Watching the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons battle on Sunday afternoon it is astounding to think the Falcons rushing offense was ranked 29th out of the entire NFL in 2013. With a dual-threat of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers the Falcons should be rushing for much more than their 2013 average of 87.3. The tandem combined for nearly double that amount with 162 rushing yards versus a stout and top ranked Seahawks run defense. In my mind, the Falcons success in the NFC Championship game hinges on their running production versus the stingy San Francisco 49ers defense.
Matt Ryan is an established NFL quarterback. While Ryan has not been polished in terms of playoff success, he has shown he can hold his own against the leagues top defenses. Ryan earned the nickname “Matty-Ice” due to his five fourth-quarter comebacks and six game winning drives in the 2010 season–both of which he led the NFL in. Ryan obviously has the clutch gene in the regular season but, Sunday showed just how insane playoff football can get and without a running game Ryan can expect even more chaos underneath center.
In the clubs 13 wins this year, the Falcons averaged 96.2 yards on the ground while in three losses Atlanta averaged 48.7 yards. This is a tell-tale sign of why the Falcons need Michael Turner to be the fearful back he was on Sunday as opposed to the watered down runner he was throughout the season.
It is no mystery that the 49ers can defend the run as they were fourth in the NFL yielding just 94.2 rush yards per contest in the regular season. If the Falcons have any hope of knocking off this hard hitting and offensively mesmerizing team they will have to get both running backs going early and often.