FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta's performance in its 38-14 win at Washington was a prime example of the belief and trust that the players and coaching staff have in each other.
It was Brotherhood 101.
Despite all of the ups and downs of the first seven weeks of the season, the Falcons used the bye week to reset and came out with a dominating performance in the nation's capital.
Everything seemed to click against the Redskins. Matt Ryan was, once again, masterful. The offensive and defensive lines commanded the line of scrimmage. The running game found its footing. And Julio Jones, well, Julio did Julio'd.
There was a lot of attention paid to the running game in the lead up to the trip to Washington. Going into the game, the Falcons were averaging 88.3 yards per game, which ranked 30th in the league. Meanwhile, the Redskins ranked second against run, allowing a meager 80.1 yards per game. The Falcons only eclipsed 100 yards in their Week 2 win over the Carolina Panthers and only averaged better than 4.0 yards per carry twice.
On top of the statistical disadvantage, Atlanta is without starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco as well as Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman. Despite these struggles and seemingly long odds, the Falcons have maintained a commitment to running the ball and making teams defend a balanced offense.
The Falcons attempted at least 20 rushes in all but one game leading into Week 9. They also sat at the bottom of the rankings with 28 rushes for negative yards, but the commitment to running the ball paid dividends against the Redskins. Atlanta broke out of its rut, racking up 154 yards on 24 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run from Ito Smith.
The performance marked the second time the Falcons have run for 150-plus yards this season – both wins. Atlanta averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which is the highest mark the team has recorded since the final regular-season game of the 2016 season when the Falcons put up 6.5 yards per carry against New Orleans. Atlanta's 154 rushing yards are the most by a team against Washington this season and added nearly 10 yards to the Redskins' average.
Not a bad day at the office for the run game.
Tevin Coleman ran 13 times for 88 yards, doing the most of his damage running to the left of the Falcons offensive line. Coleman logged 70 yards on eight carries running behind Jake Matthews and Wes Schweitzer, including 47 yards on five carries outside of the left tackle. Smith picked up more than half his yardage, including his score, running to the left guard.
The duo combined for five explosive runs – rushes of 10-plus yards – and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Even rookie wideout Calvin Ridley got in on the action, taking one carry for 6 yards. Seven of Coleman's 13 runs and half of Smith's went for five or more yards.
Remember all those negative runs from earlier in the year? Zero against the Redskins.
Among running backs that logged at least 10 carries in Week 9, Coleman and Smith ranked third and fourth in yards per carry. Coleman's explosiveness shined as he averaged 5.6 yards gained before a defender was able to close to within a yard of him. He reached at least 15 miles per hour on five of his runs and eclipsed 20 mph on one run.
Coleman doesn't wait around to get up to speed, either. The fourth-year runner hit the line of scrimmage 2.48 seconds after the snap at an average of 12.36 mph, the second fastest of any running back last week. He also showed off his ability to finish runs, gaining an additional 1.2 yards after defenders closed within a yard of him.
Following the game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn cited winning at the line of scrimmage as one of the keys to Atlanta's success. On Coleman's runs, the Falcons faced 6.9 defenders in the box but they matched that with 6.7 blockers in the box.
Meanwhile, Smith saw an average of 6.8 defenders in the box at the snap and the Falcons countered with 6.8 blockers. Atlanta literally put a hat on a hat and allowed Coleman and Smith to make plays with the ball in their hands.
Julio finds the end zone
Our long national nightmare is over. Julio Jones scored a touchdown and it happened in the perfect Julio Jones way as he took a short wide receiver screen and raced 35 yards to the end zone to seal Atlanta's victory.
Let's take a look at some of the Next Gen Stats behind his long-awaited first score.
The Falcons lined up in a three-tight end set with Smith in the backfield. Washington countered the heavy set with nine defenders in the box, cornerback Josh Norman lined up over Jones and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix as the single deep defender. Prior to the snap, Jones moved out wider and tight end Austin Hooper shifted across the formation from left to right.
At the snap, Ryan faked a toss to Smith while Jones bluffed a deeper route to create space. Ryan then threw to Jones over the head of the free rushing defender. Tackle Jake Matthews and guard Wes Schweitzer sealed Norman and S D.J. Swearinger and Jones was off to the races, breaking a tackle attempt from Clinton-Dix before scoring.
Jones covered a total of 46.74 yards on the play and reached a top speed of 19.74 mph. In 1.97 seconds from snap to throw, Ryan dropped back 1.59 yards and the ball traveled 14.1 yards. With Norman lined up 1.4 yards away at the snap, Jones was able to create 4.10 yards of separation by the time the pass arrived, giving himself room to run and giving Matthews time to set up his block.
Matthews and Schweitzer showed some impressive speed of their own clocking 11.82 mph and 13.09 mph, respectively. Schweitzer also covered 31.28 total yards on the play. The two offensive linemen getting out and get their blocks was all Jones needed to race to the end zone.