There has been a lot of talk about how effective play-action passes will be in Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme.
Of course, the Falcons first have to establish a potent running game, which they should be able to do behind the trio of Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, and Antone Smith. But even without Freeman and Coleman out of this past Friday's preseason opener against Tennessee with hamstring strains, quarterback Matt Ryan worked play-action to perfection.
Ryan, who completed all six of his passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in one series of work, set up his 13-yard scoring toss to Julio Jones with perfectly executed play-action. On first-and-10 from the Titans' 30, Ryan faked the hand-off to Terron Ward up the middle. With the Titans' linebacker frozen, Ryan dropped back and found Jones crossing to the right side of the field for a 16-yard pickup. Jones lined up left, inside of a motioning Leonard Hankerson.
"Obviously, the play-action is huge," Ryan said. "When you can get it going and you make the defense defend the run, it opens up some lanes kind of in the back end. Worked perfectly [Friday night]. Got the linebackers to suck up and then had some space behind there. And Julio ran a great route and made a great catch. It was a big play for us."
Ryan's second pass of the game was a play-action fake to Smith and pass to Jones down the middle for a 26-yard pickup. It was the longest connection between the two as Jones finished with four catches for 61 yards and the score. Plus Ryan ran play-action in a 12-yard pass play to fullback Patrick DiMarco. Smith again sold the run well.
It will be interesting to see how much play-action is used in the third preseason game at Miami, when the starters are expected to get their most extensive action. Maybe by then, Freeman and Coleman will be back in the mix to give a true preview of what to expect during the regular season.