FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ plan to add more “explosive” plays appears to be paying off.
Last season, the Falcons had only 32 pass plays of 20 yards or more — the team’s definition of an explosive play — which was 31st in the league. They had just six plays of 40 yards or more last season, which ranked 22nd.
Through 13 games, they have 46 pass plays of 20 yards or more, which ranks ninth overall in the league. Quarterback Matt Ryan has eight plays that have gone for 40 yards or more, which ranks him tied for eighth in the league.
The Falcons used two explosive plays from key additions to fuel their 24-0 second-half rally in the 31-23 win over Carolina on Sunday. Julio Jones had a 75-yard touchdown catch and running back Jacquizz Rodgers had a 31-yarder for a score.
“The rookies are just some more weapons that we are trying to add to this team to get us to the next level,” running back Michael Turner said. “They came up and played big. They did a great job scoring touchdowns. That’s what we needed and they came through in a critical situation.”
Overall, the Falcons have 55 plays – including nine runs — of 20 yards or more.
Wide receiver Roddy White leads the team with 13 explosive plays. Turner, Jones and wide receiver Harry Douglas each have 10.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez (eight), Rodgers (two), wide receiver Eric Weems (one) and running back Jason Snelling (one) have the other explosive plays.
“We like to think we can move the ball on anybody,” Gonzalez said.
Rodgers’ touchdown catch against Carolina was the first time Ryan had thrown to him down the field.
“We knew when we kind of rolled out of the pocket, they kind of lost touch with the running back,” Ryan said. “To be honest with you, they covered him pretty well. They had the linebacker back there pretty deep. ‘Quizz’ did a great job of running to that spot and I just tried to put it up out there. He made a great catch.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog