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Atlanta's unsung ground game complements Ryan's air show

By Larry Fine

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones get top-billing in the high-flying Falcons' attack, but running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman helped turn Atlanta into a scoring machine.

Ryan and Jones were surrounded by media at Monday's Super Bowl Opening Night show at Minute Maid Park, the home of Major League Baseball's Houston Astros, with the dynamic ball carriers content to field questions in the background.

On the gridiron, their contributions pay off where it counts most - on the scoreboard.

Freeman rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Coleman gained 520 yards and notched eight touchdowns to lend deadly balance to the Falcons' offense.

Together, they helped Atlanta finish fifth in the league in rushing yards, and first in regular season scoring with 540 points.

"I ain’t trying to brag too much but man, we can both get it done and that is tough, that’s tough. He’s (Coleman) got that speed, he's got that burst," Freeman told a small group of reporters.

"He can catch it out of the backfield, he can run those (pass) routes. And I can do the same thing. Speed out of the backfield and having a quarterback that puts us in position to make plays. That’s tough."

Freeman caught 54 passes for 462 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Coleman corralled 31 for 421 yards and three scores.

Featured running back Freeman said he draws inspiration from a player who will be on the opposite sideline in Sunday's title game -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Freeman was taken in the fourth round with the 103rd pick of the 2014 NFL draft while four-time Super Bowl winner Brady was also a late selection going in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.

"Look where Tom Brady was drafted. He’s a dog. Tom Brady’s a dog. That man walks around with a chip on his shoulder," said Freeman. "I walk around with a chip on my shoulder. We have a lot in common."

(Editing by Steve Keating)

 

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