Even with obvious weapon in Julio Jones, Falcons still keep them guessing

TAMPA, Fla. -- Raise your hand if you had Levine Toilolo, Taylor Gabriel and Patrick DiMarco in your fantasy football lineup.

Those names really weren't expected to generate any type of buzz with the Atlanta Falcons this season, at least not until the speedy Gabriel made some noise with an explosive, 47-yard touchdown reception against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8.

The Falcons seem to have that element of the unknown every time they take the field on offense. Sure, Julio Jones is the marquee name and the guy expected to dominate the offensive touches and defensive attention. But when an opposing team finds a way to contain Jones, another unheralded Falcon seems to step up and make a play.

Well, Thursday night's 43-28 triumph over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a case of the Falcons showing they can complement Jones even when he's playing at the top of his game. That makes Atlanta -- now 6-3 after the offense shook off a slow start in which it didn't take full advantage of turnovers created by the defense -- much more dangerous as it builds toward an NFC South title and first playoff appearance since 2012.

Toilolo and DiMarco both had touchdown receptions from Matt Ryan in Thursday's win. Ryan, a top MVP candidate who completed 19 of his last 21 passes Thursday, has thrown touchdowns to 11 different receivers this season. That number could have reached 12 had undrafted rookie Joshua Perkins made a wide-open catch in his first NFL game Thursday.

As for Gabriel, he scored on a 9-yard jet sweep, a new wrinkle thrown in by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to keep the defense off balance.

"We're definitely a dangerous offense," Jones said. "I'm not talking it up just to talk it up because I'm on this team, but it's one of the best offenses that I've played on since I've been here. The way we can move the ball around, guys make plays all over the board.

"[Austin] Hooper, the rookie, he's out there making great plays for us. Gabriel's making plays for us. [Mohamed] Sanu. Toilolo. Everybody's out there making plays because they're doing their job. ... It feels like everybody is open at the same time."

And, by the way, Jones had eight catches for 111 yards four days after being limited to three catches for 29 yards in a 33-32 victory over Green Bay. On Thursday, Jones scored his first red zone touchdown of the season on a perfectly executed fade pass from Ryan. Jones tiptoed like a ballet dancer near the sideline and completed a full pirouette while reaching high for the ball and keeping his feet in play.

The Falcons don't want to tiptoe around in their final seven games, so the offense has to continue to be productive. Shanahan has been masterful with his play design, creating the ideal mismatches and giving players opportunities to have wide-open looks. Ryan's 32-yard touchdown pass to Toilolo was a perfect example. Toilolo wasn't even supposed to start the game, but he did. And the Buccaneers obviously didn't expect him to be on the other end of a scoring grab in the first quarter.

The Falcons also showed they could run the ball effectively against a tough Buccaneers front seven with 136 rushing yards on 34 touches. Devonta Freeman led the way with 77 yards on 17 carries. In other words, the Falcons should be able to run against anybody.

Dan Quinn's team can't exhale just yet. There continue to be hiccups on defense, although the Falcons recorded three sacks Thursday to bring their season total to 21, surpassing their 19 sacks in 2015. The status of Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant following a shoulder injury could be a major concern. And penalties continue to be an issue, particularly on special teams.

But outside of that, the Falcons seem to be in a good place. Everybody's contributing. The emphasis on teamwork definitely seems to be rubbing off, on everybody.

"First game of the year, [Tampa Bay] played a little bit better than we did that day," Ryan recalled of the 31-24 home loss to the Bucs in the season opener. "I felt like we have continued to improve from that time of year. For me, that's like the best thing from a confidence standpoint; is that we continue to get better week in and week out."