FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn't single anyone out individually, but he certainly made it clear that a portion of the team's run-game issues can be attributed to poor blocking.
Last Sunday against the Cardinals, the Falcons managed just 27 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Matt Ryan had the longest rush of 13 yards, while Steven Jackson managed just 6 yards on 11 carries in his return from a hamstring injury.
The team's dismal performance was preceded by an 18-rush, 18-yard effort against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's no wonder the Falcons enter this week with the league's worst rushing offense, averaging just 62.4 yards per game. By contrast, NFL rushing leader San Francisco averages 153 rushing yards per contest.
"It's on all of us," Koetter said of the run-game woes. "We've got to give our backs a chance. If you're going to run the football, we've got to give them good design in the run game. We've got to give them good design of what the plays are. And, at the point of attack, we've got to move somebody.
"And that cannot only be the O-line, it could be the tight end, it could be the fullback. It could be a wide receiver at the point of attack on a DB. But we've got to give our backs a chance. Second thing is, we can't get behind. In the second half, that takes you out of your run game."
The Falcons had hoped Jackson would inject life back into the run game after he averaged 7.0 yards per carry in the season opener. Jackson was happy to return to the field, but was far from pleased with his showing. He was dropped for a loss on two of his first three carries. On those plays, it appeared as if tackles Lamar Holmes and Jeremy Trueblood lost their one-on-one matchups, resulting in loss yardage.
Koetter was asked to assess Jackson's performance coming off the injury.
"It's just not fair to say because he didn't really get a chance," Koetter said. "Steven's a proven player. He's a proven player in this league. That question would be best asked of him. He knows that himself better than anyone."
Koetter knows the Falcons have to get the running game going Sunday at Carolina to give the offense some balance. Statistics show they have had the most success running off right tackle, with an average gain of 5.2 yards in that direction.
But getting the running game started against Carolina won't be an easy task. The Panthers, behind linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, boast the league's second-ranked run defense, allowing just 79.3 rushing yards per game.
"They have two outstanding linebackers," Koetter said. "The leading tackler in the NFL a year ago in the middle linebacker (Kuechly), and Thomas Davis is playing the best that I've seen him."