With Spoon back, run defense flexes its muscleon November 26, 2012 at
“Many folks in Tampa predicted Buc running back Doug Martin – the heralded rookie with the famous nickname “Muscle Hamster” – would run wild against Atlanta.
And why not? Martin had already gained 1,000 yards on the season, and Atlanta’s run defense ranked 26th in the league (130.5 yards a game) and had repeatedly been gashed for long runs. Last week against Arizona, for example, a relatively unheralded back, LaRod Stephens Howling, had runs of 40 and 52 yards and finished with 127 yards on 22 carries.
But not so on Sunday.
Time and again during the Falcons’ 24-23 victory, Martin, who carried 100 percent of Tampa’s rushing load, was turned back and often turned flat on his back. He not only failed to gain a lot of yards (50 yards on 21 carries) but his longest rush went only for 10 yards.
Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said it came down to plain old, “Intensity.”
“We knew (the Bucs) were going to run the ball because they’ve been doing it pretty well (averaging 128.9 rushing yards a game for ninth in the league),” Babineaux said. “I mean they had a thousand-1,000-yard rusher coming into this game. So we got ready for it. We were determined.”
It didn’t hurt that Falcon linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned with a vengeance after missing the previous three weeks with a sore ankle.
“I felt great and my ankle felt great,” said Weatherspoon, who tied for a team-high six solo tackles. “I was kind of emotional at the beginning of the game, but once I got back out there with my guys it just felt like being out there at the beginning of the season.”"Share on Facebook