The Falcons ran a little in their third preseason game against the Dolphins on Friday night. They threw some screen passes to running backs and they hit on a few big plays. The big plays are what all the fans want to see and they've shown flashes of it in each game of the practice season.
Quarterback Matt Ryan finished his dress rehearsal for the regular season completing 18 of 26 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown. Lost in the impressive stats and the blur of a game that featured rain and mother nature as a prominent role player is how many shots Ryan took on deep passes.
What the Falcons have shown so far in the preseason is that they'll take any pass and attempt to turn it in into a big gain, a characteristic every team wants to have, but the Falcons have the playmakers to actually do it.
Running back Michael Turner had three catches for 36 yards, but his highlight was a screen pass from Ryan that the running back turned into a 20-yard gain. Roddy White only had two catches, but his second was a touchdown for 20 yards. Ryan connected with White from the Miami 20 into the endzone.The impressive thing about the play is Ryan was on target to White and there was no running after the catch.
Julio Jones, the star of the preseason, had four catches for 90 yards. Jones' long was 49 yards, another perfect strike from Ryan to his receiver. Ryan threw deep from his own 11-yard line to connect with Jones for a traditional big gain with no running after the catch involved. Jones' 22.5 yards per catch average on the night shows how Atlanta is opening up the offense and relying on big plays to move the ball down the field.
According to stats compiled by NFL.com, Ryan attempted four deep passes, completing one, the 49-yarder to Jones. Ryan thinks the only way to make a big play down the field is to continue to try.
"I think that's one of those things that when you're throwing it down the field you have to keep taking those chances," Ryan said following Friday's win. "We were close on a couple of them, but you've got to have the timing just right. It's one of those things, if your one out of three on balls way down the field, that's not a bad day."
For two-and-a-half quarters of work, completing one big play out of four isn't a bad night.
Ryan averaged 12.2 yards per completion and 8.5 yards per attempt on the night. Some of the plus-10-yard gains on the night came from short passes that players like Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers turned into bigger plays. Those types of plays will be a prominent feature of Atlanta's offense in the upcoming season, but the Falcons seem unafraid to take deep shots down the field.
Unlike in some recent seasons, it appears like they'll be connecting on many of those deep plays as well which makes for the type of explosive offense Falcons fans have been waiting for.