Fal­cons’ Free­man tears up Tex­ans

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - PAUL NEW­BERRY

AT­LANTA— Devonta Free­man just wanted a chance. He’s sure tak­ing ad­van­tage of it. Daz­zling as both a run­ner and a re­ceiver, Free­man had another three-touch­down game for the At­lanta Fal­cons, who re­mained un­beaten with a 48-21 rout of the hap­less Hous­ton Tex­ans on Sun­day.

“Op­por­tu­nity is ev­ery­thing,” the sec­ond-year run­ning back said.

Tak­ing over as the starter af­ter rookie Tevin Coleman sus­tained a rib in­jury in Week 2, Free­man has six TDs in the past two games and an NFL-lead­ing seven for the sea­son.

Against the Tex­ans, he scored on runs of16, 23 and six yards and set up another touch­down with a 44-yard re­cep­tion.

Free­man played spar­ingly as a rookie and missed all four pre-sea­son games with a ham­string in­jury. Coleman got the start­ing job, while Free­man re­mained in a backup role.

Hard to see Free­man go­ing back to the bench now.

“I’ve al­ways be­lieved in my­self,” Free­man said. “But it’s hard to get a feel when you’re not play­ing. I have to get in a rhythm, and then the con­fi­dence comes.”

The Fal­cons are 4-0 for only the fourth time in fran­chise history. They won each of their first three games un­der new coach Dan Quinn by ral­ly­ing from fourth-quar­ter deficits, but this one was over much sooner.

Noth­ing went right for the Tex­ans (1-3). Quar­ter­back Ryan Mal­lett had an aw­ful day and was re­placed by Brian Hoyer af­ter the Fal­cons built a 42-0 lead.

Run­ning back Arian Foster made his sea­son de­but af­ter tear­ing his groin early in train­ing camp, but he couldn’t find any room to run. In fact, the vet­eran had the ball knocked out of his hands by one of his own team­mates, lead­ing to a Fal­cons touch­down.

Free­man rushed for 68 yards on 14 car­ries and hauled in five passes for 81 yards. It didn’t even mat­ter that Julio Jones was fi­nally held in check, catch­ing only four passes for 38 yards. Leonard Hanker­son was Matt Ryan’s favourite tar­get, with six catches for 103 yards, in­clud­ing a touch­down. Ryan was 19 of 27 for 256 yards. Mal­lett’s sec­ond pass was de­flected and picked off by de­fen­sive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, the Fal­cons tak­ing over at their 46. Free­man took a short pass 24 yards, then darted through a huge hole on the next play for his first TD. The rout was on. “We’ve got to run the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball,” said Mal­lett, who threw nu­mer­ous passes be­hind his in­tended re­ceivers.

“Ev­ery phase of the game, we’ve got to do bet­ter.”

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