Inside Running Helps Falcons Beat Panthers

Given the speed of the Panthers' defense and how well their linebackers move laterally, it can be difficult for opposing offenses, even those with Pro Bowl RBs, to rush the ball to the outside.

It doesn't take a long list of stats or a highlight strip to understand why. Luke Kuechly is as good as any MLB in the NFL; Thomas Davis is no slouch, either, and is one of the best 4-3 OLBs in tackling efficiency against the run. Then there's Kurt Coleman, owner of the third-best run stop percentage among starting safeties, and

Overall, the Panthers have surrendered just 89.2 rushing yards per game in 2015—good for fifth in the league.

This strength could have been problematic on Sunday for the Falcons, whose ground attack is largely dangerous because of Kyle Shanahan's outside-zone blocking scheme. And, to an extent, it was: Devonta Freeman took only six combined handoffs to the left and right ends in Week 16.

But Atlanta was able to mitigate this issue by focusing more on pounding the rock inside, which allowed Freeman to steadily rack up 72 yards and, in turn let the Falcons maintain the kind of offensive balance needed to beat such a talented foe.

"We definitely game planned for them," said fullback Patrick DiMarco. "They're a good defense, so you have to find your space to take advantage. We weren't super explosive with the run, but we stayed on the field and did what we needed to do to get a win."

Freeman was especially successful when running behind Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder, where he gained 32 yards on six carries—a 5.3 average. With 6:18 left in the fourth quarter, Freeman gave Atlanta a first down by sprinting between Chester and Schraeder for 12 yards. Because those two laid down solid blocks and Mike Person got to the second level to cut off a LB, the Falcons were able to move past midfield and, eventually, get into field goal range.

"I have to said it would be (our most balanced game)," Quinn said about the rematch against Carolina. "The balance on offense, the run/pass part of it … For that part, collectively, to play at our best, that's the style we want to play."

Holding their own at the line of scrimmage was crucial for the Falcons, who struggled to do so when they got blown out in Charlotte. By establishing a productive run game to complement Matt Ryan's stellar outing, the offense was able to do enough to pull off an improbable upset.

"Our coaches made the right adjustments," said Schraeder. "Our mindset as far as we were going to execute changed. Obviously we had a chip on our shoulder. We were upset about the last game against those guys, and we had a chance to change that. And we did."

Given the speed of the Panthers' defense and how well their linebackers move laterally, it can be difficult for opposing offenses, even those with Pro Bowl RBs, to rush the ball to the outside.

It doesn't take a long list of stats or a highlight strip to understand why. Luke Kuechly is as good as any MLB in the NFL; Thomas Davis is no slouch, either, and is one of the best 4-3 OLBs in tackling efficiency against the run. Then there's Kurt Coleman, owner of the third-best run stop percentage among starting safeties, and

Overall, the Panthers have surrendered just 89.2 rushing yards per game in 2015—good for fifth in the league.

This strength could have been problematic on Sunday for the Falcons, whose ground attack is largely dangerous because of Kyle Shanahan's outside-zone blocking scheme. And, to an extent, it was: Devonta Freeman took only six combined handoffs to the left and right ends in Week 16.

But Atlanta was able to mitigate this issue by focusing more on pounding the rock inside, which allowed Freeman to steadily rack up 72 yards and, in turn let the Falcons maintain the kind of offensive balance needed to beat such a talented foe.

"We definitely game planned for them," said fullback Patrick DiMarco. "They're a good defense, so you have to find your space to take advantage. We weren't super explosive with the run, but we stayed on the field and did what we needed to do to get a win."

Freeman was especially successful when running behind Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder, where he gained 32 yards on six carries—a 5.3 average. With 6:18 left in the fourth quarter, Freeman gave Atlanta a first down by sprinting between Chester and Schraeder for 12 yards. Because those two laid down solid blocks and Mike Person got to the second level to cut off a LB, the Falcons were able to move past midfield and, eventually, get into field goal range.

"I have to said it would be (our most balanced game)," Quinn said about the rematch against Carolina. "The balance on offense, the run/pass part of it … For that part, collectively, to play at our best, that's the style we want to play."

Holding their own at the line of scrimmage was crucial for the Falcons, who struggled to do so when they got blown out in Charlotte. By establishing a productive run game to complement Matt Ryan's stellar outing, the offense was able to do enough to pull off an improbable upset.

"Our coaches made the right adjustments," said Schraeder. "Our mindset as far as we were going to execute changed. Obviously we had a chip on our shoulder. We were upset about the last game against those guys, and we had a chance to change that. And we did."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising