If the Atlanta Falcons are going to make a playoff run, it’ll likely come down the run.
The Falcons (5-7) need to be somewhat balanced offensively if they hope to make a late-season postseason push. Despite losing 30-17 at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Atlanta is hardly out of the NFC playoff race.
The Falcons are behind several teams for the last playoff spot in the NFC, but the gap isn’t insurmountable. The Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) currently occupy the final wild card slot.
Getting back to .500, which the Falcons were at not long ago at 4-4, should be the immediate goal. It would seem the 9-8 or even 8-9 might be good enough to claim a playoff berth in the NFC.
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Atlanta could make up some ground next week at NFC South rival Carolina. The Panthers (5-7) are also in the playoff mix.
Even in the loss to the Super Bowl champs, the Falcons continued to show some improvement in the run game. Atlanta ran for 121 years against Tampa Bay’s top-ranked run defense a week after netting 149 in a win over Jacksonville.
The ability to gain positive yards on the ground is critical, especially the lack of consistent receiving threats for quarterback Matt Ryan. (Russell Gage did have a career-high 130 yards receiving against Tampa Bay, becoming to first Atlanta receiver to top the century mark this season.)
Cordarrelle Patterson is leading the resurgent rushing attack with 186 yards on 29 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and two touchdowns over the last two weeks. Mike Davis and Qadree Ollison are also contributing from the Atlanta backfield.
Should the Falcons continue to be respectable running the ball, it only makes life easier on Ryan and the defense going forward. And maybe that’s enough to sneak into the playoffs.