Atlanta averaged 234.3 rushing yards through its first four games, a period in which it exceeded 250 yards three times, topped by a 306-yard outing vs. Tampa Bay. The San Diego Chargers rank second, and they are 59.5 yards behind the Falcons. Atlanta ball carriers are averaging 6.1 yards per rushing attempt. In second place are the Oakland Raiders, at 5.1 yards a carry.
The Falcons' dedication to the running game is also evident in how infrequently they pass the ball. They are 31st in the league in passing yards per game (116.0). Quarterback Michael Vick, a key contributor to the rush brigade, has thrown only 90 passes, which ties him for 30th in the NFL (with former Giant Kerry Collins). Atlanta's leading receiver is tight end Alge Crumpler, with 11. Amani Toomer had one more than that in the Philadelphia game alone. The Giants have four receivers with at least 12 catches apiece.
Unless the Falcons spent their bye week completely redesigning their offense, it's a good bet they'll attack the Giants on the ground.
"They do an exceptional job rushing the football," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Not only do they have the addition of (rookie Jerious) Norwood, the young player, but with Warrick Dunn, with Michael Vick and with a scheme in which they have an excellent running combination, if you will, where it could be a one-back, it could be two backs, it could end up being a strong side run, it could be a cut-back. And there is always the problem with defending against the quarterback after the ball is exchanged.
"So you pretty much have people holding ground to be in position to defend a lot of things and their runners and their offensive line are excellent at creating creases. So they have just done an outstanding job. They have gone right down through their division – the people that should know them the best - and they still have had this kind of success."
The elusive Dunn leads the Falcons with 365 yards on 82 carries. Right behind him is Vick, who is as dangerous a running quarterback as there is in the NFL. Although he has played one less game than many competitors, Vick is 11th in the NFC with 333 yards. He is averaging 8.8 yards a carry. Not to be outdone is Norwood, a third-round choice in this year's NFL Draft from Mississippi State. He has averaged 8.3 yards an attempt, scored on a 78-run against Arizona and has accumulated 217 rushing yards.
"They're running the ball an average of 40 times a game," middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "They're hitting big plays. You want to take away the run from the standpoint that you don't want them averaging 6.1. I don't think we're going to (hold) them under two yards a carry. That's going to be difficult, the way they run their schemes. We're going to have to eliminate the big plays. Right now, they're getting a lot of big plays from their running game."
Giants Must Stop Falcons Run Game
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