Three Notable Opening Weekend Games for the Atlanta Falcons

To celebrate the opening weekend of the NFL, we look back at three of the most memorable opening weekend games in Atlanta Falcons history.
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons / Al Messerschmidt/GettyImages
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September 7, 2008- Matt Ryan debuts, Michael Turner sets franchise rushing record

We start our journey with a flashback to a sad time in Falcons history.

The 2007 Falcons were abysmal in every way. They were 29th in both points scored and points given up. Their head coach Bobby Petrino departed after 13 games for a job in Arkansas. In other words, the Falcons were in desperate need of a fresh start.

Welcome in head coach Mike Smith, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, and ACC Player of the Year/Manning Award winner Matt Ryan. Atlanta made Ryan the first quarterback off the board when they took him 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL draft. When asked about picking Ryan, Dimitroff didn't hesitate to praise Ryan's leadership and ability. "I think with Matt, it's a combination of the intelligence he has, the leadership ability he has, and I can't stress enough, he has the ability to take not only the offense but the entire team...He can throw in the pocket. He has the vision. He has a very nice ability to move laterally in the pocket. He's accurate underneath. He can also make the deep ball."

In week one against a Detroit Lions team that will make history themselves, it took Ryan one pass to show everyone what Dimitroff was talking about. Ryan took a five-step drop and threw a slant to Michael Jenkins, who had snuck behind the defense. Ryan's pass hit him in stride, and after a 62-yard gallop to the end zone, the Ryan era was upon us. The rookie quarterback ended 9/13 for 161 yards and that one touchdown to Jenkins. 

While the debut of Ryan is what's talked about in this game, Michael Turner was why the Falcons won this game. Turner had 220 yards on 22 rushing attempts and two touchdowns. Those 220 yards are still a single-game franchise record for rushing yards for Atlanta. His 10 yards/carry tied for the 15th-best performance in NFL history among runners that took 20+ attempts in an NFL game. Backup Jerious Norwood added 93 yards, and the 318 total rushing yards is another single-game franchise record.