No NFL running back fared better in Week 3 than Atlanta's Devonta Freeman. Not coincidentally, fullback Patrick DiMarco turned in a performance that was nothing short of dominant.
While the Falcons' offensive linemen did a great job neutralizing Dallas' DL, the Cowboys' linebackers, an objectively talented group, needed to be cancelled out for Freeman to break open as often as he did. If not for DiMarco's stellar blocking, it would have been extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for Freeman to find lots of space and gain significant yardage.
"He's somebody that we count on a lot," Dan Quinn said of DiMarco. "I think two of the adjectives or words that help me describe Patrick DiMarco are smart and tough. Those two things go a long way as a player. He knows where to be and he's physical when he does it. He's a really important guy to us."
There are plenty of instances that showcase the 26-year-old's positive impact in Dallas—including Freeman's first TD, when he bulldozed Kyle Wilber. Although this is far from the most illustrious clip, I want to focus on a seven-yard gain at the beginning of the second quarter.
Why? Because it's one of many examples of Atlanta RBs moving downfield by sprinting to the right end, and doing so because of DiMarco.
According to NFL Game Stats and Information, the Falcons have called 22 runs to the right end in 2015, more than anyone else in the league, and are gaining an average of 4.55 yards on those plays. Ryan Schraeder, who has the fifth-best run block grade on Pro Football Focus among qualifying RTs, is certainly helping—as is DiMarco, who sports a run block grade more than three-times higher than any other fullback.
On this snap, Atlanta's offensive linemen, along with TE Levine Toilolo, counteract Dallas' push at the line of scrimmage as Matt Ryan prepares to hand the ball off. All three down linemen who could have realistically made a stop here—including Schraeder's man, who's completely overwhelmed—are blocked. This opens up a nice hole for Freeman; however, as you can see, LB Sean Lee's locked in and appears poised to make a big tackle. !
But DiMarco, without hesitation, lays his shoulder into Lee and gives Freeman the opportunity to cut right. !
Now, for the second time in a matter of seconds, Freeman has open space in front of him and sets the offense up for a second and short instead of a second and long. !
When your linemen and fullback play fundamentally sound football in a wide zone offense, it's easy for a fast, shifty RB with good vision to have a big day. And that's exactly what happened against the Cowboys.