Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 356d

Falcons' Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman keep running as one

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn shared a story symbolic of the tight relationship between running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

"There was a great saying that Coleman had," Quinn recalled. "Freeman had a long run, and he really had a terrific finish on the play. ... One of the guys said, 'You better be ready to go get Freeman.' [Coleman] looked back at him and said, 'Not when he’s running like that.'

"I thought what a great and classy line of a teammate to say, 'We'd normally rotate, but you can tell when a guy is really feeling it.' The easy thing would have been to say, 'Yeah' and get in the rotation because we play them both quite a bit. He recognized as a running back, sometimes you have those moments when you want it again. I thought that right there is a brotherhood line. Although as much as Tevin wants to play, he recognized that his guy was really feeling it, and he knew."

The brotherhood between Freeman, the two time Pro-Bowl starter at $8.25 million per year, and Coleman, the backup set to make $680,000 in the third year of his rookie contract, is real. As the Falcons enter Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, they are 7-0 over the last three seasons whenever Freeman and Coleman combine for 200-plus total yards. They combined for 227 yards in last week's 30-26 win over the Detroit Lions.

Coleman was asked about having the unselfish mentality Quinn talked about.

"It's basically when Devonta gets rolling, when he gets hot, you don't want to take him out," Coleman said. "You want him to go in and keeping rolling and keeping getting them yards because he's hot right now. He got the juice. He's feeling it. You want him to keep rolling until he gets tired. That's just how we do it."

Freeman echoed those words from his perspective.

"That's just how me and Tevin is," Freeman said. "And we understand like once a running back is rolling and rolling, I feel like it's important to let that guy go. And me and Tevin understand that. If Tevin has big run, I'm like, 'Man, he might be tired a little bit, but he's got to go because he's hot right now. So let him stay in.' And vice versa with him.

"We understand how important a rhythm is in this league because once you get going, you get going. And once you kind of get cold, it's like, 'Ah, all right, let me figure out how to get back on again.' It's just all a process. But Coach [Quinn] just be looking out for us and making sure that we're staying fresh."

Through the first three games, Freeman has 52 rushes for 227 yards with four rushing touchdowns, tied for the most rushing scores in the league. He also has seven receptions for 50 yards. Meanwhile, Coleman has 20 carries for 104 yards without a rushing touchdown and nine receptions for 88 yards with a touchdown catch. Freeman played 116 of 185 offensive snaps in the first three games; Coleman 74 of 185.

We'll see how offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian uses his potent running back tandem against a tough Buffalo Bills defense that allows just 12.3 points per game and appears to be much tougher against the pass than the run. The Bills could get back talented defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who missed last week with an ankle injury.

Sarkisian said to have red-zone success, the Falcons have to run the ball effectively in that area. Freeman has nine rushes for 21 yards with four touchdowns and five first downs in the red zone. Coleman, who has just one rush for two yards in the red zone, surely wouldn't mind seeing Freeman get those red-zone touches if Freeman remains hot down there.

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