Falcons made stopping Bucs' Doug Martin top priority
Bucs RB Doug Martin has taken the NFL by storm in recent weeks, so much so hardly anyone still bats an eye when he puts up staggering numbers.
The Falcons took note. They made stopping Martin their No. 1 priority, and Atlanta arguably did it better than any team this season.
Tampa Bay’s rookie of the year candidate scored two touchdowns but was limited to 50 yards on 21 carries for his lowest average of the season (2.4 yards per carry), leaving the Bucs in difficult down-and-distance situations throughout the game.
“(Martin) is an outstanding running back that had over 1,000 yards coming into this game,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We knew it was going to be one of our ‘musts’ and I thought we did a nice job with our run defense. I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage. That is an outstanding running back.”
How did the Falcons pull it off?
They committed to stopping the run, playing defenders near the line of scrimmage, knowing Martin’s elusiveness and propensity for big plays.
“He’s a tough guy to tackle,” Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon said. “He’s like a big muscle.”
But the Falcons won the physical battle at the line of scrimmage and also used some tactical measures.
“They loaded the box and kind of did a lot outside of their tendencies,” QB Josh Freeman said. “I think all in all, when you contain a guy who is as explosive as Doug is, that’s saying a lot.”
Said LG Jeremy Zuttah: “They did some things pressure-wise that you have to kind of see and anticipate and we have to do a better job getting to the second level (and blocking).”
Martin entered the game with 1,000 yards, the NFL’s third-leading rusher. In his previous five games, Martin was averaging 135.4 rushing yards per game.