Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 298d

Steve Sarkisian looking for Falcons to stay in the running

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As Steve Sarkisian reflected on what went right last week against Green Bay, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator pointed to two plays, in particular.

Neither involved a pass.

"I think Tevin's run, when we were a little bit backed up, to pop out the back door was a really key play for us," Sarkisian said of Tevin Coleman's 35-yard run from his own 9-yard line in the second quarter. "And then coming out of halftime, the first play to [Devonta] Freeman down the far sideline there [for 17 yards]. When we can get that -- and you felt the speed of those guys getting to the edge -- when we can get that offensively, that sure makes a lot of the other stuff we like to do a lot easier to make come alive."

The Falcons ran for 141 yards on 27 carries, with two rushing touchdowns for Freeman, in a 34-23 win over the Packers. That was after managing just 64 rushing yards on 23 carries in the opener at Chicago.

"I think for us, everything we do starts with our run game," Sarkisian said. "When our run game is really going, that helps our play-action pass. That helps our receivers and, you know, might minimize a little of the double coverage."

Getting the running game established in Detroit this Sunday is sure to be a challenge. The Lions have allowed just 53.5 rushing yards per game over the first two games, surrendering only 2.97 yards per rush. They swarmed one of the league's top running backs, Arizona's David Johnson, in the opener by attacking Johnson's run up the middle with physical interior defensive linemen such as veteran nose tackle Haloti Ngata. They also ran down Johnson on the edges with defenders swarming from all directions. But the Lions could be without top tackler Jarrad Davis as the rookie first-round pick is coming off a concussion.

The biggest key for the Falcons, both in establishing the run off the outside zone and protecting quarterback Matt Ryan in pass plays, could be the right side of the offensive line. There is a good chance the Falcons could be without starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder, who missed the past two days of practice while in the concussion protocol. That would leave newcomer Ty Sambrailo, traded from Denver in exchange for a fifth-round pick, as Schraeder's replacement next to first-year starting right guard Wes Schweitzer, who struggled in the season opener.

Sambrailo was solid filling in for Schraeder against the Packers, but the Lions, with Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata and Co. pose quite a challenge up front. The Falcons might have to leave their tight ends in there to help that side of the line.

"I think we're prepared to help Ty and Wes whenever we need to help them," Sarkisian said. "We know we're facing a talented front. That being said, we got a great challenge last week. Ty stepped in, not having been here very long, stepping in here having to block Clay Matthews all night, that's a heck of a challenge. I thought he did a really good job for stepping in in that short amount of time.

"Now he's in the system. He's had another week to really work with our 1s, to work with Matt, to be part of Matt and Alex [Mack's] cadence and those mechanisms. So, I expect Ty to come out and perform well. He's an athletic guy. But whether it's Ty, whether it's Jake [Matthews], whether it's the interior, we're prepared to help wherever we need to help based on if we struggled anywhere up front in this game."

^ Back to Top ^