FLOWERY BRANCH – Second-year running back Devonta Freeman, who continued to provide a major spark for the Falcons’ offense, leads the NFL in rushing and rushing touchdowns.
Freeman has rushed for 621 yards on 131 carries and scored nine rushing touchdowns heading into the Monday Night Football game. Baltimore’s Justin Forsett trailed Freeman by 164 yards and Arizona’s Chris Johnson trailed by 176 yards.
“Devonta is doing a great job for us running the ball,” Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said.
Freeman rushed for 116 yards on 25 carries, which gave him this third straight game with at least 100 yards rushing.
He became the first Falcons running back to have three straight 100-yard game since Michael Turner accomplished the feat during Week 8 through 10 of the 2009 season.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn lauded Freeman’s consistency.
“I think it honestly jumps out in his technique as a running back,” Quinn said. “He honestly takes it one gap at a time.”
Freeman, who played behind Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers last season as a rookie, has been a perfect fit for the Falcons’ new outside-zone rushing attack.
“In our system, where he can take it outside, it could be an outside run, but we’ve seen plays with him where it can start outside, come back into a B gap or C gap, or even cut all of the way back,” Quinn said.
Freeman points to the play of the Falcons offensive line for helping gain his yards.
“They are always on the grind,” Freeman said after the game. “They always create phenomenal holes and I just have to finished up and execute.”
Freeman is not satisfied.
“I always want to do better,” Freeman said. “I feel myself getting better every day and every week.”
He doesn’t mind carrying the load for the offense, which is working out some glitches in the passing attack.
“We know what we can do,” Freeman said. “We know what we’re capable of. There are times when we get a three-and-out and we know that we are better than that. That’s causes frustration between us.”
In addition to running the football, Freeman has been a weapon in the passing game. He’s second on the team with 34 receptions for 310 yards and one touchdowns. He needs 69 yards against Tampa Bay to surpassed 1,000 all-purpose yards in just eight games.
“I think one of the things that we all talk about a lot is he can really catch it, too,” Quinn said. “He’s a real factor both in the run game and in the pass game.”
Against the Titans, the Falcons didn’t give Freeman the ball on a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. Fullback Patrick DiMarco was stopped on third down and Matt Ryan’s pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme was intercepted on fourth down.
“Through the (exhibition) season, I think we had four runs and a pass,” Quinn said. “On the last one we thought we had a good shot on the fullback play to get it. On the last one, we were expecting a certain coverage, and let’s give them credit, they took the coverage away that they had.
“The belief for Devonta, in terms of our mindset and what he can do, he’s a factor in everything. It would’ve been great to have that come back, but as we’re playing our goal-line offense there’s lots of ways to attack.”
Freeman, a laid back sort, will start to get more attention.
“I think he’s in a spot where he just loves to compete,” Quinn said. “As it comes down to it, it’s all going to be about this week, in terms of the things he wants to improve on in the run game.”
Quinn believes Freeman will handle the notoriety.
“We just try to put everything we can into this week and the preparation that goes into it, and not try to look too far down, but right in the middle of it,” Quinn said. “We all know that. We’re just seven games in. We’ve got so much football to play. It’s just right back to it this week.”