Freeman, Ward carry Falcons’ ground game with Coleman sidelined

October 30, 2016 ATLANTA: Falcons running back Terron Ward picks up a first down against the Packers during the second half in an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com
October 30, 2016 ATLANTA: Falcons running back Terron Ward picks up a first down against the Packers during the second half in an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Khadrice Rollins

krollins@ajc.com

Against the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, the Falcons picked their spots and were able to find some success on the ground when the time called for it.

In a 33-32 win Sunday, Atlanta (5-3) totaled 90 rushing yards against the Packers (4-3) and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. This was the second most rushing yards Green Bay allowed this season.

“That says a lot” running back Devonta Freeman said. “I feel like they’re very sound. They’re always where they need to be at. That just tells you we’re doing good in the run game and we just got to keep chopping and take a step further each week. Just try to get better.”

With running back Tevin Coleman inactive due to a hamstring injury, the majority of the workload fell in the lap of Freeman, who toted the rock 11 times for 35 yards and a touchdown to go along with four receptions for 23 yards and another score.

During the week the Falcons signed six-year veteran Stevan Ridley and promoted second-year man Terron Ward off their practice squad to help split carries. Despite having a package for Ridley, it was Ward who was used to complement Freeman throughout the game.

“We are proud of Terron, we knew he would step through,” coach Dan Quinn said. “We knew if his number was called that he would be ready. We have a lot of faith in him. He’s short, but he is not small. He knows how to lower his shoulder when the appropriate time comes. He’s a great competitor and he came through exactly how we thought.”

Ward had 46 yards on six carries including a 26-yard rush on Atlanta’s only drive in the third quarter. He also caught his lone pass of the game on that possession, a short dump off which he took 11 yards to the Green Bay one-yard line where Freeman eventually punched it in.

The Falcons ran the ball 19 times, but during that third-quarter drive they had nine rushes for 43 yards and held the ball for seven and a half minutes. Ward credited offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan for his play calling and said it was a quality mix of run and pass.

At the end of the day though, it was up to the players to execute, and Ward said that is exactly what they were able to do to pull out the win.

“We take every team on, every challenge head on,” Ward said. “We know they had a good rushing defense, but we knew we wanted to come out and establish ourselves. This is the NFL, everybody’s good, so we had to come out and prove it.”

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