It's been said that the Falcons returned to the basics in last week's convincing 31-17 win over the Panthers.
In it, they flashed a lot of what made them so good last season: opportunistic defense, a strong running game and a passing game that took deliberate shots with few mistakes. It was a recipe that they turned to last Sunday to grind out a win over the Panthers, a full-game effort that had eluded them all season.
It's been said that running the ball is in Atlanta's DNA and they found it last week against the Panthers. The Falcons say it's what they've always wanted, run the ball well and use the pass once the field's opened up. They've struggled with that some earlier in the season for a variety of issues, things they've worked overtime to correct.
The Falcons just want to win and do whatever works for them each week to do so. If that means running 50 times then that's what they want to do.
"Our identity is to do whatever it takes," tight end Tony Gonzalez said on Wednesday. "Obviously, Matt (Ryan) can throw the ball and we've got guys that can catch the ball in Roddy (White), Julio (Jones) and Harry (Douglas). It's whatever is necessary for us that day for us to be successful. That's our identity as far as I'm concerned."
Last week they were able to get the running game going and a diverse attack on offense followed. While they don't come right out and call themselves a "run-first team," they know running the ball like they did last week can make things much easier on offense, as they showed last season.
"We were able to establish that last week," Matt Ryan said. "Mike (Turner) did a great job. Our offensive line did a great job. It really helps an offense when you have the ability to do both and play-action off that run game. It was good for us last week and hopefully we'll be able to establish that run again this week."
The beauty of Atlanta's attack is that it's built to do just what they say they want to do: beat teams by any means necessary. If the running game isn't going, they have the playmakers necessary to eventually make plays through the air. If that's not working, they have a trio of receivers that can block and play as physically as any in the league.
"I think this is the best receiving corp. I've ever been around, as far as blocking," Gonzalez said. "Roddy, Harry and Julio and what they bring to the table. Those guys get after it."
Against Detroit's defense, a similar game plan may be utilized. The blueprint the 49ers presented last week in beating Detroit is not far from what the Falcons used to defeat Carolina. The 49ers earned over 200 yards rushing against the Lions, limiting the effectiveness of Detroit's strength on defense: the pass rush. That same week saw the Falcons rush for 166 yards.
As Ryan said, they'll want to run the ball against Detroit. The wide receivers know their role when that comes and Gonzalez' praise is not unfounded. They pride themselves on being physical and helping the running game put up big numbers.
"We've got to go out there and play physical football this week," White said. "We'll pay attention to the details and go out there and block those guys in the run game. They do give up explosive runs in games. We'll have some opportunities to break some long runs, get Mike in the secondary and go from there."
They also know if they can make that happen, the passes will be there for them at some point as opponents step up safeties to help stop the run. With that comes the balance they've been searching for and keeping defenses off-balance.
"That's all you want to do on the offensive side of the ball," Gonzalez said. "You don't want to be predictable because that plays right into their hands. Anytime we have the whole playbook available to us, we're pretty confident we can move the ball down the field."