Falcons vs. Eagles: Depth on Offense Shows Atlanta Is the Best Team in the NFL

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterOctober 28, 2012

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

There were definitely doubters around the NFL regarding whether or not the 6-0 Atlanta Falcons, the only remaining undefeated team, were the best team in the league.

There shouldn’t be anyone left after Sunday’s 30-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons are now 7-0 and showed Sunday there’s no doubt they are the best team in the NFL.

Atlanta scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the game. In fact, the Falcons scored two touchdowns before the Eagles had a positive gain on offense.

Matt Ryan hit two improbable targets for his for his first two scores, wide receiver Drew Davis and running back Jason Snelling. Davis was playing for an injured Harry Douglas and made two pivotal catches on Atlanta’s first drive.

Snelling, who is third string behind Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers, caught a 3-yard screen pass and scored on Atlanta’s second drive.

In the first quarter, Ryan spread the ball around to seven different receivers. His leading targets were Davis, Snelling and Rodgers, who each had two catches in the first quarter.

For defenses, it’s hard enough to decide who to cover when the decisions are between Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. When Ryan chooses to use guys like Davis and Snelling, it shows the extreme depth this roster has on offense.

It also shows that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has the panache to call plays that no one expects to see.

There wasn’t a defender within 10 yards of Davis on either of his two catches during Atlanta’s first drive, including the touchdown grab. The screen pass was such a rarity in Atlanta’s offensive scheme prior to Koetter, it would have taken bolt cutters and protective gloves to remove it from the safety glass that particular portion of the play book was hidden under.

Now the Falcons are using the screen to score touchdowns (see Snelling), move the ball on third down (Rodgers on multiple occasions) and even get wide receivers into the action (watching Jones shuck and move is a thing of beauty when he catches a screen pass and has blocking in front of him).

Losing their third wide receiver, Douglas, could have been a terrible scenario for Atlanta. The Eagles have two shutdown corners in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. They might have been able to White and Jones, and taken them out of the game, had Ryan only had them as receiving options.

But Atlanta can trot out myriad targets for Ryan, which forces defenses to either stay locked down on White and Jones (like Philadelphia did early) and give up plays to guys like Davis and Snelling or spread the coverage evenly and hope Atlanta’s main targets can’t burn one-on-one coverage.

On Sunday, that plan didn’t work either. When Philadelphia chose to leave Asomugha alone to cover Jones by himself, Jones ran by him as if he were weighed down by lead boots.

There’s just no viable way to cover all the threats Atlanta has on offense. And there are apparently threats like Davis on the bench that no one’s even seen before. They too can bury opposing defenses.

Offense wins in the NFL right now—the last two Super Bowl winners have possessed top 10 offenses—and the Falcons have offense coming from everywhere.