Hill ran with authority against Panthers

Falcons backup running back Brian Hill made the most of his opportunities against the Panthers.

It wasn’t a perfect outing, but the second-year back rushed for 115 yards on eight carries and had one fierce stiff-arm in the 24-10 win on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Hill had a fumble and also picked up a penalty when he went in for the second stiff-arm on the same play and was called for unnecessary roughness.

With running backs Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith out, Hill was the main backup to Tevin Coleman, who left the game with a groin injury.

It’s possible Hill, the fourth-string running back, could finished the season as the No. 1 back in the season finale against Tampa Bay.

While Hill was timid on a run near the goal in the first half, he ran with authority in the second and ripped off a 60-yard run.

“It was exciting,” Hill said. “I was excited all week knowing that I was going to get a chance to run the ball. I started off a little shaky out there, but I’m glad I was able to turn it around.”

Hill had no explanation for why he went for the second stiff-arm move.

“I really don’t know,” Hill said. “I was really just trying to finish the run. I was a little excited. It was my longest run of the day. I was stressing over the first half. So, when I finally broke a run I kind of let too much excitement out. That’s all. I lost my poise there at the end.”

Coleman finished with 51 yards on 10 carries. The Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards for the third straight game.

“I thought he ran the ball really well today,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “It was a really nice job. (Hill) was physical.”

Hill, who was drafted by the Falcons in 2017 and was cut, has worked in the shadows. He went off to the Bengals, but was re-claimed off their practice squad as the injuries mounted.

He’s been a regular winner of the weekly teammate of the week award.

“The guy has worked hard for us and has finally gotten his opportunity and today he took advantage of that,” Ryan said. “His effort and the way that he ran was really good today.”

Hill starred at Wyoming and the Falcons took him in the fifth-round (156th overall). He played one game with the Falcons and six with the Bengals last season.

“It’s been a long road in my short NFL career, but I wouldn’t change anything,” Hill said. “I feel like the things I’ve been through made me the player that I am today. It’s added to work ethic.”

Hill knows he might get even more of the workload against Tampa Bay.

“I’m happy I had the opportunity to go to Cincinnati,” Hill said. “I’m even more happy that I had the opportunity to come back.”

Hill busted loose for a 60-yard in the fourth quarter with the Falcons were trying to put away the game.

“I was thinking about going to the house,” Hill said. “I got to about 50 yards and realized that I wasn’t getting to the house, so cut it inside and get down.”

It was Hill’s first 100-yard game.

“They shouted me out for my first 100-yard game in the locker room after the game,” Hill said. “Didn’t give me the ball, but I’m pretty happy.”

Hill, who bragged he was the best running back in the draft in 2017, has been waiting for his NFL breakthrough.

“I have to keep building on it,” Hill said. “I had a couple of shaky plays. Three to be exact. I have to learn from those, come back next week and be better.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn has noticed the constant improvement from Hill.

“He’s improved as a ball player a lot,” Quinn said. “For him to get his opportunity today and make the most of that, that’s the big thing because as a ball player, athlete or coach, the missed opportunities are the ones that sting the most.

“For him to take advantage of that today, I think says a lot about him and how important it is to him.”

Quinn liked the way Hill finished his runs for the most part.

“You want to let them know at the end of the run,” Quinn said. “That kind of run is important, but we have to do it with poise.”