Atlanta Falcons: Still no consistent running game with playoffs near

FLOWERY BRANCH–The numbers suggest that, even as they steamrolled the Giants on Sunday, the Falcons still could not run the ball effectively.

Atlanta’s 3.6 yards-per-carry average against New York (not including kneel-downs by quarterbacks) was worse than its lackluster season average to that point. That number was inflated by some late dashes by Jason Snelling with the 34-0 victory in hand and also is well short of the 4-plus yards per attempt coach Mike Smith considers to be ideal.

Yet Smith looks at what Atlanta’s running game accomplished against the Giants beyond the numbers and declared it a success.

The Falcons opened the game with four straight run calls, netting a touchdown on a short field. They squeezed out rushing yards to stay out of some bad down-and-distance situations. Atlanta also succeeded in keeping the Giants off balance with an assortment of formations, run types and personnel to set up passes.

Not all of that is reflected in the final rushing stats and the Falcons (12-2) remain an inefficient running team with the playoffs on the horizon. But Smith said the ground game served a utilitarian purpose within the offense.

“I thought we set the tempo early with our run game and it goes hand-in-hand when you’re able to run the football,” Smith said. “They have to start committing more resources to the run and it opens up the pass game. We got some looks that we really liked based on running the ball effectively and efficiently in the first quarter of the ballgame.”

It didn’t take long for the Falcons to serve notice they intended to run.

After Asante Samuel’s interception on the day’s second play set Atlanta up at New York’s 16-yard line, running back Michael Turner ran for three yards, eight yards, four yards and finally a one-yard touchdown run.

“It got the team going a little bit, got everybody pumped up,” Turner said. “It started with Asante getting the interception and then we fueled the fire.”

There were some other good moments, highlighted by a 14-yard burst by Turner and an 18-yarder by wide receiver Julio Jones on an end run. But the team also had 10 runs of 2 yards or less, including five runs for no gain or negative yardage.

That was reminiscent of Atlanta’s 23-13 victory against the Saints on Nov. 29, when the Falcons opened the game by running the ball forcefully but couldn’t sustain it. The difference: the entire offense bogged down against New Orleans while the passing game helped carry the Falcons over the Giants.

“We just kept scoring and putting points on the board so everything was fine,” Turner said.

Falcons center Todd McClure said Atlanta’s early success running the ball set the tempo, slowed New York’s vaunted defensive line and opened up the passing game.

“They can’t just get single-minded thinking they are going to rush the quarterback,” McClure said. “It plays a huge role for us up front when you don’t have a (defender) who just has to do one thing and he has to defend multiple things — the runs, the screens, the draws and the pass.”

The Falcons’ ground game lags against the rest of the NFL. They are averaging 3.7 yards per carry, which is better than just two teams. Only Dallas (3.5) averages fewer yards among the teams either in the playoffs or still with a chance to qualify.

While the Falcons want to run more effectively, they can take stock in point production. The Falcons rank fourth in the NFC in total points, fifth in yards per play and their rate of a point scored for every 2.44 plays is better than the 49ers, Seahawks and Packers.

Then there’s also Atlanta’s record, the best in the NFC.

“The (rushing) numbers, I don’t think anybody is too concerned with, from our perspective,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I think running the football is important but winning is most important. And finding ways to get it done is, at the end of the day, what we are focused on.”


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38 comments Add your comment


December 19th, 2012
2:47 pm

I like the Falcons running back by comitee approach they have taken lately. And personally don’t care if we have a 100 yard rusher evry week. Just run the ball effectively when ya have too (short yardage and red zone). Points come outta the passing game. Play to our strengths and JUST WIN BABY!

Elvis is Alive

December 19th, 2012
2:47 pm


December 19th, 2012
2:52 pm

Love the Falcons..but face it..we are not going to the big game with Turner as our running back….they should have made a move earlier in the year to get a big powerful back that has some quickness and can’t be tackled by his big toe….


December 19th, 2012
2:52 pm

Coach is right. Falcons need to run effectively with 7 or less men in the box. Unleash the pass when the D stacks 8+ up front.

