If you had been asked in August what would have had to happen for the Falcons to start the season 4-0, you might have said, “Well, can at least two of the teams forfeit?”
That was how unlikely this undefeated start likely was in the minds of most fans. Many believed it would simply take time before all of the new players jelled together and the new coaches implemented the new schemes.
But the light switch has gone on immediately. The players have done little wrong in the first four weeks of the season. It’s not been perfect wins, but there’s little to complain about.
The biggest surprise is likely the running game. The Falcons are 13th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 113.5 yards per game. The Redskins, this week’s opponent, actually have the best running attack so far in the NFL at 139.5 rushing yards per contest.
Atlanta’s mark is surprising considering the struggles the team has had the last two years. Last season Atlanta had the 24th best rushing game in the league (93.6 yards per game), while in 2013 the team was dead last with only 77.9 rushing yards per game.
The resurgence in the game can be pointed to two players. Well, actually maybe we have to include a third player when handing out credit. Tevin Coleman started the ball rolling with a solid performance in week one against Philadelphia. The third rounder from Indiana had 80 yards in 20 carries.
Coleman then had 32 yards on nine carries against the Giants before he injured his ribs. That injury has kept him out the last two weeks, but the Falcons are hopeful Coleman he might be back even this week against the Redskins.
Devonta Freeman took over for Coleman and has been even better. The second-year pro from FSU had 68 yards on 14 carries last week against the Texans. Freeman also caught five passes for 81 yards. In Dallas the week before Freeman had 141 yards rushing on 30 carries, with 52 receiving yards on five catches.
Freeman has had three rushing touchdowns in each of the past two weeks. He now has seven on the season, with 252 rushing yards on 66 carries. Last season Freeman had 248 yards on 65 carries in 16 games played.
The Falcons will be tested this week as the Redskins have the second-best run defense in the NFL so far, allowing just 78 yards per game. Atlanta’s run defense is also solid. The Falcons are fifth in the NFL, allowing just 85.2 yards per game. So the running attacks for both teams will be a factor this week at the Georgia Dome.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atlanta's rushing attack improving each week
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