Running back by committee pays off for Falcons

The Falcons used a running-back-by-committee offense during Sunday’s 37-34 overtime victory over the Saints. Expect to see a lot more of it.

Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith combined for 108 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown on the ground. The combination also proved to be a receiving threat with five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown reception.

“We’ve got guys who deserve touches that play the running back position,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “There were some big plays. … Hey, we are going to keep rotating our players. That’s why I said we don’t have 11 starters. We have 14 or 15 on both sides of the football.”

Jackson, who missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury, started the game, finishing with 12 carries and 52 yards. Jackson, who was limited to 12 games last season due to hamstring issues, declared himself 100 percent following the season opener.

“I felt really good out there,” said Jackson, who had a long run of 17 yards. “The hamstring was not a concern.”

Rodgers, Freeman and Antone Smith all contributed with critical plays that helped the Falcons come away with the victory over the division-rival Saints.


  • Rodgers scored on 17-yard run with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Falcons a 31-27 lead.

“I had a hole,” Rodgers said. “The offensive line did a great job of blocking. (Tight end) Levine (Toilolo) pulled around and got on the linebacker and I got the safety one-on-one. It’s my job to make him miss and I did that.”

Toilolo’s block garnered a hug from offensive line coach Mike Tice following the play.

  • Antone Smith gave the Falcons a 24-20 lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter on a 54-yard touchdown reception. It was the Falcons' first lead of the game in what turned out to be a back-and-forth contest.

“I had a linebacker sitting on top of me,” Antone Smith said. “Matt (Ryan) was scrambling and got the ball to me. I saw Julio (Jones) make a great block on the outside.”

  • Freeman caught a pass for a first down in the second quarter that led to the Falcons' first touchdown. On third-and-12 from the Saints' 15-yard line, the rookie took a short pass from Ryan down the sideline for 13 yards. Ryan found Roddy White for a touchdown on the ensuing play.

“It was mind over matter,” Freeman said. “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter. In critical situations like that, you’ve got to come to play. I feel that I’m a big-time player. I play like that.”

Rodgers said that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has made a point of getting each running back in a position to succeed by taking advantage of their skill sets.

“It’s a special group,” Rodgers said. “Coming in during training camp, we knew we had guys who could pretty much do everything. When guys get put in the game, they make plays. We do a great job of helping each other, competing and making each other better. That is why we are going to continue to do that and continue to make plays this season.”