WATCH: Falcons must establish running game to win rematch with Panthers

Dave Holcomb

The last time the Falcons met the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta rushed for just 54 yards and averaged a season low 2.1 yards per rush.

Should that happen again Sunday when the two teams meet for the second time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons will seemingly have very little chance of winning.

There were multiple factors that helped the Falcons overcome a putrid rushing attack in its most recent victory to date. The first was a punt return from Kenjon Barner, which was the first touchdown in that game. It jump started the Falcons slow offense and gave the defense a 10-point lead.

With that lead, the Falcons got after Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen that day, sacking him six times and intercepting him four occasions. The Falcons have four interceptions in their other 11 games combined.

The likelihood the Falcons score another special teams touchdown against Carolina is not high, and another six-sack performance doesn't seem likely either. Atlanta has zero sacks in the last two games since posting six versus Carolina three weeks ago.

Therefore, the Falcons will not survive again if they can't generate anything on the ground. 

Even with its stellar run defense against Atlanta, Carolina remains 29th in run defense. The Panthers are allowing a putrid 5.2 yards per rush average, which is last in the NFL. The fact the Falcons didn't even average half of that total in their first meeting versus Carolina is flat-out embarrassing. 

Devonta Freeman missed that contest, but he was back Thursday and averaged just 3.0 yards per carry in the loss to the Saints. Freeman is averaging a career-worst 3.4 yards per rush this season.

With an offensive line struggling in pass protection, Julio Jones still banged up and Austin Hooper on the mend as well, the Falcons need their running game, against a very poor run defense, now more than ever in Week 14.

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