Friday, March 24 2023

A breakout performance was overshadowed by a disappointing loss, but Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier continued a surprising rookie season Sunday, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s loss at the Saints.

“He’s an instinctive player, smart, hard to tackle,” coach Arthur Smith said of his fifth-round pick from BYU. “Usually, the first guy doesn’t bring him down. Had a big run on the third-and-1 … He’s another volume guy that as the game goes on, those guys don’t like tackling him. He made a good play on the two-point where he was able to bounce it and show that burst to get to the front pylon. I’m really excited about him. He’s been big for us.”

Allgeier was the 12th running back taken in this year’s draft, but he ranks second among rookies in rushing yards with 743, behind only the TexansDameon Pierce (939). With Pierce now done for the season on injured reserve, Allgeier has a shot at finishing as the league’s top rookie rusher.

The last time a rookie led the Falcons in rushing? All the way back to 1979, when William Andrews had 1,023 rushing yards, and Allgeier’s total this season — with three games still left to play — is the second-highest rushing total ever for a Falcons rookie. 

Allgeier has done that despite splitting carries with a Pro Bowl back in Cordarrelle Patterson and second-year back Caleb Huntley. Allgeier had one carry in the first quarter Sunday, then found a rhythm on one second-quarter drive with six carries for 45 yards. The opening drive of the second half saw him break out for a 43-yard run, then cap the drive with a 5-yard touchdown to get Atlanta back within one score, and he added a two-point conversion late to get the Falcons within a field goal.

Huntley just went on injured reserve with a season-ending Achilles injury, and with the Falcons turning to rookie Desmond Ridder at quarterback, they’ll be leaning even more on their run game and Allgeier. Atlanta has the NFL’s No. 3 rushing attack, averaging 164.1 yards per game, but this week they’re up against not just the Baltimore run game, ranked second at 164.7 yards per game, but also the league’s No. 3 rushing defense, holding opponents to 85 yards per game. The Ravens may or may not have quarterback Lamar Jackson, their leading rusher, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury.

Over the past four weeks, Allgeier has rushed for 300 yards, good enough to rank ninth in the NFL, ahead of the TitansDerrick Henry and the CowboysEzekiel Elliott, and Allgeier’s average of 6.5 yards per carry in that span is second-best among the top 10 rushers. He’s put himself in position for a larger share of the workload at a time when the Falcons — still just one game back in the NFC South standings — will be counting on him.

“A lot of things you saw on the tape at BYU have translated,” Smith said Monday. “He’s a hard guy to bring down, tough runner. He’s got instinct. Not having to take every single carry early on. You’re splitting it, whether it was CP [Patterson] early or even Caleb. And I think that helps, too. As you can spread out the carries, where our guy is not sitting there at 300 carries right now, certainly can help any player and let alone a rookie.”

Allgeier, 22, was only a two-year starter at BYU. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, he also played linebacker there, with more tackles (26) than offensive touches (20) that season. He was prolific as a runner in his last two seasons, rushing for 1,130 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2020 and then 1,601 yards and 23 scores (tying for the national lead) in 2021.

Atlanta is still in contention for the division title, just one game back of the Bucs with three games to play and hosting Tampa Bay in the regular-season finale. The Falcons need wins — and help — to stay alive for the playoffs, but it’s a motivation that not many 5-9 teams have in late December.

The Falcons had a microphone on Allgeier during Sunday’s game, catching amusing sideline conversations with teammates but also a moment after the game, when the rookie was greeted by Saints running backs coach Joel Thomas. “You run your ass off,” Thomas told Allgeier after a handshake. “I love watching you play. Keep it up, man. You run like a boss.”

Top stories from FOX Sports:

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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Source: FOX Sports


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