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Falcons Offense Showing its Versatility

On Monday, head coach Dan Quinn said he believes Atlanta has one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL. He felt comfortable asserting this because the team's run/pass ratio: In Week 2, the Falcons threw the ball 34 times and ran it on 29 occasions, gashing Oakland for 528 total yards — 389 through the air, 139 on the ground.

According to Pro Football Reference, they recorded more yards than all but five games in franchise history. And it wouldn't have been possible if an abundance of players didn't get involved.

After eight receivers caught a pass in the season opener, nine came down with a reception in Oakland. By spreading the ball around, Matt Ryan — who's currently first in the league in QB rating, first in yards per attempt, second in yards and second in touchdowns — has made use of the depth at hand.

In total, five Falcons have notched at least 90 receiving yards in 2016. No other club has more than four.

"It's the different styles that we're able to play," Quinn said. "We know how to feature the guys. The more we're around them, we get to know (them) better."

The offense has not only been balanced; it's been explosive, too. Quinn defines an explosive play as a run of 12-plus yards and a pass of 16-plus yards, and the Falcons have authored 20 such gains thus far in 2016. As a result, Atlanta leads the league in yards per offensive snap (7.05).

The running backs have been an important part of this explosiveness. Together, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman have 321 yards from scrimmage on 59 touches. Coleman's 188 yards from scrimmage is 21st in the NFL and 10th amongst RBs, and his 120 receiving yards are good for third at his position. (Not to mention he scored the game-winning touchdown on Sunday.)

And although Freeman has four catches for 20 yards on the year, he had the third-most receiving yards of all running backs in 2015 (578). Odds are it won't be long before Ryan starts throwing to him on a regular basis.

By employing two running backs who are so well-rounded, the Falcons have a unique advantage: Ryan can operate the same way regardless of which one is out there, and the defense will be kept guessing at all times.

"I think the most important thing is, for the play-caller, you don't have to have a certain player in," Quinn said. "And defensively, they can't just say, 'OK, if this player is in, you have to be really alert for the pass, or if this player's in, it's more of a run.' With these two guys, it's very balanced in terms of the run/pass when they're in. So that's a real credit to both of them, how hard they work at it, both in the run game and catching out of the backfield."

Atlanta's tight ends have been impressive, as well. Against Oakland, Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper became the first TE duo in franchise history to each tally 75-plus yards in a game. Tamme has been as reliable as ever in 2016, registering 11 catches for 126 yards — good for fifth in the NFL at his position.

Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus, Hooper has been targeted 20-plus yards downfield twice, and he's come down with both throws for 78 combined yards, tying him with Greg Olsen for most receiving yards by a TE on deep passes.

"We have some different personnel groups we can throw out at people," Tamme said. "Obviously, we have some good running backs and wideouts. It's fun for the tight ends to get to be a part of it, and get a chance to make some plays, so that part was awesome."

As far as wideouts go, the ball distribution hasn't prevented Julio Jones from lighting it up. He may no longer be on pace to break the single-season receptions record, but with nine catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns, he's still performing like a Pro Bowl WR.

Jones has been aided by free agent signings Mohamed Sanu, who has 99 yards and a TD, and Aldrick Robinson, who caught a 20-yard pass on Sunday that put Atlanta in field goal range. Justin Hardy is coming along, too, and earned his first career touchdown versus the Raiders on one of the strangest — and one of the most important — plays of 2016.

"We just have to keep the trend going, keep the momentum going," Sanu said. "Come this week, prepare even harder than we did the previous week. And come out here and try to get another W."

Two games is, of course, a small sample size. But it's encouraging nonetheless. And it's shown the Falcons' offense is a versatile unit, one capable of taking the league by storm.

"Now we have a better feel for Hooper. We certainly know our running backs so well. For years, Matt and Julio have had a fantastic connection. Now we've added other players to complement that with (Sanu) and Aldrick and Hardy's now a real factor in that as well," Quinn said. "We love the fact that there's a number of guys getting involved. We really do."

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