Throughout his career, Matt Ryan has consistently been one of the league's best play-action passers. His QB rating on such throws has not dipped below 100 in the last four years; after faking handoffs, his completion percentage in that span has always remained about 64.
This success continued last week, when Ryan completed eight of 12 play-action passes for 132 yards – good for a 103.5 QBR. Atlanta's longest gain versus Tampa Bay came on a PA call: As D.J. Shockley explained in Tuesday's Film Session, Mohamed Sanu tricked Vernon Hargreaves into thinking he was about to run block, darted to a pocket of open space, caught the ball and ran downfield for 59 yards.
"We did a nice job; a couple plays last week were good off the play-action pass," Ryan said. "So that's going to be something that, week in and week out, we do. We're going to try to marry up our play-action with our run game and try to make it difficult for the defense to know what we're doing."
Running the PA could be especially helpful against the Raiders, who boast a talented front seven led by Khalil Mack. If the run game gets back on track Sunday, Mack and Co. will have to stay honest – which, according to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, is why play-action is so important in the NFL.
"Sometimes it's tough when you're down, especially 17, to keep it going, but if you become one-dimensional in this league, it is very hard to protect people," Shanahan said. "The D-lines are too good no matter who you have on offense. The D-line, if you become one-dimensional, is going to tee off on your quarterback, and that can lead to sacks, it can lead to turnovers.
"So you want to mix in the run just enough to slow down the pass rush, and if you do that, it allows you to do some keepers, some play-pass. And when you do that stuff, you make it a little bit easier for everybody."