No-huddle could help Falcons wear down Panthers

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As an offensive lineman, Atlanta Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder loves going no-huddle.

Schraeder has been around long enough to see how effective it can be, particularly with a quarterback like Matt Ryan running it.

"For us, there's a lot of different factors involved," Schraeder said. "It keeps the defense on their heels. They're scrambling trying to get their play set, and they usually have to have their pretty basic defense. Sometimes, they can't pressure as much.

"It gives us a chance to line up, get set, and come off the ball. When we keep that going, we can wear teams down as well."

Sounds like a good formula to use against the Carolina Panthers' stout defensive front seven in Sunday's NFC South clash. But it's not as easy as just going no-huddle every possession. The Falcons (4-3) have to convert first downs to keep it going, and third down hasn't been friendly of late: Atlanta is just 7-for-23 on such conversion attempts over its past two games. And going no-huddle isn't the smartest thing to do if your defense needs a break following a long drive.

Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian discussed his line of thinking when it comes to the no-huddle attack.

"One, I think we're very comfortable when we don't huddle," Sarkisian said. "I think that's shown in [our] two-minute [offense]. Just about every two-minute drive we've had, we've been very effective when we've been doing so.

"When we've gone the traditional no-huddle within games, not in two-minute scenario, it's been effective. And I think specific games, when we're going in, it is going to be a bigger part of the plan or not as big a part of the plan, based on who we're playing. It varies from week to week."

Sarkisian said the no-huddle was supposed to be a bigger part of the offense in Atlanta's Week 8 victory over the New York Jets, but rainy conditions thwarted those plans. The two times the Falcons went no-huddle in the first half against the Jets -- both outside of two-minute situations -- they scored on those possessions.

Obviously head coach Dan Quinn and Sarkisian, a first-time NFL coordinator, know they can rely on Ryan to call the shots in no-huddle. Ryan ran plenty under former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, now the head coach in Tampa Bay. But with Kyle Shanahan running the offense in 2015-16, fans often wondered why the Falcons didn't go without a huddle more often.

It's been about the same ratio this season as it was last. But again, it's an approach the Falcons know they can turn to, particularly with Ryan running it.

"If we weren't as fortunate to have a guy like Matt, I don't know if you'd play in that style all the time," Quinn said. "But because of his success in that environment, he feels very comfortable doing it. ... Not just with Matt, but the others guys have a real understanding of what we do as well."