The 49ers are 0-2. The Falcons are still scoring points at a remarkable rate.
There will possibly come a time when the Falcons miss former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — who helped them lead the league in scoring last year. That time was not Sunday night against Green Bay, when they cruised to a mostly comfortable 34-23 win.
And you know, when you write it out like that, you realize how many players they have, and why that seems to matter more than scheme at the moment.
This is not to say that Shanahan was not an integral part of their success last year, when they scored 540 points (33.8 per game). But his reward was the head coaching job and a six-year contract with the 49ers, where he has a long-term project on his hands.
This is also not to say that new Falcons coordinator Steve Sarkisian is a wizard who will recreate all the old magic and make it better, but watching the Falcons dealing on offense gives the appearance of a smooth transition, and similar results with different voices in the headset.
In a perfect world, they’d have kept the whole band together, and tried to surpass last year’s achievements. But that success drew attention, and other people rightfully wanted in on it.
So if you ever have to choose between brilliant game-plans and brilliant players, take the players every time.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. It was hard to tell who the Packers missed the most, with all their injuries.
They started without both starting tackles, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made enough adjustments over the years that for a game that didn’t seem the problem (at least in the first half). Wide receiver Jordy Nelson leaving with a quadriceps injury appeared to be more of an issue, as they don’t have a like-for-like replacement on hand (such that anyone does). And by the time Randall Cobb went out with a shoulder injury, the result of the game was effectively decided.
But when defensive tackle Mike Daniels left early with a hamstring problem, it changed the face of their defense. Daniels was an animal last week against the Seahawks, and his ability to control the middle of the line makes everything easier for a defense which has had its ups and downs.
Without him, the Falcons had a little more time throughout, and Ryan was able to exploit that time.
2. The Falcons spent a pile of money on Freeman this offseason, and some wonder whether that’s wise considering the ability of the guy behind him.
But while Coleman is capable of some highlights, the combination in the backfield makes each of them better.
The ability to let Coleman handle a series (or more) gives Freeman a better chance to stay healthy over the course of the season. And even if they can’t pay Coleman when his time comes, they have a good mix now, and keeping them together has a value beyond Freeman’s individual worth.
Then again, since the start of the 2015 season, Freeman has scored 30 touchdowns, so he has plenty of value on his own.
3. For all the things it’s easy for forget about their Super Bowl loss, the fact the Falcons were without one of their top defensive players has to be near the top of the list.
Seeing the difference cornerback Desmond Trufant makes in the Atlanta defense is clear, and not just with the interception he made just before halftime. Recovering the third-quarter lateral/fumble for a touchdown was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but when your defense is full of young, fast players it’s easier to be in those places.
Trufant’s absence last year didn’t get as much attention as it might have, since their offense got on a roll (and then that Super Bowl thing happened). But now that he’s healthy and making plays, it gives the Falcons someone on the perimeter who has to be planned for.
4. We’re two weeks into a season, and when guys change teams, it generally takes longer than two weeks for them to acclimate to their surroundings.
But the early returns on tight end Martellus Bennett in Green Bay have not been favorable, for what was widely hailed as a good piece of free agent business.
Bennett was targeted 11 times but caught five passes for 47 yards Sunday, and a lot of that was late. He caught three passes for 43 yards last week, when he was targeted six times.
Bennett has been too productive and Rodgers has been too willing to look for tight ends for this combination to not work out, but it’s clear that they still need a minute to get to know each other.
5. The Falcons have a lot of young and fast and explosive players on defense.
They also have a couple of big fellas in the middle who can make plays.
Short-time free agent Dontari Poe was a bargain on a one-year deal, when he didn’t find the free agent riches he was seeking this spring. And coupled with underrated former fifth-rounder Grady Jarrett, the Falcons have a solid foundation at defensive tackle. That’s a good place to start building.