Red-hot Atlanta Falcons forging ahead in face of mounting injuries

By Guy Curtright, The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 26, 2017 at 9:02 PM
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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons hope to have two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman available for next Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, but now they have a key member of their defense in concussion protocol.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Falcons' top pass defender, sustained a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday's 34-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Making things worse, nickel cornerback Brian Poole had to leave the game in the second quarter with a lower-back injury for Atlanta (7-4).

"You hear us talk and use the word brotherhood, but that's exactly the style and attitude of what this game was," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "We had some guys go down defensively, had Tru go down and Poole go down. Some guys stepped in and made plays."

With Julio Jones having another banner game against the Buccaneers (4-7), the Falcons were able to overcome the loss of Trufant and Poole on defense.

Jones, who came in with just one touchdown, caught 12 passes for 253 yards and two scores.

The mammoth performance gave Jones two 90-game receiving milestones in the NFL. He has 563 catches, bettering Anquan Boldin's record of 558, and 8,649 yards, besting Lance Allworth's 8,502.

With Tevin Coleman taking up the slack, the Falcons haven't suffered on the ground in the absence of Freeman, who returned to practice on a limited basis Friday.

Coleman had 97 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries against the Bucs and the Falcons finished with 157 yards on the ground to complement 368 passing.

"We can't wait to get Free back," Quinn said. "We're especially pleased for Tevin today. He became a new dad very recently, two times in the same day, so we're really pumped for him for (this game) and for that moment."

Coleman had 83 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries after Freeman was hurt on the Falcons' second play against Dallas and added 43 yards and a TD on 20 carries at Seattle last Sunday.

Tampa Bay (4-7) came to Atlanta missing three starters, including quarterback Jameis Winston, and lost six players against the Falcons.

"We had a lot of players going in and out," head coach Dirk Koetter said.

Running back Doug Martin sustained a concussion, while right tackle Demar Dotson and center Ali Marpet left with knee injuries, all in the second quarter.

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (back), safety T.J. Ward (concussion) and cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) were hurt in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay may get Winston back for next Sunday's game at Green Bay. He has missed the past three games with a strained right shoulder.

"Not sure about him returning next week. That will be a doctor's call," Koetter said. "He will be evaluated (Monday)."

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