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The Falcons Are the New “Greatest Show on Turf”

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by Prime Time, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Prime Time

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    https://theringer.com/atlanta-falco...o-jones-kyle-shanahan-557349d74cb6#.g5joz5vuh

    The Falcons Offense Needs a Nickname
    By balancing things out, Kyle Shanahan, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Co. have created one of the greatest scoring attacks in NFL history
    Danny Kelly/Staff Writer, The Ringer

    [​IMG]
    (Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

    The Falcons offense hasn’t picked up a catchy nickname that will help it live forever in NFL mythology, but when it posted a league-best 540 points this season, Atlanta matched the scoring output of the legendary Kurt Warner–led Greatest Show on Turf Rams from 2000. With deadly efficiency, the Falcons moved into a tie for the eighth-most prolific scoring offense of all time.

    Matt Ryan put together an MVP-caliber season. Julio Jones continued to make defensive backs look like JV team backups, and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined to provide an explosive run game. But that collection of talent alone wasn’t enough to make the Falcons one of the best offenses in league history.

    It took the cunning of an excellent play-caller, Kyle Shanahan, to bring it all together and construct what looks like an unstoppable force as they head into their divisional-round matchup with the Seahawks. Shanahan utilized the full stable of talent at his disposal and deployed it shrewdly in his diverse, versatile scheme. Behind Shanahan’s instinctive play calling, the Falcons were the best offense in the NFL because they were also the most unpredictable.

    Atlanta’s offense this year was much more balanced than it was in 2015. Jones was no longer force-fed the football in the passing game. His target share dropped from 33 percent last season to just 24 percent this year, as Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and a combination of tight ends and running backs inherited bigger responsibilities in the passing game.

    In the Falcons’ Week 17 win over the Saints, which clinched the 2-seed, Ryan finished 27-of-36 (75 percent) for 331 yards and four touchdowns. Those four scores went to four separate players (Jones, Justin Hardy, Sanu, and Coleman), which highlighted a season-long willingness to spread the love around. Ten Falcons players finished with more than 10 catches and 200 yards receiving, and an NFL record 13 different players caught a touchdown.

    Overall, the numbers speak for themselves: The Falcons scored 30-plus points 11 times this season (tied for fifth most in NFL history) and dropped 40 five times (the league record is six). They picked up a league-high 6.7 yards per play and finished second in total yards (6,653), tallying the third-most passing yards (4,725) and fifth-most rushing yards (1,928) in the league. The Falcons were also incredibly efficient — Ryan led the NFL with 9.26 yards per attempt and a league-best 117.1 passer rating — and the offense averaged 3.06 points per drive, which was another “best in the league.”

    Shanahan’s offense gave new meaning to the idea of using the whole field. The run game in particular was pretty much devoid of tendency. Look at the play-direction report for their rushing offense, via NFL GSIS stats tracking:

    [​IMG]

    It’s rare to see the plot of run plays spread out so evenly across the offensive line over the course of a season. Most teams’ play-direction reports show huge spikes in one or two areas, whether it’s straight up the gut or off the right tackle. But against the Falcons, opposing defenses couldn’t favor a particular side because scouting wouldn’t show where they might run.

    Even though Atlanta wasn’t as efficient in certain directions — off left tackle, up the middle, and off the right end — Shanahan stuck with his balance in order to keep defenses on their toes. The Falcons finished with 4.6 yards per carry (fifth), 20 rushing touchdowns (tied for third behind only the Bills and Cowboys), and 15 run plays of 20-plus yards (fourth).

    The passing game utilized the entire field, as well. Shanahan was able to unlock all three levels of opposing defenses this year because Ryan was incredibly accurate in the deep-passing game. He racked up an NFL-best 136.1 passer rating on attempts of 20-plus yards down the field, connecting on 32 of 63 such throws for 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns with zero picks.

    With defenses forced to respect what Atlanta could do on long-ball passes to Jones, Gabriel, and Aldrick Robinson, there was more room to operate underneath. With that cushion, Ryan worked a robust intermediate passing attack out of shotgun looks, on dropbacks from under center, and on bootlegs, effectively mixing in short passes to the wings, quick slants over the middle, and dump-offs to running backs.

    With his players executing across all levels, Shanahan’s play calling really shone through. A lot goes into the art of calling plays. An offensive coordinator has to do so many things simultaneously: take advantage of defensive vulnerabilities, mix run and pass plays, avoid patterns and tendencies, and react to adjustments, all while trying to build a rhythm for the quarterback.

    The flow of the game becomes a chess match: Run one play to see how the defense reacts to it, then tweak it later to take advantage of any weaknesses the defense presents. Dial up deep shots often enough to keep the safeties and cornerbacks honest, but work the short and intermediate areas as well. Lean on the run — force the defense to make tackles — then run play-action to throw it over their heads when they start cheating toward the line of scrimmage.

    Throughout the year, Shanahan, who’s going to be a head coach sooner rather than later, showed that he’s a master of play sequencing. Atlanta’s opening drive in Week 17 was a good example: On the Falcons’ first possession, Shanahan opens with a quick pass to Freeman, who motions out into the right slot, and the running back picks up 13 yards.(Click link above to watch video)

    On the next play, Atlanta lines up in the exact same formation, except Ryan looks to his left and hits Justin Hardy on a slant. (Click link above to watch video)

    Those two plays set up the third. The first two stressed the Saints defense laterally, and then Shanahan exploited the middle. All four receivers run routes from or toward the sideline, but Freeman leaks into the middle. He finds himself wide open, gaining 35 yards on the dump-off. (Click link above to watch video)

    Then, on the next play, the Falcons do the opposite: With three receivers to the left, one route goes deep (a “clear out”), and the other two are in-breaking slants, drawing the Saints defenders into the middle of the field. The running back, Coleman, then releases out of the backfield into the left flat that the New Orleans defenders have just vacated. Coleman catches the ball and, with the help of a little screen by Jones on the linebacker, waltzes into the end zone. (Click link above to watch video)

    While this was a scripted drive early in the game, Shanahan does this type of thing all game long, as he accounts for adjustments and defensive tendencies. His offense doesn’t rely on incredibly innovative plays, but the way he strings such varied looks together makes this offense so hard to contain. If this were boxing, Shanahan would be adept at mixing body shots with jabs, working his combinations with an eventual knockout punch in mind.

    With Shanahan calling the plays and an unbelievably efficient Ryan executing them, the Falcons can beat you short or long, outside or in traffic, and with a run or a pass. If you have a vulnerability, they’ll look to exploit it, and when you adjust, they have a dozen counter-adjustments to work with.

    The Falcons’ 27th-ranked defense by DVOA all too often allows opponents to stay in games, but if anyone’s going to beat Atlanta this postseason, they’re going to have to keep pace with a team whose offensive possessions produced touchdowns (58) almost as often as punts and turnovers combined (59). The Falcons force their opponents to defend the entire field on any given snap, and with Seattle still reeling from the loss of star safety Earl Thomas, the Legion of Boom is about to face its biggest challenge since they got the kind of nickname this Falcons offense deserves.
     
  2. lordbannon

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    Bah. Different Era, one season. Do it again. And again. Then get back to me. After 2001, the Rams had the #2, #3, and #5 highest scoring offenses of all time - in back to back to back years.

    Still, it would be nice to see a Rams offense capable of even HALF of what the Falcons did this year....
     
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  3. MTRamsFan

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    Only one Greatest Show on Turf. If they want to be named something, they can be called the GSOT Wannabes. :sneaky:
     
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  4. jap

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    What's in a name? Still, the only moniker the Falcons have ever had that gained any kind of notoriety was the Dirty Birds.
     
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  5. HX76

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    Better employ their OC then and take the phrase back where it belongs.
     
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  6. ljramsfan

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    The Matty Ice Veins!!!
     
  7. DaveFan'51

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    The Author of this piece could have at least given us the List of the other 8 Teams, so we have more context!!(y);):D
     
  8. fearsomefour

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    Also Rans'
     
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  9. LACHAMP46

    A snazzy title
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    this is the type of crap....watch the seahawks blow matty ice outta the water...at their home-dome.
     
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  10. TexasRam

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    If they only knew how many games we pulled our starters by mid 3rd quarter.

    Could have scored 700 if we weren't nice
     
  11. Mojo Ram

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    Maybe...but the '99, '01 and '02 Rams had a solid defense. Atlanta's D is trash.
     
