Prior to the biggest play of Hooper's young career, the Falcons were on the verge of going three-and-out for the second time in the past three series, this time in the shadow of their goal line. The usual suspects, Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Freeman and Coleman, had largely been bottled up by Chicago's inexperienced secondary and swarming front seven. New coordinator Steve Sarkisian, perhaps to the chagrin of Falcons fans, kept his foot on the gas having just called two pass attempts that fell incomplete after taking a 13-10 lead on the previous possession.
Hooper hadn't been targeted in the first three quarters, something of a letdown as he's been talked up as much as any Falcon as being their potential breakout player in 2017. As a rookie, Hooper was effective in a part-time role, and caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but expectations were heightened as he earned his starting opportunity with a strong offseason.
"I wasn't productive at all in the first half," said Hooper, the 6-foot-4, 250 pound Stanford product selected in the third round in 2016. "We were running the same plays. I was going down the middle and instead of playing true defense and staying on the number three receiver going down the middle, they started cutting Julio [Jones], Mo [Mohamed Sanu] and Taylor [Gabriel].
"Once the safeties cut the underneath route, that's where I just sit there. Matt saw it. That's the checks and balances between the offense and defense. If you want to play underneath and try to stop Julio, someone is going to be wide open. That's been the mantra of our offense for a while now."