FLOWERY BRANCH –The Falcons have seen just about every defensive scheme designed to thwart their passing attack through five games.
But with every move they’ve faced, quarterback Matt Ryan has had a viable and productive countermove.
On Sunday, the Redskins elected to play man-to-man coverage underneath with two safeties deep to prevent wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White from streaking down the field for touchdowns.
However, the Redskins took their chances and left future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez in man-to-man coverage. He abused their defenders for 13 catches for 123 yards and a key touchdown.
The Falcons were not caught off-guard by Washington’s decision to cover deep.
“We’ve been played different ways,” Ryan said. “You just have to react to it and adjust throughout the game. Last week, they dropped a lot of guys on some of our deeper stuff and forced us to be a little patient. However they come out and play, we have to adjust to that and execute.”
Each team has approached the Falcons’ passing attack differently.
Kansas City concentrated on White and Gonzalez, and Jones gained 108 yards (six catches) and caught two touchdown passes. Denver covered Jones and Gonzalez, and White gained 102 yards (eight catches) and caught a touchdown pass.
San Diego tried to prevent the deep ball, and Gonzalez caught nine passes for 91 yards. Carolina keyed on Jones and Gonzalez, and White gashed them for 169 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns.
Ryan’s ability to quickly read the defense leads him to his open receiver.
“Matt has really good recall over previous games he’s played,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said.
Ryan reads his routes in several different manners, depending on the play. Sometimes he has to read the routes from the inside of the field to the outside. Other times he has to read outside-to-inside routes, lower-level routes to deeper routes or the frontside of the play to the backside.
Since he started as a rookie, he’s seen just about every defense at least a few times now.
“We spend a lot of time in the quarterback room with (quarterback coach) Glenn Thomas and we say, ‘Here is how we are reading these looks this week,’” Koetter said. “And that still goes back to having an experienced quarterback who can process it fast, which Matt can do it (snaps fingers) just like that.”
Ryan has a passer rating of 106.1, which ranks second in the NFL behind San Francisco’s Alex Smith (108.7). He doesn’t appear to have a favorite receiver. If someone is open, that’s usually where he passes the ball.
“We don’t know who is going to be the No. 1 guy,” wide receiver Julio Jones said. “We have a lot of No. 1 guys on the team who can step up and carry the team and make plays down the field.”
“He said he was 98 percent (sure) at the start of the season,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I’m just hoping for that 2 percent. That’s how I’m approaching it.”
On the strength of their passing attack, the Falcons have averaged 376.4 yards of offense per game, 12th in the NFL. They have averaged 281.6 yards passing per game (seventh).
Sunday’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders, who are coming off a bye week, have a weak pass defense. They are giving up 283.0 yards per game, 28th in the league, and they have three sacks, worst in the league.
It will be interesting to see what Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver does to try to stop the Falcons’ passing attack.
Ryan threw a career-high 52 times against Washington and completed a career-high 34 passes. He said his arm feels fine and that he’s ready to keep slinging the ball around the field.
“I think to have a quarterback who can process it so fast when you see these defensive coordinators are throwing a lot of different looks at you, that’s a huge plus,” Koetter said. “He’s outstanding with that. He understands what they are trying to do, and usually, before we even talk to him, he is usually giving us suggestions.”