4 Reasons Doug Martin and the Bucs Will Plow Through the Falcons Defense
It doesn't matter what defense is across the field from Doug Martin. No team can stop the Muscle Hamster. Not even the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons.
In what has been a surprising season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have won four in a row and will host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday for a chance to cut the lead in the NFC South down to two games.
An amazing turnaround for a team that went went 4-12 last season and fired head coach Raheem Morris.
After losing three out of four early in the season, they have rebounded to win four in a row. Now the high-flying 9-1 Atlanta Falcons are coming to town with MVP candidate Matt Ryan.
However, they've had their own troubles the past couple weeks on both sides of the ball. Matt Ryan has been struggling with his reads and threw five picks last week, and the defense has failed to contain rushers.
This opens the window a bit for the Bucs to steal a win at home behind the legs of the rookie from Boise State.
Drafting him with the 31st pick in the first round, the Bucs had high hopes for the Boise State standout, but they had no way of knowing how good he would actually become.
Doug Martin is the first back this year to force 50 missed tackles from scrimmage.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 20, 2012
Martin will have no trouble going through the Falcon defense because of his ability to force missed tackles.
Because of that he has been able to make big play after big play in both the running and passing game.
He has gained 766 total yards from scrimmage in the past four weeks. That's nearly 200 yards a week.
According to FootballOutsiders.com, there have only been four running backs with more value than Doug Martin this season.
The statistic DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) gives the value of the ball caught or ran compared to replacement level values.
What makes it more impressive is that Martin is ranked this high despite a slow start through the first six weeks of the season.
Martin will have little trouble shredding apart a Falcon defense that has struggled in recent weeks.
Soft Falcons Run Defense
Last week, it allowed 127 rushing yards on 22 carries (5.7 yards per rush) to the 29th-ranked rushing attack of the Arizona Cardinals.
A fluke, you say?
The week before, it also allowed 148 yards on 29 carries (5.1 yards per rush) to the 26th-ranked rushing offense of the New Orleans Saints.
This is starting to become a trend for the Falcons. Even though they have found ways to win, they've struggled to contain opposing rushers.
Up-and-coming linebacker Sean Witherspoon has been out since Week 8 with an ankle injury and he may be back this weekend to help shore up the defense.
If they were unable to stop the rushing "attacks" of LaRod Stephens-Howling and Mark Ingram, there's no way they'll be able to contain Doug Martin.
Threat of Passing Game
One of the reasons that Martin has found more running lanes is the increased threat of the vertical passing game.
Specifically, Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson.
You think Philip Rivers misses his No. 1 receiver right now? Or he's too busy throwing another pick?
Back to the Bucs' passing attack, Freeman has thrown for over 200 yards in seven straight games.
Most importantly, defenders have had to play his receivers as if they can actually run by them and catch the ball.
Last year, Freeman struggled immensely with accuracy and poor receiver play.
This year, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson have had consistent success getting off the line of scrimmage and making big plays.
Vincent Jackson is averaging 20.5 yards per catch and has become the big-play receiver the Bucs had hoped for when they signed him as a free-agent.
Because of the fact that teams can't load the box with eight or nine defenders to stop the run, Martin will have plenty of room to roam.
Even if they did, Martin has the ability to catch the ball and turn down the field faster than you can say Hamster.
Greg Schiano should be right in the middle of any Coach of the Year conversation in the NFL this year.
However, the one mystifying aspect of his coaching this season was his reliance on LeGarrette Blount. As all good coaches do, however, Schiano has made an adjustment and veered away from giving the ball to the plodding back out of Oregon.
This season, Blount is averaging 3.4 yards per carry and was poaching most of the goal-line attempts. Needless to say, he was never really successful.
After his combined 14 yards on 13 carries in the New Orleans and Minnesota game, he has had just three rushing attempts in his past two games.
The game plan has gone from giving the ball to Blount on the goal-line and on third downs to having Martin be the proverbial bell-cow running back.
That is bad, bad news for the Atlanta Falcons as they'll be forced to contain Doug Martin every down for the whole game.