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Improved Run D Begins With Explosive Plays

Posted Nov 22, 2012

Each week this season the Falcons run defense has shot itself in the foot by giving up big plays in the run game. Entering Week 12, their focus in improving begins there.

The Falcons defense doesn't find much consolation in the fact that a few plays here and there each week in their run defense is what is killing them.

Sure, it can be a silver lining to look at last week's effort against the Cardinals and say that two of the 26 runs accounted for 92 of the 137 yards, but it doesn't bring them much comfort.

"That's what's killing us," safety William Moore said on Wednesday. "Those explosive runs, those 90 or 70 yards. They add up. It's not that teams are running it down our throat. If you look at our tape, it's that one explosive play. If we can eliminate that, we'll be rolling."

But because they've failed to stop the run so consistently, they know teams will be eager to get their ground game cranked up against them. This weekend's opponent in particular will look to do that. Moore and the others know what's coming and they know it's up to them to stop it.

"We know teams are going come in and run on us," he said. "It's evident because we put ourselves in that position. We've got to man up. They're going to run it straight down the middle and we've got to come through and stop him."

Behind the fresh legs of rookie tailback Doug Martin, the Bucs offense has found new life. After starting 1-3, the Bucs are 5-1 in their last six games, including winning four straight. In those six games, Martin has averaged 125 yards on the ground, including a Week 9 performance of 251 yards. He has an element of duality to his game because he's also dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield, but Moore thinks he's primarily a threat as a runner.

In fact, Moore compares this rookie to the last rookie running back to come in and take over games in the NFL.

"I'm going to be honest," he said, "that's one of the best performances from a rookie I've seen since Adrian Peterson. Every snap, he's full speed."

The explosive play is what they're aiming to prevent Martin from dialing up. He's had a run of 20 or more yards in five of the last six games, and the big play has been killer this season against Atlanta's run defense. That's what they expect to begin cutting down on starting this weekend.

"That one play is always killing us," Moore said. "That explosive run. We've got to tackle better. Everybody's been in position to miss tackles. We've got to eliminate that one big play. Nine times out of ten it will be huge possessions. We've got to stop that."