Seattle wanted to run the ball, Arthur Smith said after the Falcons 27-23 win over the Seahawks on Sunday, but so did the Falcons.
"And we were the last team standing," he added.
The challenge facing the Falcons this week is not dissimilar to last Sunday's postgame sentiment. Both Seattle and Atlanta wanted to establish the run, only one team did enough to really do so through four quarters. That same foregone conclusion carries over into this week, too.
- Inside Tori's Notebook: Kyle Pitts and A.J. Terrell standout in victory over Seahawks
- Tori's Takeaways: Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons offensive line make a statement in win over Seattle
- Bair Mail: On Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, A.J. Terrell and the Falcons pass rush
- Bair: How Falcons were able to outlast, overcome Seattle in effort to repeat in future
The difference this Sunday, though, is that Cleveland is a better rushing offense. It'll come as no surprise when both the Falcons and Browns attempt to pound the ball on the ground in this Week 4 matchup. If anything, it should be expected because of the offensive makeup of both teams.
"They're a very physical team with a really physical line," Smith said on Wednesday. "We like to think we're that way ourselves, but we have to go in there and battle on Sunday to prove it."
The Falcons - like the Browns - have seen success in the run game through the first three weeks of the season.
From the Falcons perspective: Cordarrelle Patterson is the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week following a 17-carry, 141-rushing yard performance against Seattle. The Falcons offensive line has helped Atlanta break the top-5 in a few rushing categories this year like a 49 percent rushing success rate (3rd), 26 rushing first downs (3rd) and 12 rushes for 10-plus yards (5th).
For an organization that has spent years looking to establish the run, these first three games of the 2022 season are a sign of the winds changing in Atlanta.
And this turn would be all well and good had Cleveland not been the leader in almost every rushing category in the league up to this point.
The Browns lead the league in rushing yards as well as time of possession. Let's make it clear, though, the Falcons aren't far behind.
Nick Chubb leads the league in rushing yards with 341 on 62 carries. He is currently averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Patterson is two spots below Chubb on the league's leaderboard, coming in as the third-leading rusher in the league with 302 rushing yards on 49 carries. He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
As a team, the Browns average five yards a carry. The Falcons? Right behind them at 4.9.
Cleveland has scored five rushing touchdowns. Atlanta? Four.
It's because of all of these stats combined that this Week 4 matchup between the Falcons and Browns is shaping up to be - as Smith said - "a heavyweight fight."
"They're going to try to grind you down," Smith said. "We have to be ready to go, especially in run defense. We have to tackle well. Arm tackles are not going to bring Chubb down. We have to be able to grind through this game."
As Smith explained, it's on both lines of scrimmage to keep the Falcons in step with the Browns rushing attack. The offense has to match - or surpass - the Browns production, while the defense has to limit it.
Someone who will play a role in this is also someone Smith said is helping the Falcons defense in a major way, but doing so subtly.
That someone is Ta'Quon Graham.
According to Smith, the role Graham plays across the defensive line is one that may go overlooked because he plays beside Grady Jarrett, but when it comes to Sunday's game, his fundamentals mean a lot to the Falcons defensive success.
"(It's) the way he's taking on blocks," Smith said. "It's the little things. The technique things that matter in the run game. Not getting turned. Not guessing... Leverage. Fundamentals. Being able to play good combination blocks. He's doing that really well."
Talking to Graham after Wednesday's practice, he said the Falcons are well aware of the challenge this Cleveland offense presents them this week.
"It's a big test," Graham said. "They're one of the best offensive lines in the league, arguably the best. I really feel like this is the biggest test that we could have."
Smith said the Falcons are looking to prove they're just as physical at the line of scrimmage as the Browns currently are. And that word? "Prove?" It's a word echoed in Graham's thoughts about the game, too.
"It is another opportunity to go out there and prove that we can do it," Graham said, "and prove that we're a talented d-line."
We take a monochrome look at the win over the Seattle Seahawks on September 25, 2022.