The Falcons were able to notch their first win of the season against the Oakland Raiders as the offense exploded with 528 yards and five touchdowns. It was a nice rebound week for the offense after struggling with Tampa Bay's fierce front seven.
The passing game came back to life this week as Matt Ryan torched the Raiders with 396 yards and 3 touchdowns, while only missing on 8 of his 34 pass attempts. A combination of strong play calling by Kyle Shanahan, solid accuracy and poise by Matt Ryan, and general incompetence by Oakland's defense allowed the passing game to flourish.
Nine players caught at least one pass on Sunday, including the Falcons newest receiver Taylor Gabriel, who was picked up off of waivers from Cleveland.
Oakland broke the huddle in a Quarters look, which means they had four defenders playing deep and three defenders underneath. Gabriel ran a curl route right underneath the corner taking on the furthest right quarter of the field and the safety rushing to the flat.
The timing of the route and throw were perfect. Atlanta was also helped by the corner slipping on his way to cover Gabriel from his position overtop.
Jacob Tamme also had a big game against the Raiders, reeling in 7 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. One of his longer gains on the day was a beautiful execution on a play action bootleg that left him with plenty of daylight to run.
The Raiders rushed five defenders on this play and somehow left Jacob Tamme wide open in the flats. It looks like they were playing a Cover 1 blitz and failed to account for a tight end releasing to the right side of the field. Notice a defender standing in no man's land near the left hash mark on the thirty yard line, this must have been a coverage bust for the Raiders.
Nonetheless, it was good to see the correct timing on the rollout throw because that was something that the Falcons struggled with last season. The most hated man in the NFL hit the "burners" for a 19 yard gain.
A big staple in the Falcons passing attack from last season was the presence of mirrored passing concepts. A mirrored concept is when the routes on each side of the field are the same.
On this first down conversion from Aldrick Robinson, Kyle Shanahan called for mirrored comeback routes. Julio Jones immediately sees bracket coverage from Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, eliminating him as a possible throw on the play.
At the top of the screen Aldrick Robinson has one on one coverage against David Amerson and makes a clean break on his comeback route right when the ball arrives for a first down.
Julio Jones' touchdown against Sean Smith was a complete mismatch. Here's what the Raiders were running on the play.
Oakland again sent five rushers leaving the rest of their defenders in man coverage, save for their free safety who's playing a deep zone over the top, but drifting towards Julio Jones pre-snap.
There are two key actions that help open up the middle of the field versus this Cover 1 blitz look. First, is Patrick DiMarco running to the flats, pulling one linebacker out of the middle of the field. The next is Tevin Coleman running to the line of scrimmage to retreat into a pass block. Ben Heeney has to respect the possibility that Coleman could run out for a route which pulls him out of the middle of the field.
Add in Reggie Nelson overreacting to Julio Jones' initial vertical stem plus Sean Smith not being able to keep up with Julio's speed on the break inside and you have an easy touchdown.
Austin Hooper also had a big day through the air totaling 84 yards on only 3 catches. Here's how he was able to get wide open for both of those plays.
Austin Hooper is on the same side of the field as Levine Toilolo. Hooper runs a route up the seam while Toilolo runs a shallow drag across Oakland's linebackers.
Oakland's safety playing over top of Hooper and Toilolo fails to carry Hooper up the seam. This leaves a lot of pressure on Reggie Nelson to cover both Hooper and Jacob Tamme who's running up the seam uncontested on the other side of the formation.
This becomes an impossible two on one situation for Nelson and Matt Ryan makes an easy read to Hooper for a big gain.
Hooper's next big play happened on a wheel route that fooled the entire defense.
The first order of note on this play is the play action outside zone run by the offensive line and Tevin Coleman. They did a fantastic job selling the run first, which drew the linebackers into their run fits instead of dropping into their zones.
After the fake handoff, Matt Ryan does a great job of allowing the wheel route to develop. He slow plays his rollout, gets his feet set, and waits for Hooper to clear Ben Heeney for a long completion along the sideline.
Ideally, Heeney would match on the wheel route after following Hooper all the way across the formation, but his eyes get caught in the backfield and he gets lost in coverage on the back end. If this throw was just a little better, this could possibly be a touchdown, but it's hard to complain about a 44 yard gain.
The last play to cover is Julio Jones' 48 yard diving catch in the fourth quarter that put Atlanta in great field position to seal the win. Atlanta was running a Yankee Concept which features two main routes: a deep post by your number one receiver and another receiver running a deep in-breaking route, which is run by Jacob Tamme on this play.
This play was a pure display of athleticism by Julio Jones. He draws Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson again in coverage over the top and just runs right by them. Matt Ryan took a shot deep and Julio made a fantastic play on the ball. The throw was just a little bit too far inside, but Julio hit his second gear and caught the ball.
Last year when the Falcons ran this, Ryan usually settled for the crossing route. It was great to see him take a shot deep to his best weapon.
Here's the endzone view of the catch.
The resurgence of the passing game through the first two weeks has been awesome to watch. There's no reason why this can't continue against a banged up Saints secondary on Monday Night Football, but those games tend to be kind of wacky.
Ryan looks comfortable in his second year in Kyle Shanahan's offense, and the passing attack is rolling on all cylinders right now. It'll be interesting to see if this keeps up as the Falcons head into a tough stretch of their schedule, but for now let's enjoy a dominant display through the air.