Elvis is Alive

December 19th, 2012
2:54 pm

Earlier I used a line from one of my greatest hits, “It’s now or never”.
If it is Ok…D-Led..I believe I need to say,”IT”S NOW OR NEXT YEAR” !!!
Winners never quit and Quitters never WIN.
Let’s see what Antoine Smith can do in the mix. If we run well then we can pass.
“IT’s NOW OR NEXT YEAR”..Rise up..Angry Birds..Rise up


December 19th, 2012
3:21 pm

I would like to see Atlanta get Maurice Jones Drew. Fits perfectly in Dirk’s offense. Can catch and run. Turner I like but is declining that could be the one two punch Atlanta needs.

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

Dr. Warren

December 19th, 2012
4:15 pm

Snelling has looked impressive every times he gets into a game—and I mean over the past few years. I don’t get it: are the coaches worried about hurting Turner’s feelings? His steep decline is obvious to anyone watching the games, so why do the coaches keep wasting downs by running him for 1 or 2 yards? So frustrating.

Fan since 66

December 19th, 2012
4:18 pm

Two years ago I would have been a lot more worried about the lack of a running game. After the acquisition of Julio and Koetter in particular, I feel the offense is not as dependent on the run anymore. We can actually pass to open up the run game now. If they start with the quick slants and stay away from the long patterns to start, I can’t help but think that would open up the D line for some runs. I like what Matty Ice has to say…” finding ways to get it done is, at the end of the day, what we are focused on.” Don’t just do it because you’re supposed to do it that way!
Go Falcons!


December 19th, 2012
5:23 pm

My point exactly Dr. Warren. I just don’t get it. When he was needed and there was no option to play Turner because he was hurt, Snelling #44 responded against Tampa Bay with 147 yards on 24 carries.

Just a real questionable use of talent and decision making. He would go out against Detroit on Sunday and run for 100+ yards. No doubt in my mind.


Fan since 66

December 19th, 2012
5:41 pm

FBD and the Doc…You guys are dead on. I wonder what we don’t know that Snelling isn’t the starter. That run against the Gmen at the end of the game last week was a thing of beauty. Not to mention several runs earlier in the game. He drives for every yard and doesn’t stop moving his legs until there are several players laying on top of them. To see his reaction after not scoring on a run, you would think someone just stole his bicycle. That kind of spirit is exactly what is needed in a running back. Start Snelling I say!
Go Falcons!

Me Too

December 19th, 2012
6:16 pm

The running game will improve if Michael Turner is benched. HC Smith please quit forcing him on the offense. Every time he is in the game, he slows the offense down. How long will it take you to learn.


December 19th, 2012
6:32 pm

Obliterate Detroit……………!!!!

OK, look, I know Turner doesn’t read these blogs but it sure did look like he was running with his knees higher…………….my suggestion Thank You………………..!!!


December 19th, 2012
6:33 pm

Todd Mcclure is the problem. draft Barrett Jones and move Konz to center next year

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

Mora less Petrino

December 19th, 2012
6:47 pm

I agree with austinwantsyou. Get Barrett Jones in here. On a sports web site today, there was a 1st round draft projection, (which had ATL drafting 32nd, so that must mean a SB win is coming up), and the Falcons are “projected” to take Sam Montgomery, DE from LSU. Barrett Jones was not even listed in the 1st round! I can’t imagine that BJ will available at #32, but if he is, the Birds need to pounce on him.
If the guy writing the article has some inside scoop that ATL is looking at Montgomery, I hope they trade up to grab Jones as well. Jones looks like a Mike Kenn type of guy that would play forever and be solid.


December 19th, 2012
7:00 pm

Early success in the Giants game had completely to do with the opportunities created by the defense. For several weeks now the defense has been shouldering 80% of the load because the offense has been far less effective than earlier in the season. The ‘3 and outs’, the interceptions, the inability to sustain drives, all have been killing the defense. Would be interesting to see a ‘time of possession’ trend chart from game 1 thru game 14.

