penalties in four plays pushed Green Bay back to its own 3 before Rodgers lofted a terrible pass down the right sideline that was picked off easily by Trufant at the 36.
Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu with a 21-yard pass, setting up a 3-yard scoring pass to Tevin Coleman with 24 seconds remaining.
On the second play of the second half, Trufant turned it into a rout.
Rodgers was plastered by 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. attempting to throw, the ball wobbling out of his hand for what appeared an incomplete pass. But Trufant wisely scooped it up and scooted into the end zone for what was ruled a 15-yard touchdown. The call stood when the replay didn’t show conclusively that the pass went forward.
The Packers finally showed a bit of life with a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including Rodgers’ 300th career scoring pass .
It wasn’t nearly enough.
Green Bay: Already short-handed up front, the Packers lost several more players during the game. Nelson was the most prominent injury, but also going down were defensive tackle Mike Daniel (hamstring) and receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder). In addition, backup safety Kentrell Brice was forced out by a groin injury.
Atlanta: On the first touchdown of the night, right tackle Ryan Schraeder was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The Falcons also lost Beasley (hamstring) and defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw (ankle).
Green Bay: Return to Lambeau Field to face the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) next Sunday.
Atlanta: Travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (1-0), who face the New York Giants on Monday night.