Dec 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) attempts to throw the ball against the Detroit Lions during the first half of a game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
For the Atlanta Falcons, high-powered offense is the face of the team. The old adage that offense sell tickets but defense wins championships may be true, but the Falcons offense has been at the forefront. However, aside from the very offensively complete Week 1 victory against what turned out to be a miserable Kansas City Chiefs team, the offense hasn’t looked like a particularly dominant one. They’ve scored, they’ve won games, and they’ve looked really sharp at times, but something just seemed to be lacking. For whatever reason, the Falcons offense hadn’t truly hit on all cylinders, and fans have been waiting for everything to finally mesh.
It certainly seems that the Falcons offense has finally found it’s stride. The last two weeks, against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, the Matt Ryan & Co. seemed to really be clicking very well. Against the Giants, Ryan threw 3 touchdowns, and looked pretty much unstoppable, while being protected very well against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Atlanta also converted on 9 of 13 3rd down situations. As a team, the Falcons also ran for 129 yards and a touchdown. It was a complete offensive game, and even I’m not even mentioning the fantastic job done by the defense in shutting out the Giants. But I digress.
Against Detroit, the Falcons unleashed quite an offensive attack, and while the running game didn’t really get going, that’s part of what made Atlanta’s offense so impressive Saturday night: Ryan was able to carry the load and be successful by throwing on nearly every down. Everyone in the stadium knew the Falcons were going to pass, and Ryan continued to drop back and sling it directly to his receivers, even down the field. Ryan threw 4 touchdowns, and the Falcons converted 6 of 11 3rd down opportunities, all while being nearly completely one dimensional offensively. Oh, did I mention that Ryan’s passer rating was 142.6 in both of these games?!
This is the best two game stretch offensively for the Falcons all season long, and one of the best in recent memory. It’s a great sign for the Falcons. I think there are two major reasons for this.
The first is the continued development of Matt Ryan, as well as his familiarity and confidence in the other players around him. I don’t think there is any doubt that Ryan is much more decisive this season than in other seasons, and with that decisiveness, he has been rewarded handsomely. He’s not afraid to take the downfield shot when it’s there, he’ll throw just about any route in nearly any situation, and he puts the ball on target, and in time. Only 13% of his passes have been un-catchable. That’s #1 in the league. But right with that decisiveness is his confidence in his receiver, backs, and line. He knows how to set his protection, and he knows where he must shift to avoid pressure. He also has completely confidence in his receivers that they will run the anticipated route, get open, and make the play. That comes from experience, and positive plays, and Ryan certainly has that with the entire unit.
The other factor is play calling by Dirk Koetter. He has been a godsend for the Falcons offense. His desire to incorporate screens and draw plays has been huge, as has his willingness to put the game completely in Matt Ryan’s hands. Aggressive play calls like the first TD pass to Roddy White in Detroit out of a two-tight end two-back set is also making this offense great. And the willingness to let Matt Ryan take shots deep down the field is great, something the Falcons have needed. It eases the mind to throw those deep passes when you have two very good targets like Roddy White and Julio Jones lined up on the outside.
There is no doubt the Falcons offense has become much more wide-open as well as much more pass-happy. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Given where Matt Ryan is in his career, the amount of weapons at the skill positions he has, and Atlanta’s need to throw to move the ball, the last two weeks seem to be a perfect storm of productivity. With more play-calling similar to what Dirk Koetter has brought this season, there’s no reason this Atlanta offense can’t be extremely effective both in the immediate, as well as long term future.