Reaalism is Key

December 19th, 2012
7:01 pm

think the falcons running game will be alot more effective using jason snelling and jacquizz rodgers. They would compliment each other nicely

Preston Thompson

December 19th, 2012
7:10 pm

Try as they might, Atlanta does not have the backs they need at the present time to do what they want to. Turner could if he could get to the hole like he used to. Plus he lacks the ability to shift or cut as quickly as needed. Rogers can but he just lacks the “power” to bowl over folks. I still like the way Snelling plays. Plus I think he’s faster than Turner. Atlanta had better look over the draft and find somebody and let Turner find another team. He has turned in a drag on the team.


December 19th, 2012
7:15 pm

Turners runs is what brought the average down T
Go Snelling.

Panic fan

December 19th, 2012
7:36 pm

So how many franchise records did turner set this yr? This is his swan song because i dont think he will return to this team will be fun watching these last 2 games to see if its still 33 off tackle on 1st down for little to no gain

Whadda Ya Know?

December 19th, 2012
7:36 pm

If they quit running Turner to start the game maybe they’d have a consistent running game. Snelling come in and bang then change up with Jacquizz in open space. Bring Turner in for cleanup after he’s gotten angry from sitting on the bench–maybe then he’ll run like a beast.


December 19th, 2012
9:07 pm

Falcons and Dawgs both frustrate me with their running games. They run it just enough to almost get something going, then stop!

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

Falcon James

December 20th, 2012
3:09 am

Does the old adage of having 2 starting QB’s means you have no QB apply to RB’s as well? If you have 3 RB’s you have no RB.


December 20th, 2012
6:05 am

Smith said. “They have to start committing more resources to the run.”

To stop Turner??????????


Mitch (the one in Rome)

December 20th, 2012
7:10 am

I’m amazed by the control of the narrative by media outlets: Not explosive enough…Not running enough..Have to win a playoff game to be elite…But the Jets…really? Just win baby. This is not the NCAA. There are no points for style. Just win baby. Right now the Falcons are winning and you’d think they are as bad as the Jets who get more press for being awful.

People forget that the Falcons beat Payton and the Broncos, who are their darling. Remember, it took Payton a few years to win a playoff game and, frankly, hasn’t been too great since then, but you’d think he’s the gold standard. How can the Broncos be above the Falcons in the “power rankings”? This is not the BCS.

Why the negative narrative against the Falcons? The Falcons are just winning. I don’t care how they do it. Just win. Ugly or smooth. Just win.


December 20th, 2012
9:07 am

If i remember correcly gaints were rated at the bottom of the nfl in rushing last year
in regular season,they had enough rushing in the playoffs and i believe we will has well


December 20th, 2012
1:18 pm

The reason why the Broncos are rated ahead of us/Falcons is because the Falcons were completely ineffective in the 2nd Half against the Broncos and were very lucky to win that game. We won and I think deserve to be rated ahead of the Broncos. But you are right about media darlings. They get all the positive breaks, such as… We beat them the first half of that game.


December 20th, 2012
4:32 pm

Well, the last two Superbowl winners didn’t have much of a running game, either! Especially the Packers! We have enough to get by…..if our secondary continues to dominate and our passing game doesn’t go into the tank…..and our quarterback doesn’t get hurt or throw too many interceptions! We should be in good shape…..if we don’t draw the Packers before the championship game. They won’t slap 50 points on us this time……but I just would rather avoid Aaron Rogers if at all possible.

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]

The Real Dirty Bird!

December 23rd, 2012
10:19 am

The next game would be a great time to get QB- DD in the game and leave all the running to Rogers, Snelling and yea get Smith in the mix as well! You could find your sleeper.

We must win in the second Season!

The Real Dirty Bird!

December 23rd, 2012
10:35 am

True Superbowl teams don’t avoid any teams they just beat who ever up next!

Our QB must stay focused and yes we need a running game to keep the a pass /run balance to help Matt…remember Matt is not Aaron Rogers. I know some think he’s an elite QB but I think not he just has a lot of talent around him. I’m just a true fan that dont hide the real deal! 12 year season ticket holder not counting the Season tickets at the Old Fulton County field when the brown bags use to come out.

[...] Still no consistent running game with playoffs near [...]