The Atlanta Falcons had an underrated bright spot in the victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. The Falcons found their running game. Of course, looking at the stat sheet might be deceiving. When your leading rusher only has 52 yards on 16 attempts, one might assume that the rushing attack was mediocre at best.
Mike Smith's new "running back by committee" approach was anything but mediocre. It was integral to crushing the defending Super Bowl champions.
Turner Takes Fresh Turn
Michael Turner might be the most scrutinized member of the 2012 Falcons. Many have speculated his time at the top is over. But Turner might be changing minds after his performance against the Giants. Granted, his 52 yards was far from spectacular. But how he got them was.
When Asante Samuel's first-quarter interception gave the Falcons great starting field position, the offense rode Turner into the end zone. Turner looked far more determined than at any other time this season. He ran with purpose. He broke tackles. He even made a few cuts. It was very, well, not like the 2012 version of Michael Turner.
There may have been a good reason for that.
An Ensemble, Not Supporting, Cast
Running back by committee essentially eliminates the idea of "starter" and "back up." Jacquizz Rodgers got nearly as many attempts (11) as Turner (16). While Rodgers had less than half the yards (25), he paid huge dividends in the passing. And not just his lone reception for 14 yards.
The additional carries by Rodgers put the Giants and future opponents on notice. Defenses can no longer predict pass/run ratio based on the personnel package. Matt Ryan seemed to take advantage of this early and often in the Giants game. Expect the trend to continue as the postseason draws near.
Turner, Rodgers and Jason Snelling all made the most of their touches. All three seemed faster and more determined.
Every Carry Important
There may have been a good reason each running back seemed inspired on every carry. And not just because of the game's importance.
The new committee approach means every carry is precious. Players do not know how many times they will touch the ball during the game. They do know, however, they will get plenty of rest during the game.
This mix of fresh legs and making every carry count provides a spark that will go unnoticed on a stat sheet. The Falcons' three running backs combined for only 116 yards. While more than enough during the rout of the Giants, those numbers pale when compared to Adrian Peterson's 212-yard performance on the same day.
For the Falcons, that is good news. With only two games left before the playoffs, the Falcons need a sense of unpredictability, not instability. The new rushing attack might provide just that.