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  12. LoyalRam

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    What a load..........I have never seen an offense like GSOT, where good defensive schemes looked vulnerable to whatever the hell we wanted to do...especially in 2001. I almost felt sorry for the opposing teams back then, until SB 36 happened.
     
  13. -X-

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    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Rynie

    Cowboys rudeboy.
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    Atlanta's offense is nice, no doubt. If we play them, it'll be a high-scoring game. Our defense is just outside of the top 10 (but #1 against the run), and their defense isn't that great.
     
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  15. Ramrasta

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    #1 The 2013 Broncos with Peyton Manning

    #2 The 2007 Patriots with Tom Brady and Randy Moss

    #3 The 2011 Packers with Aaron Rodgers

    #4 The 1998 Minnesota Vikings with Randy Moss

    #5 The 2012 Patriots with Tom Brady

    #6 The 2011 New Orlean Saints with Drew Brees

    #7 The 2000 St. Louis Rams

    #8 The 1983 Redskins with Joe Thiesman

    #9 The 1967 Raiders

    #10 The 1999 St. Louis Rams
     
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  16. Prime Time

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    Watched the whole Seahawks@Falcons game. The Falcons O looked very reminiscent of the GSOT. Sorry guys but it is what it is. Will they be able to keep it going, win the Super Bowl, and then keep playing like that for a few more seasons? That will ultimately tell the tale.
     
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  17. Legatron4

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    Yeah they look great. But if that GSOT team played in this era they would average 45 ppg.
     
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  18. TK42-RAM

    ... still not at my post.
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    If Rodgers plays like he has been playing he could match the GSO Falcons score for score ... and where did GB get this Cook fellow? Wonderful player. :rolleyes:
     
  19. thirteen28

    Hey Beavis, he said "member"
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    Ha! What makes you think defenses could hold the GSOT to only 45 ppg?!?!?
     
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  20. Prime Time

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    https://theringer.com/atlanta-falco...fl-championship-games-ac7573879b8b#.fjvf1dbxm

    The Falcons Have Ascended to a Higher Plane
    Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Atlanta steamroll the Packers and make good on the quarterback’s vision. Plus, Tom Brady and the Patriots rout the Steelers to set up a high-flying Super Bowl matchup
    Robert Mays
    Staff Writer, The Ringer

    [​IMG]
    (Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

    During the Falcons’ 2015 season opener against the Eagles, following one of the first scoring drives they’d ever orchestrate together, Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan regrouped on Atlanta’s sideline. Before digging into the defensive looks they’d just seen, Ryan made a proclamation to his offensive coordinator that, in hindsight, was prescient.

    “I can’t wait until I know the offense inside and out, though, bro,” the then-30-year-old quarterback said. “Because we are going to kill people with it.”

    Sunday, on the same field where Ryan made that declaration, the Falcons racked up 44 points with terrifying ease, ending the Packers’ season, punching a ticket to the second Super Bowl in franchise history, and cementing their status as one of the best offenses the league has ever seen.

    “It was much different from what I had done in the past,” Ryan said of Atlanta’s scheme after the 44–21 win. “The play calls are a lot longer. Being on top of the details and making sure everything is just right is really important. I just felt like we could do some really good things when we all got comfortable together.”

    Shanahan said last week that even as the Falcons stumbled down the stretch in 2015 (after a 5–0 start they hit a 3–8 skid, missing the playoffs for a third straight season), the team knew it was close — closer than anyone outside the organization realized. It wasn’t a matter of Ryan learning the offense. Anyone could study Shanahan’s system — implemented upon his hiring that January — and draw it up on the board.

    It was a matter of Ryan executing, and that required patience. “I know it inside and out, but I’d have no chance doing it,” Shanahan says. “It’s being able to react, and feel, and do stuff in the pocket. That’s not just learning it and being able to regurgitate it. That’s feeling everything.”

    With more time, more reps, and some crucial offseason additions (a stabilizing force in center Alex Mack, a petrifying burner in slot receiver Taylor Gabriel, and a chains-moving machine in fellow wideout Mohamed Sanu), Ryan’s quiet optimism developed into a full-throated roar. Atlanta’s league-leading 33.8 points per game is a staggering figure (tied for the eighth-best mark in NFL history), but it doesn’t tell the entire story of this offense.

