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Atlanta Falcons RB Tevin Coleman breaks through

By
The Sports Xchange
Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) scores against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a 6-yard pass during the second half of an NFL game on October 14 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman (26) scores against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a 6-yard pass during the second half of an NFL game on October 14 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

The Falcons entered Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals with zero rushing plays of at least 40 yards all season.

Tevin Coleman took care of that by himself with two such runs in Atlanta's 40-14 win over the Cardinals in the final home game of the season.

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The fourth-year player out of Indiana set his career high in rushing yards on his eighth carry of the game. In total, he finished with 145 rushing yards on 11 carries with one touchdown, and the Falcons as a team had 215 rushing yards.

"It was just a lot of energy out there," said Coleman. "The guys came out with energy, I came out with energy, and they got on their blocks and were able to make holes for me."

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The bulk of the yards came in the first quarter, where Coleman finally broke the streak of the Falcons not gaining 40 yards on a rushing play when he found a hole off right tackle and went for a career-long 65-yard run in the first quarter.

"We were working that play in practice, and it looked just like it did in practice," said Coleman on the 65-yard run. "It was a really good play, a real good block by the offense."

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Atlanta had 70 rushing yards in the first quarter, almost matching their season average of 81.2 rushing yards per game. The Falcons went past that mark early in the second quarter, and Matt Ryan got in on the rushing act by pushing through from the 1-yard line for a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

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Coleman cemented his strong showing with another run of 40-plus yards. He ran behind tackle Jake Matthews for a 43-yard touchdown to put the Falcons up 33-7 and end any chance of an Arizona comeback.

"That was impressive, the way we ran the football today," said Ryan. "I think when you go against an aggressive defense like Arizona's, if you can hold up in the front seven and put your backs in space on their secondary, you have some opportunities for explosive run plays and our backs and offensive line and wide receivers did a great job of creating those lanes against some tough looks."

Coleman cemented his strong showing with a second one of those elusive 40-plus-yard runs and he ended any chance of a comeback when he ran behind Jake Matthews for a 43-yard run to put the Falcons up 33-7.

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Ito Smith got in on the fun with 34 yards on nine carries for himself, proving more and more that he could be a viable backup running back for the Falcons next season if Coleman doesn't get a contract extension. Even Mohamed Sanu was able to take advantage of the holes the offensive line was creating to rush for 11 yards out of the "12 gauge" on the opening snap of the fourth quarter.

Even if it was against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, this was the best game Atlanta's offensive line played all season. The Falcons had more rushing yards in this game than they had against the Ravens, Steelers, and the two games against the Saints combined.

"I thought Tevin (Coleman), his ability to get on edge was going to be an important factor in this game where we could find some space to circle the defense," said head coach Dan Quinn. "They have got an aggressive group, safeties, linebackers, the way we play, so we knew we would have to try to get the ball outside on the perimeter, and I thought Ito (Smith) provided some tough yards inside, as well."

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This is the kind of game the Falcons have been craving all season. It was the highest rushing output for the Falcons since their Week 3 win in 2016 against the Saints.

There are still a lot of questions about what the Falcons will have on the offensive line next season. Andy Levitre and Ryan Schrader might both be gone next year, and Atlanta will need to figure out how to put a wedge in the revolving door at right guard since Chris Chester retired.

But for now, the Falcons got a glimpse into exactly what they were hoping for when the season started. Atlanta scored 40 points for the first time since the NFC Championship Game two seasons ago, and can look forward to seeing the running success carry over into the final two weeks of the season against Carolina and Tampa Bay.

--RB Ito Smith hurt his knee on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Coach Dan Quinn said Smith did not injury his ACL, but will require surgery that will prevent him from playing in the final two games.

--QB Matt Ryan completed 22 of 36 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 98.3. He ran for a touchdown, giving him a career-high three, and reached 30 passing touchdowns for the third season.

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--LB Deion Jones intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. It was his third pick-six since 2016, tied for the most in the NFL with Eddie Jackson during that stretch.

--TE Austin Hooper did not play against the Cardinals. His status will be re-evaluated later in the week

--DE Bruce Irvin had 1.5 sacks against Arizona. Since 2016, he is tied for the third-most sacks in the NFL during December. He has 9.0 sacks during that time, trailing only Khalil Mack (10.5) and Denico Autry (10.0). He has 2.5 sacks since joining the Falcons.

--DB Brian Poole had six tackles (five solo), an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery. He became the sixth player in the NFL and the only cornerback to have a sack, interception and fumble record in a single game.

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