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49ers-Falcons preview: What Alex Mack, WRs, Kyle Shanahan mean to Atlanta offense

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We chatted with our friends at The Falcoholic about the impressive work of the Falcons offense under OC Kyle Shanahan.

The San Francisco 49ers face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and while Julio Jones has been ruled out, the Falcons are still in pretty good shape. They faced the Los Angeles Rams last week, and even with Jones and Mohamed Sanu sidelined, they put up 42 points. Part of that was due to defensive scoring, but considering the state of the 49ers run defense, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman could do plenty on their own.

The Falcons offense has always been fairly prolific, but consistency has long been an issue. This year, we’ve seen some improvement in that regard as the Falcons have had a notable record turnaround from last season. I took a few minutes to chat with Dave Choate from The Falcoholic to get his thoughts on why the Falcons offense is improved. Here is what he had to say.

This has been nothing short of a transformation of the offense, and it's happened with no changes at offensive coordinator, quarterback, running back, and only one upgrade along the offensive line. Pretty neat, right?

The first and most obvious change is the addition of Alex Mack to the offense. Last year's starting center Mike Person is no longer even on this roster, and he's been replaced by Mack, arguably the best center in the NFL, and surely one of its most reliable pivots. He's done a stellar job calling protections, blocking, and making life easier for Andy Levitre and Chris Chester on either side of him, and I don't think you can underestimate what that has done for Matt Ryan and the offense. Even if Ryan has absorbed 31 sacks.

The other big upgrade comes at receiver, where the Falcons traded out a fading Roddy White (who offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan appeared to have open contempt for a year ago) for Mohamed Sanu, a steady second option who blocks effectively. Then they scooped up Taylor Gabriel from the Browns, and Gabriel has become one of the league's most explosive threats, scoring five touchdowns and breaking some huge gains both on the ground and through the air. Add in Tevin Coleman's emergence as a weapon and a solid rookie season from Austin Hooper, plus the presence of #elite receiver Julio Jones, and you can see why Ryan's had more success through the air.

Finally, this is just about Shanahan having a second year to implement his system and add his preferred players, while Ryan has a second year in a system he admitted was too complex for him at first. Ryan has worked hard all year on not overthinking his throws and picking up what Shanahan wants him to do. The result has been arguably the best season of his career, and with the upgraded supporting cast, this offense has gone from solid to spectacular in the span of one year. It's not rocket science, but sometimes it feels like a miracle.