The Atlanta Falcons sure can run the ball. With Cordarrelle Patterson doing Cordarrelle Patterson things, Tyler Allgeier enjoying a strong rookie season, Caleb Huntley mixing in and running over and through defenders, and Marcus Mariota scrambling effectively, the Falcons have their most successful ground game in a long while.
It’s also a ground game set to flirt with some major franchise records, and even if they don’t outright break some of them, they’ll be among the most productive players and teams in franchise history. Let’s take a closer look at what the Falcons are doing through 11 games and what they’re on pace to do through 17.
Making a run at the team single season rushing record
From 2004-2006, the Falcons had their greatest run of rushing production in franchise history, bar none. All three of the best seasons in team history in terms of rushing yards are tied up in those three years, with 2006 (2,939) leading the pack and 2004 (2,672) and 2005 (2,546) just behind. 1986 (2,524) and 1985 (2,466) were peak years for Gerald Riggs, and they round out the top five.
Atlanta’s on track to break up the DVD dominance this year. With six games to go, the Falcons are at 1,753 rushing yards, and are on pace to finish with 2,709 on the season. That would be the second-highest total ever, as you’ll note from the numbers above, which is a testament to just how effective and productive this group has been despite not having a single dominant lead back.
Tyler Allgeier: Tracking to be 2nd all-time in rookie rushing yards
I predicted that Allgeier would lead the backfield in carries and yards, and while that comes with a bit of an asterisk owing to Cordarrelle Patterson’s injury earlier this season, he’s on track. Allgeier’s currently at 498 yards and 110 carries with a touchdown, averaging 4.5 yards per tote, and has been a pleasant surprise even to the coaching staff.
Allgeier is also on track to pile up the second-highest rushing yardage total for any Falcons rookie back, which is pretty incredible. He’s just nine yards shy of T.J. Duckett for third all-time and 135 shy of Jerious Norwood for second, and given that he’s averaging nearly 50 yards per game and has six contests left to play in, there’s little doubt Allgeier’s going to get there.
Most rushing yards by a rookie in Falcons franchise history— Kevin Keneely (@KevinKeneely1) November 20, 2022
William Andrews (1,023 yards)
Jerious Norwood (633)
T.J. Duckett (507)
Tyler Allgeier (498) pic.twitter.com/hLoGScfGKK
There’s virtually no way he catches Andrews, a franchise legend and one of the great backs of his era before he was injured, but this puts Allgeier in pretty nice company nonetheless.
Marcus Mariota could tie or break franchise QB rushing touchdowns record
Speaking of good company, Mariota’s production as a rusher is putting him in some. He’s on track to post 574 rushing yards on the season, which would be the fifth-highest single season total for a Falcons quarterback behind Michael Vick, Michael Vick, Michael Vick, and Michael Vick. He’s not touching Vick’s franchise record of 1,039 yards there, it probably goes without saying.
He may, however, tie or exceed Vick’s single season record for rushing touchdowns. Mariota’s four scores have him tied with Randy Johnson for third place in franchise history, with Vick ahead of him twice with eight touchdowns in 2002 and six in 2006. With six games to go and Mariota very comfortable pulling it down and sprinting into the end zone when he has the chance, there’s a non-zero chance he winds up with eight or more.
First Falcons backfield to have 4 players with over 100 carries
This one feels likely. Atlanta has had three players cross the 100 carry mark in a single season before, but never four separate players. Allgeier (118 carries) is already there, and Patterson (96) is very close, while Mariota (76) and Huntley (70) are all very much within range. Up until this past week, Huntley had been averaging over the five carries per game he’d need to meet the mark, and Mariota is a threat to run double-digit times in any game.
This is, again, a testament to how well-rounded this backfield is and how effective this offensive line has been for the Falcons. Every single one of those backs, Mariota included, is averaging over 4.5 yards per carry.
I wouldn’t expect the team to suddenly start throwing the ball a lot in the final weeks of the season, so you should fully expect this to go down as one of the most effective and most leaned-upon rushing attacks in franchise history. In an up-and-down season, the ground game has been Atlanta’s most reliable strength and the most consistently enjoyable facet of the team, and that’s worth celebrating.