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Blank: Fast start due to Ryan, Shanahan chemistry

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Atlanta's offensive statistics are soaring off the charts to open the season.

The Falcons lead the NFL in points per game (38.0), total yards per game (478.8), passing YPG (354.3) and yards per play (7.5). Atlanta earned 1,915 yards through four games this season. Only three teams in the Super Bowl-era have gained more yards in the first four games of a season: 2011 Patriots, 2013 Broncos, 1998 49ers (two of the three went to Super Bowl).

Matt Ryan is playing the best football of his career, using his plethora of weapons to lead the NFL in yards per attempt (10.5), completion percentage (72.1), passing yards (1,473), passing touchdowns (11) and passer rating (126.3). Only Kurt Warner (1,557 in 2000) and Tom Brady (1,553 in 2011) have opened a season with more passing yards than Ryan earned in the first quadrant of 2016.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes Ryan's familiarity with Kyle Shanahan's system is what aided the quick start after the combo struggled at times last year.

"I think it's Matt's second year in the system, which always helps anybody," Blank told ESPN. "I think that has a lot to do with it. I think he has a greater personal connection with the offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. I think that's helped a good bit."

Credit Shanahan with scheming wide open receivers, juggling his talented backfield, giving Ryan quick reads and using a diversity of route combinations to keep defenses off balance.

"Matt has always been very smart at reading progressions and has always been very smart at reading defenses and looking for where the openings may be," Blank added. "And I think with the choices he has now, he's in the best position."

Coach-quarterback familiarity plays a significant role in the performance, but we've seen hot streaks from Ryan in the past. The difference between this season and last year's 5-0 start is the number of weapons Atlanta added.

"I think the addition of some of the receivers that we have picked up has helped," Blank said. "Look at (Taylor) Gabriel. Mohamed Sanu has played well. (Tight end Austin) Hooper has played well. (Jacob) Tamme continues to play well. Of course, Julio is Julio, which is just out of sight. Matt's got a lot of choices. And then you've got these two backs out of the backfield (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman), not only can they run the ball, but they can catch the ball and run with it. So, he's got a lot of options."

Atlanta passed its first big test of the season in Sunday's walloping of the Carolina Panthers. Blank understands the next two weeks (at Denver, at Seattle) will display how much staying power his team has this year.

"It's a quarter of the season. I'm happy where we are after 3-1, the first quarter of the season," Blank said. "We're playing two very, very, very good teams on the road the next two weeks. We'll take them one at a time."

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