Atlanta's starting offense entered its second preseason game with a clear set of goals: Improve upon last week, develop a rhythm and stay balanced.
In just nine plays and four minutes off the clock, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could check all of those boxes.
During its first chance of the evening, the offense put together an impressive 71-yard touchdown drive. They ran the ball on five occasions and threw it four times, and all but one snap — an incomplete pass — netted positive yardage.
Ryan was accurate and efficient; Mohamed Sanu made a six-yard catch, his first as a Falcon; Julio Jones snagged a 20-yard reception; the offensive line bested Cleveland in the trenches; and Devonta Freeman, elusive as ever, added the exclamation point with a 19-yard dash into the end zone.
"I thought it was good," Ryan said. "It was obviously a good drive for us on that first one. We ran the ball really well all night which is encouraging to see. I thought we made some plays in the pass game. I thought we were a little bit more sharp than we were the first week."
"I feel like our operation is really smooth. I feel we were efficient. I got in and out of the huddle really well and really fast. I felt like the tempo was really good. I'm pleased with where we are at."
Ryan's next two bids didn't yield any points, but there were some encouraging moments to take away from those series — especially the third one, when Atlanta marched 41 yards down the field and in just 1:31. The Falcons looked poised to score during that possession after moving the sticks twice, but a negative run, a dropped pass on 3rd and 4 and a missed field goal resulted in a turnover on downs.
The highlight of that sequence was composed by Sanu, who atoned for a holding penalty by grabbing a short pass over the middle and sprinting for a 32-yard gain. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder finished the contest with 45 yards on three receptions, the second of which showed how he can use his size and strength to push downfield.
He's definitely a physical guy," Jones said of Sanu. "He doesn't shy away from contact. He's aggressive. He's got great speed and a lot of power and he showed it tonight."
Moving forward, Atlanta's offense can use the tape and experience from Thursday's win to continue to build momentum and iron out kinks before the exhibition schedule draws to a close. Next week will be the team's dress rehearsal for opening day, according to Ryan, and if the Falcons can enjoy the kind of progress they made at FirstEnergy Stadium, they'll be in good shape when the outcomes begin to matter.
"We've got some work to do, there is no doubt about that," Ryan said. "We've got a couple of weeks to do it. You want to kind of being hitting your peak when we get to the regular season and continue to get better throughout the year. I thought we were better tonight than we were the first week. That's going to be a challenge for us going into the third preseason game."