Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Running backs Martin, Freeman will be in Bucs-Falcons spotlight

TAMPA — Quarterbacks have stolen the spotlight in the NFL. But in Sunday's Bucs-Falcons game at the Georgia Dome, the most exciting plays are likely to happen after Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston simply turn and hand off the ball.

The game will feature the NFL's Nos. 1 and 3 rushers: former Florida State star Devonta Freeman, who leads the league for the Falcons with 621 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and the Bucs' Doug Martin, who has 541 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

"It'll be a fun matchup," Martin said. "(Freeman) is an explosive back. I've seen tape on him while watching other film. It'll be a cool matchup."

A fourth-round draft pick in 2014, Freeman showed flashes as a rookie but took over as the Falcons' primary ball carrier this season. At 5 feet 8 and 208 pounds, he is a combination of speed and power. He also has 34 catches for 310 yards and a score.

"(He presents) problems in the backfield, out of the backfield, carrying the ball, catching the ball," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "(He's) just a good football player. He runs hard. He can make you miss. He can make you miss in tight quarters, so when he gets out, it's even harder."

Martin has resurrected his career in a contract year and returned to his rookie form, churning out three straight 100-yard rushing games.

"A lot of the things we are saying can be said about Doug Martin," Smith said. "Doug's having a heck of a year. … Two good running backs will be on the field."

Martin also has been a factor in the passing game, with 14 receptions for 129 yards and a score.

Sunday's game is a throwback to an era when watching running backs such as Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith were worth the price of admission.

"I think you look throughout the league, though, running backs are becoming more part of the offense and giving the offense a different dimension that maybe we haven't had in a while," Smith said.

INJURY UPDATE: WR Vincent Jackson (knee), defensive tackles Clinton McDonald (pectoral) and Tony McDaniel (groin), T Reid Fragel (concussion) and S Major Wright (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. G Logan Mankins was held out for a maintenance day but should return today. C Evan Smith had full participation.

The best news for the Bucs is that TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins practiced again on a limited basis. He has not played since injuring a shoulder in Week 2 at New Orleans.

"(Wednesday) in pads you could see a little bit more, even though he didn't do a lot," Lovie Smith said. "But no problems for the day. He was able to practice on a limited basis (Thursday), a non-padded practice. He can catch the ball, and he has fresh legs and all that, so we assumed we would see that."

The Falcons’ Devonta Freeman leads the league in rushing yards with 621. He has nine TDs.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

The Falcons’ Devonta Freeman leads the league in rushing yards with 621. He has nine TDs.

Running backs Martin, Freeman will be in Bucs-Falcons spotlight 10/29/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2015 10:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves


    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  2. Jameis Winston stats: How the Bucs QB performed under pressure


    Every quarterback's performance declines when he faces pressure from the defense.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston faced pressure on more than 30 percent of his pass plays last season. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Could Lightning deal for a defenseman today?


    Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been trying to further bolster his blueline, and he may have a chance to acquire one by tonight's first round of the NHL Draft.

    The Lightning is reportedly in on Travis Hamonic (Islanders), though New York is rumored to be asking for two-first round picks.
  4. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois


    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]