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Falcons hope to be four-wide open

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Devin Hester didn't exactly beg for the opportunity, but the Atlanta Falcons receiver admitted he was anxious for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's call to 10 personnel.

Such a look with four wide receivers -- Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Hester -- and just one running back was extremely effective for the Falcons in their 37-34 overtime win against the New Orleans Saints.

"It's just a great opportunity to get more explosive guys on the field," Hester said Wednesday. "When you do stuff like that, it creates havoc for the defense. Defenses are not really used to offenses that run four wide. And now that we showed it, it's going to take up a lot of attention in their meeting rooms that they have to concentrate on more four wides."

The Falcons used such an alignment on 19 plays. The eight plays run in the setup on third down included a 35-yard connection between Matt Ryan and Hester on third-and-8 on a drive that resulted in White's 2-yard touchdown catch. On the seven pass plays in 10 personnel on first down, the Falcons gained an average of 13.8 yards per play.

Among the four plays using four wides on second down was a 23-yard Ryan to Douglas connection on second-and-7 that set up Jacquizz Rodgers' 17-yard touchdown run. Another was a 17-yard run by Steven Jackson up the middle on second-and-15, proving that spreading out the defense can open things up for the run. Such a concept might be an effective strategy for the Falcons going into Week 2, particularly with their foursome of capable running backs.

Some of the Saints players mentioned after the game how they were taken off guard by the Falcons' 10-personnel look.

"It worked really good," Koetter said. "I have never in my career been much of 10-personnel guy. Obviously, when we had Tony [Gonzalez] here, our philosophy was it's tough to put a fourth wide receiver in and take the best tight end to ever play off the field. The acquiring of Devin Hester and the fact that Devin has done such a good job of assimilating himself into the system, now we do have our explosive wide receivers.

"We started with a very small package. It's going to grow all the time."

Whether it grows this week depends on a variety of factors.The strong possibility of playing without rookie left tackle Jake Matthews (ankle) might mean the Falcons will keep their tight ends in to chip block, throwing off the whole 10-personnel concept. Plus the defensive coverage from the Bengals, of course, might dictate a different offensive attack for Koetter and the Falcons.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is fully aware of what the Falcons are capable of accomplishing with their four-wide sets.

"Well, they've been pretty dynamic when they use four wide receivers," Lewis said. "They put two guys inside that can make plays where they put them. Their guys are all guys that have a lot of talent and ability. They're all good run-after-catch players, so you've got to do a great job against them."