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Falcons finally get back in the running with Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith

LANDOVER, Md. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan couldn't stop smiling when asked about a 12-yard touchdown run by rookie Ito Smith in Sunday's 38-14 win against the Washington Redskins.

On the second-quarter play, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Smith followed a punishing block by Julio Jones, vaulted over one defender, then carried 6-5, 265-pound linebacker Preston Smith into the end zone.

"Ito's run for a touchdown was awesome," Ryan beamed. "It was impressive. I was able to kind of watch it from behind. And I didn't think he was scoring at first, and then he just kept going. It was cool to watch. He's a guy who continues to get better every time he touches the ball, every time he plays. And that's good for us. That's huge for us."

Establishing the run will be "huge" for the 4-4 Falcons for the remainder of the season if they hope to make a playoff surge. Every week, coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and Ryan have preached about the importance of having balance by establishing the running game, which helps set up play-action. Well, the Falcons found that balance against the Redskins with 24 rushes for 154 yards to pair with Ryan's 26 completions for 350 yards.

Tevin Coleman was the catalyst with 88 rushing yards on 13 carries, including a long run of 16 yards. Smith added 60 rushing yards on 10 carries, including his team-leading seventh rushing touchdown of the season. And they wore down a Redskins defense that ranked second in the league against the run prior to Sunday, allowing just 80.1 rushing yards per game.

"There was a commitment to spreading [the Redskins] out and kind of keeping them off-balance," Ryan said. "And I thought our run game, it kind of got going in the second quarter and then kept going through the remainder of the game. I thought it was a really good plan, a really good execution by our offensive line and running backs."

The Falcons, who have two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman on injured reserve right now following groin surgery, surpassed 100 rushing yards for just the second time in eight games. Their 6.4 yards per carry against the Redskins marked a season high.

The offensive line, with former backups Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland now starting at guard, did its part clearing holes. But center Alex Mack didn't want to take too much credit.

"They did a really great job of making 4-yard runs turn into 20-yard runs," Mack said of the backs. "They did a good job of reading the holes and setting us up. When you have a running back that can do explosive plays and make you look right, it's good for a lineman. They were able to set up our blocks. Their track, their path, how they read things can really set up our blocks and make us look good. So they did a good job of doing that."

Now the Falcons have to sustain that running game momentum going into next week's game at Cleveland against a Browns team that ranks in the bottom five in run defense. The Falcons still have three road NFC South games remaining against New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa Bay, and all three division foes surrender less than 100 rushing yards per game.

"Like I said, we just can't abandon the run game," receiver Julio Jones said. "Some days, it's going to be tough. Guys have good D-lines. And some games, it's going to be tough to pass the ball because teams have good DBs on the back end.

"When both of those things are going, we can lean on one another and just pick our times, our opportunities, when we want to go down the field or when we want to run the ball against somebody."