Through four games of the 2016 season, the Atlanta Falcons have put together the best offensive performance in the league, as they lead 31 other teams in total yards, passing yards, points scored, points per game and yards per play.
Due to the outburst from a loaded offense under coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons have drawn comparisons to the 2013 Denver Broncos, 2007 New England Patriots and the 2000 St. Louis Rams as one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL.
Granted, it’s way too early to make that comparison, but keep in mind that the Falcons are on pace to shatter the league record for total yards in a season, while also being on pace for one of the top-three offensive performances ever in terms of points scored.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Under Shanahan, Matt Ryan is playing the best football of his career, while Julio Jones is coming off of just the sixth 300-yard receiving game in league history after torching the Carolina Panthers in Week 4.
With a high-flying offense, the Falcons are getting a ton of hype so far this season, but now it’s put up or shut up time for Atlanta as they face a massive test on the road against the Broncos and their No Fly Zone secondary, as part of the Orange Crush defense.
Let’s take a look at the Atlanta offense and see what the Broncos need to do to slow down the Falcons attack.
As I said earlier, Ryan is playing the best football of his career in year two under Shanahan. Through four games, Ryan has thrown for 1,473 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions, while compiling a QB rating of 126.3.
Not only is Ryan coming up with big throw after big throw to guys like Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Jacob Tamme, Aldrick Robinson and Austin Hooper, but he’s showing an added mobility element to his game by knowing just when to step up or slide in the pocket to buy an extra second or two to make his throws.
As Ryan continues to receive plenty of attention and accolades so far this season, Jones has been an absolute monster through for games. The Alabama product leads the league in receiving yards with 488 yards and three touchdowns on 22 catches, averaging 22.2 yards per catch.
Those are video game numbers, which is pretty much what he put up against Carolina last week (12 catches, 300 yards). Unfortunately for Atlanta, Jones will draw the tough assignment of All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib in Denver.
The Falcons will need Sanu to step this week opposite of Jones after battling back from a shoulder injury that has hindered him the past two weeks. The former Cincinnati Bengal is another big, physical weapon on the outside for Atlanta and has hauled in 13 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown this season. He’ll likely draw a match up with Chris Harris, Jr. this week.
And then you have the speedy Robinson in the slot, who will likely match up with Bradley Roby often this week. Robinson is more of the home run threat in the Atlanta offense.
Tamme is a good possession receiver that has really developed a strong rapport with Ryan, while Hooper is good for one big catch a game and has really emerged as a standout run blocker in a balanced Falcons attack.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1715026-3-keys-to-victory-broncos... That takes us to the dynamic duo in the backfield — Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Both are impressive dual-threat options out of the backfield with different skill-sets.
Freeman is more of a power threat in the running game, while Coleman is the game-breaker due to his speed in space.
Combined, the duo has rushed for 471 yards and five touchdowns on just 95 attempts this season. Out of the backfield, Coleman gets more looks as he’s hauled in 13 receptions for 182 yards, while Freeman has 11 catches for 82 yards and a score.
All of the Atlanta success is set up by a strong offensive line led by All-Pro center Alex Mack, who was signed away from Cleveland in free agency, while left tackle Jake Matthews and left guard Andy Levitre have really set the tone on the left side of the line in the run and pass, providing Ryan ample time to go through his reads, while opening up huge holes for Freeman and Coleman on the ground.
On the right side of the line, right tackle Ryan Schraeder has really emerged this season as a road grader on the ground, while right guard Chris Chester continues to get it done at a solid, consistent level at the age of 33 years old.
While there is plenty of talent across the board on this offense, the thing that really inpresses me is the ability of Shanahan to scheme up plays to get the ball to certain players in big spots.
Let’s take a look at a few big plays so far this season from Atlanta.
Play 1: Week 2 at Oakland
2nd-&-10, ball on the OAK 22
Jones draws a one-on-one matchup with Oakland cornerback Sean Smith here. At the snap, Jones is able to get a clean inside release on Smith, allowing him to race into the middle of the field (which is wide open). Ryan is able to gun the ball to Jones, who does the rest by waltzing into the end zone for the score.
A few weeks later against Carolina, the Falcons run a similar play for Jones, who is working against Bene Benwikere, whom Carolina waived Friday.
Play 2: Week 4 vs. Carolina
1st-&-10, ball on ATL 25
Once again, Jones gets a free release into the middle of the field, which is wide open. Ryan is able to connect on the throw, leaving the rest up to Jones, who takes it all the way to the end zone for the score.
Not only is Jones big and fast, he’s so powerful and hard to tackle in the open field. It will be a tough task slowing him down this week for the Denver secondary, especially considering the way the Falcons are clicking on offense.
The Denver pass rush will have to come up big once again this week against Ryan and the Falcons. In just four games, Ryan has been sacked nine times. With Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett and Derek Wolfe on the opposite side of the ball, the Broncos should have plenty of success getting into Ryan’s face and forcing some mistakes.
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Josh Carney is a Featured Writer for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @JCarney_Sports.