While NFL MVP favorite Matt Ryan may garner a lot of praise, it’s hard to overlook how successful the Atlanta Falcons have been running the ball against opposing defenses.
The team ranked fifth in the league in rushing this season (118.2 yards/game), which helped keep their opposition guessing with a balanced offense. This was a tremendous upgrade in production from where they were just two seasons ago, when they ranked 24th (93.6 yards/game).
The offensive line has improved, and the unit has developed into one of the best in the league. Furthermore, Matt Ryan and his downfield passing ability have helped the run game as well. But, most importantly, the success the Falcons have had on the ground stems from their two young running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The Falcons drew some criticism when they selected running backs in back-to-back years (2014 and 2015), but they clearly had a plan in place, and it’s working. Freeman and Coleman compliment each other perfectly, and having both of them allows the Falcons to match up against any type of defensive scheme. Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards (11 touchdowns) this season, and Coleman produced 520 rushing yards (eight touchdowns) on his own.
Looking at the above numbers, it’s clear the Falcons have a great running back tandem, and the Patriots will have their hands full in Sunday’s big game. Coleman spoke to reporters on Monday at Super Bowl 51 Opening Night, and said that he and Freeman comprise the best backfield tandem in the league.
Numbers never lie, and looking at their production this season, Coleman isn’t wrong. Both he and Freeman have gashed opposing defenses many different ways, and they’re a big reason why the Falcons have made it to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.