    Over the past 20 years, only the 2007 Patriots — a unit that featured Tom Brady at his peak and Randy Moss scoring an NFL-record 23 touchdowns — averaged more points per drive than the Falcons’ 3.06. And Atlanta reached that level by relying on an equal-opportunity approach that could burn teams in every way imaginable, a tactic it stuck with against the Packers.

    Ryan set an NFL record this season by throwing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers, an accomplishment that barely seems possible. While shredding Green Bay’s secondary for 271 passing yards in Sunday’s first half, he targeted nine guys on his 32 attempts.

    That included consecutive completions on the Falcons’ opening drive in which he hit Sanu for a clutch third-down conversion and then fullback Patrick DiMarco for a 31-yard gain that took Atlanta inside the 5-yard line. If anyone needed more proof that the Falcons can gouge opponents any way they please, the 234-pound DiMarco leaking open into the flat and rumbling down the sideline was it.

    As this offense’s architect, Shanahan — who will likely soon be the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers — has taken his rightful place among the NFL’s masterminds. Atlanta’s receivers spent all afternoon running free through Green Bay’s defensive backfield, allowing the designs of their routes to do the bulk of the work.

    Gabriel told reporters after the game that the Packers played Cover 2 man on a majority of snaps (a coverage that allowed Ryan to get loose on the ground a handful of times, including on a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter), and when Shanahan has a grasp on what his offense will see, it’s time to say goodnight.

    In a victory that produced his greatest flourish, he was in total control. “He’s got a great feel for our personnel, the defense that we’re going against, and what combinations our guys could get into,” Ryan says. “He’s got a really, really good feel for that.”

    No team does a better job of using its system to extract the most out of its players, but it helps when one of them is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound, cornerback-consuming force of nature. With his nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, Julio Jones became the first receiver in NFL history to register multiple 150-yard, two-score games in the postseason. The first came four seasons ago — in the NFC title game against the 49ers. Just as he’s been at every point of his mind-numbingly great career, Jones was at his best when the lights were brightest.

    His first score against the Packers came on a back-shoulder throw that showcased footwork no physics professor could ever hope to explain. The second involved a pair of stiff-arms that corner Damarious Randall will see in his nightmares for years to come. Nursing a sprained toe that’s lingered for weeks, Jones was the best player on the field. “It’s just special, what he’s capable of doing,” Ryan says. “He’s a beast. He’s just an absolute stud. And I’ve been lucky to play with him as long as I have.”

    Jones can stake a claim as the most talented receiver on the planet, and Shanahan has earned his due as a schematic genius, but Sunday’s win — and this entire season, really — belonged to Ryan. When the Falcons cratered in the second half of the 2015 campaign, including a six-game losing streak capped by a 38–0 drubbing at the hands of the Panthers, the outcry about Ryan’s play reached a new pitch.

    There was a different kind of clamor after this one: a pounding howl of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” as Ryan stood on a stage and accepted the George Halas Trophy from Terry Bradshaw. Before making his way back to the field, Ryan raised his arms and curled his fingers toward his body, inviting the crowd, after the last game ever to be played in the Georgia Dome, to give him all that it had.

    Ryan’s regular-season numbers — 4,944 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, a 69.9 percent completion rate, an absurd 9.3 yards per attempt — all but guarantee that he’ll be named MVP. His line against Green Bay (392 yards and four touchdowns) was more of the same, but Ryan’s performance and postgame reception was about more than gaudy statistics.

    After living on the outskirts of quarterback greatness for the better part of a decade, Ryan has earned his moment. Two weeks from now, he’ll face off with Brady, Bill Belichick, and New England with a chance to bring Atlanta its first Lombardi Trophy. In the 2001 season, Belichick won his first title as a head coach by solving the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf offense. Fifteen years later, he’ll be tasked with stopping its present-day counterpart.

    As Ryan made his way off stage and the herd of cameramen started to dissipate, he managed to find Shanahan. The pair slapped hands and shared a forceful embrace, on the same field where, a year and a half ago, Ryan told his coach they’d soon take over the football world. Before pulling away, he whacked Shanahan on the chest and delivered one final message. “I told him,” Ryan says, “that we’ve got one more.”