Lately the Falcons have put a stop to the run defense conversation, improving in one of the areas they've struggled for much of the season. A heightened focus on it heading into Tampa helped limit the Bucs' dynamic young rookie back Doug Martin to 50 yards. Last week, the Falcons gave up 101 yards to the Saints, but they minimized the damage with five interceptions on defense.
Around the same time the Falcons started to improve that run defense, over in Carolina, Cam Newton was bringing back the running dynamic in his dangerous game as a mobile quarterback. In the last two weeks, he's lead the team in rushing yards in both games and in Week 11, he had 40 of the team's 97 yards. It's no secret that Newton can and will run from under center and this season he's carrying the Panthers' running game, leading the team with 594 yards on the ground.
Earlier this week he said he didn't see why they couldn't repeat their performance on the ground from earlier this season against the Falcons. In Week 4, Newton and the Panthers churned out 199 yards on the ground, losing by the slimmest of margins, 30-28.
Any way you look at it, Newton's dangerous with the ball in his hands and the Falcons know that. Defending him against the run and the pass is of equal importance and it's a little different for a defense to defend a quarterback leading the team in rushing than a running back.
"We have our work cut out for us," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "It's totally different trying to stop a quarterback from running as opposed to a running back. It's a testament to his versatility and his ability to make plays for that offense. We'll have to make sure we're in tune with our formation tips and what gives away what they like to do."
The familiarity with the Panthers and Newton helps the Falcons out and they expect him to run the ball and possibly continue to lead the team's single-game rushing efforts.
DeCoud expects a plan centered on anticipating and stopping Newton beating them with his legs.
"A more simple game plan (is what we'll use) and be really in tune with certain down-and-distance keys that can tip off what they're going to try to do," the safety said.