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Eric Goska column: Falcons aren't in a rush to run

Dec. 7, 2013
 
Atlanta has 237 rushing attempts this season and is one of only two teams — along with Dallas (249) — with less than 250.
Atlanta has 237 rushing attempts this season and is one of only two teams — along with Dallas (249) — with less than 250. / Getty Images

In No Rush

Teams that averaged fewer than 20.5 rushing attempts per game in a season.

Avg. (Att.)TeamRecord
19.0 (304)2006 Lions3-13
19.6 (313)1999 Browns2-14
19.8 (237)2013 Falcons3-9
19.9 (318)1989 Falcons3-13
20.0 (320)2010 Cardinals5-11
20.1 (322)1992 Falcons6-10
20.3 (324)2007 Lions7-9
20.4 (327)2004 Raiders5-11

More

Perhaps the Packers will catch a break.

Green Bay has been overrun in recent weeks but today hosts Atlanta, a team that utilizes its running game sparingly. The Falcons so infrequently call on their backfield, they have a chance to become one of the most reluctant runners in NFL history.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Falcons were among the busiest and most productive in the business. They led the NFC in number of attempts five times (2002, 2004-06, 2008) and led the NFL in rushing yards three times (2004-06).

Times have changed. Atlanta has 237 rushing attempts this season and is one of only two teams — along with Dallas (249) — with less than 250.

That might be welcome news for the Packers, who have ceded a lot of real estate in their last two outings.

The Vikings and Lions certainly took what they wanted. They manhandled the Packers to a degree not seen in Green Bay in quite some time.

The Vikings (43) and Lions (43) ran 86 times. Not since the Patriots (40) and Seahawks (48) combined for 88 rushes in late November 2006 had a Green Bay defense been tested so often.

Minnesota (13) and Detroit (14) combined for 27 first downs rushing. The Packers hadn’t given up that many in consecutive weeks since the Bengals and Lions got 28 in early October 1986.

The Vikings (232) and Lions (241) piled up 473 yards. Not since early December 1980, when the Bears (267) and Oilers (257) proved virtually unstoppable in staking out 524 yards had the Packers yielded so much.

Perhaps most troubling were the many runs of 10 or more yards the Packers surrendered. Minnesota (10) and Detroit (8) racked up the most in a two-game span against Green Bay since the Colts (3) and Bears (16) earned 19 in the middle of the 1955 season.

The Packers shouldn’t be gouged to that extent today.

Atlanta has run fewer than 20 times on six occasions. That’s a league low matched only by the Cowboys and Dolphins.

Only twice have the Falcons managed more than 25 attempts. That’s an NFL low.

With so little activity, Atlanta could become just the fourth team in NFL history to average fewer than 20 attempts in one season. The team might join the 1989 Falcons (3-13), the 1999 Browns (2-14) and the 2006 Lions (3-13) as those most reticent to run.

Just two players have carried more than 36 times for the Falcons this season. In the first five games, Jacquizz Rodgers shouldered the load with 52 rushes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. In the past six games, Steven Jackson has produced 262 yards and three touchdowns on 83 trips.

Jackson is the only Falcon with more than 20 carries in a game, that coming in the team’s most recent outing, a 34-31 overtime win against the Bills in Toronto. Atlanta has not had any 100-yard rushers.

The Falcons tend to run more in first halves of games (133 attempts) than after halftime (104). Furthermore, they stick with their ground game more on the road (128) than at home (109).

Given that and the Packers’ recent struggles, it would not be a surprise if Jackson’s number was called more often than usual, especially early at Lambeau Field. After all, Green Bay has allowed more rushing yards over consecutive games than all but the Bears this season.

Regular-season series

Overall: Packers lead 13-12.

At Lambeau Field: Green Bay leads 4-3.

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Matt Flynn (1-3 overall; 0-0 vs. Atlanta).

Falcons: Matt Ryan (59-31; 2-1 vs. Green Bay).

Once a Falcon, now a Packer

There are no former Falcons on the Packers’ roster.

Once a Packer, now a Falcon

There are no former Packers on the Falcons’ roster.

aegoska@sbcglobal.net

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