Falcons vs Giants: Tevin Coleman could determine outcome


One of the keys for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday against the New York Giants will be Tevin Coleman. The rookie received a heavy workload on debut, and he impressed. In a game featuring two talented offenses, the Falcons’ ability to run the football will be crucial.

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The appeal of this game is to see Julio Jones take on Odell Beckham, and seeing how Matt Ryan performs opposite Eli Manning, but one of the true key matchups is between Coleman and a shaky Giants run defense. Last season they allowed 2,162 yards on the ground, which was the third-most in the NFL. At an average of 135.1 rushing yards per game, it was the Giants’ Achilles heel which led to a 6-10 finish.

Despite that, the unit started well last week against the Cowboys. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combined for just 80 rushing yards, but was this excellent defense or the fact Dallas hasn’t replaced DeMarco Murray? The jury is still out on that one, but you have to give credit nonetheless to a defense that was able to shutdown a run game behind the league’s best offensive line.

Maybe they have turned a corner and have become a strong run-stopping defense. But the Falcons should put this to the test early and often. Coleman rushed 20 times against the Eagles for 80 yards and flashed a lot of potential. The Philadelphia defense felt like a less favorable matchup for the rookie, but he performed well.

Banged up defense

The Giants’ defensive line is banged up right now. There will of course be no Jason-Pierre Paul who is yet to return from a serious hand injury, but the injuries have been piling up. Middle linebacker Jon Beason is doubtful with a knee injury after practicing in a limited fashion this week. Rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa is out with a foot injury, and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn is out with a knee injury. If nothing else, missing these two hurts the Giants’ rotation.

Jonathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins will likely be the two responsible for controlling the Falcons’ run game. Hankins is coming off an exceptional year in which he stuffed 30 runs. With the unit around him though, Atlanta can have some success moving the ball on the ground.

Control the clock

Getting Coleman going allows the Falcons to control the clock. As I wrote earlier this week, winning the time of possession battle is crucial. Not only does it give the Giants’ talented offense less time on the field to score points, but it also means more time for the defense to rest and the New York defense to stay on the field. Still early in the season, long periods of time on the field can be draining for a defense and can open up opportunities on offense.

The Eagles did this in the second half last week. With their fast-paced offense finding its groove, they wore down the Falcons defense and began to move the ball at ease. Coleman can help Atlanta do the same to New York.

Open up the play-action

But it’s not all about killing time and grinding down the defense. When successfully running the ball, the play-action pass can be brought into play. Atlanta had a lot of success with this last week, particularly in the middle of the field. The Philadelphia linebackers bit on the fake handoff and in the split second it took them to adjust, Julio Jones or Roddy White had steamed past for a deep pass.

The Falcons need to establish the run early and force the Giants to respect it. If they struggle to make a stop, an extra defender will be brought into the box. If that happens, take those favorable matchups downfield and utilize the play-action.

Coleman’s presence will be key in determining the outcome of the game. The Falcons will need to run the ball with the rookie to control the tempo and wear down the defense, but also to open up passing opportunities downfield.

You can find all of the Falcons-Giants coverage here.

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