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Role Still Expanding for Falcons' Unsung Hero Cordarrelle Patterson?

Cordarrelle Patterson played a season-high 46 snaps against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 60 yards and had a single receiving yard against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The 61 yards from scrimmage was a season low for Patterson. 

Yet, there are still signs his role in the Falcons offense is growing, and it's happening at the expense of fellow running back Mike Davis.

Patterson posted his fewest yards from scrimmage of the year in Miami in large part because he didn't play a big role in the passing game. Patterson's two catches for one yard Sunday are his lowest marks in each category since he joined the Falcons.

His 14 carries Sunday, though, tied his season high. Patterson also had 14 rushing attempts in London two weeks ago.

Prior to this season, Patterson had never recorded 14 carries in a single game. He's now done that in back-to-back contests with the Falcons.

Over the course of the last two games, Patterson, who was already a great free agent bargain after the first month, has played 65 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps. 

That's a major increase over the amount of playing time the 30-year-old received prior to the London trip. Patterson was on the field for 34.4 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps in the first four weeks of the season.

Patterson's snap count percentage doubling in the two most recent games is an obvious sign his role is growing in the Falcons offense.

It's been a steady growth too. With the exception of Week 4 against Washington, which ironically, was Patterson's best game of the first seven weeks, the 30-year-old's snap count has remained the same or increased each week. And as the snaps have increased, so has Patterson's touches in the ground game.

The same cannot be said for Davis, who rushed for a season-low 10 yards on Sunday.

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Davis played 75 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps in Week 1. He hasn't played more than even 68 percent of the team's offensive snaps in a game since then. Against the Dolphins, Davis played 60 percent of the Atlanta's offensive snaps.

That's still a healthy total -- coach Arthur Smith has found ways to use Patterson and Davis on the field at the same time. But Patterson had 16 touches while Davis posted four Sunday.

In the first four games, Davis was Smith's choice in the rushing attack while Patterson was more of the passing back. Davis averaged 11.75 rushing attempts per contest while Patterson had 6.75 carries per game in the first four weeks. Over the same span, Patterson received 22 targets in the passing game versus Davis' 19.

All of that has changed since playing the Jets. In the last two games, Patterson has 37 touches versus Davis' 19. Furthermore, Patterson received 14 targets and Davis only had five, all of which came in Week 5. Against the Dolphins on Sunday, Davis had zero targets.

Patterson has led the Falcons in carries each of the last two weeks too.

This dramatic increase in usage for Patterson began occurring the week after the loss to Washington. Clearly, Smith is not going to make the same mistake he did in that defeat to the Football Team. In that contest, Patterson scored a career-high three touchdowns and then had zero touches in the fourth quarter. The Falcons blew an 8-point lead and lost 34-30.

Smith is making a conscious effort to not only involve Patterson late in games but establish him early as well. His snaps have increased but so have his touches. 

Meanwhile, Davis' snap count is decreasing slightly, and his touches are dropping rapidly. He's still available when the Falcons need a traditional between-the-tackles runner in short-yardage situations, but he's not the preferred back-of-choice on first downs. 

At this point, Davis isn't even splitting the running back opportunities. All signs point to Patterson serving as Atlanta's lead back during the second half of this season.