Falcons give Martin no room to operate
Doug Martin exploded on the scene so suddenly it created an expectation the rookie is capable of bursting up the field at any given time. Opposing teams have taken just as much notice.
Though the first-round pick from Boise State picked up a pair of touchdowns to set the franchise rookie record with nine rushing scores on the season, the Falcons bottled up Martin for most of the afternoon in Atlanta's 24-23 victory Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Martin was held to just 50 yards rushing on 21 carries, his second-lowest output of the season through 11 games. Martin's season-low was 33 yards against Washington on Sept. 30.
Martin "is an outstanding running back,'' Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "We knew it was going to be one of our 'musts' and I thought we did a nice job with our run defense. I thought we played the run extremely well, controlled the line of scrimmage.''
Keyed by his franchise-record 251 yards against Oakland earlier this month, Martin averaged 148 yards rushing in his previous four games. He ranked fourth in the league with 1,000 yards rushing for the season was second to Adrian Peterson with nine carries of 20-plus yards.
But the Falcons didn't let Martin get loose. They limited him to one run longer than eight yards – a 10-yard scamper in the second half – and tackled him for negative yardage five times. Of his 50 yards rushing, exactly half came on the opening scoring drive, when he carried six times for 25 yards and scored on a 1-yard run.
Entering the game, Atlanta ranked 26th in the league against the run while allowing 130 yard rushing per game. "They loaded the box and did a lot kind of outside their tendencies,'' Josh Freeman said. "All in all, when you can contain a guy like Doug, as explosive as Doug, that's saying a lot.''
The only time Martin was able to find some space – a short passing play that turned into a 42-yard gain – it was nullified by a penalty. "He's a tough guy to tackle, he's like a big muscle, obviously, but we did a pretty good job of defending him,'' Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said.
Though Freeman had an efficient day, completing 19 of 30 passes for 256 yards, having a one-dimensional attack was somewhat limiting. The Bucs offense stalled in Atlanta territory on a couple of occasions, leaving Tampa Bay to settle for field goals instead of getting the ball into the end zone.
"It is kind of hard when you don't have both going,'' wide receiver Mike Williams said. "(Martin) had a couple of good weeks in a row, so they are starting to stack the box on him and put more defenders down there and slice the corners, things like that to try to confuse him.''