Josh Freeman (2,261 passing yards, 15 TD, 5 INT) faced a frugal pass defense in Baltimore last week, but has a favorable matchup with Atlanta’s 27th-rated pass defense invading the scene on Sunday. He has thrown a touchdown pass in eight straight games and has seven over his past four contests.
Freeman hasn’t lit up opposing defenses since a 278-yard performance in a Week 8 win at Arizona, though, having thrown for an average of 182 yards in that stretch. The former first-round pick also hasn’t been intercepted in his previous three games and has only two picks in his past seven contests. Both of the interceptions came in the loss to the Falcons back in early November.
Freeman, who has won nine of his last 14 starts, also threw a pair of touchdown passes in that loss and may do so again with a more energized Blount (496 rushing yards, 4 TD) in the backfield. The powerful rookie had his breakout game against the Cardinals last month but fell back to earth the next week in Atlanta, rushing for just 46 yards on 13 carries. He has been somewhat consistent since then, though he owns just one touchdown run in the past four games.
Blount won’t be running behind right guard Davin Joseph for the remainder of the season after the lineman sustained a broken foot on the opening drive of last week’s game. He is expected to be replaced by Jeremy Zuttah, who can play any position on the line.
Bucs wideout Mike Williams (45 receptions, 701 yards, 6 TD) leads all NFL rookies in receiving yards and is tied for the lead in touchdown catches among first-year players.
The Atlanta defense was able to hang on and defeat the Packers last week in a matchup between premier offenses in the league. Rodgers was still able to pick apart Atlanta’s 27th-rated pass defense for 344 yards, but only had one touchdown pass. He ended up being Green Bay’s leading rusher with 51 yards and a score on 12 scrambles as well. Freeman is a pretty mobile guy like Rodgers, so the Falcons have to be concern about the former taking off this Sunday.
The Falcons have the sixth-best run defense in the league and must stop Blount with tackles Corey Peters (22 tackles) and Jonathan Babineaux (17 tackles, 2 sacks, INT) up front. Ends Abraham (25 tackles, 9 sacks) and Kroy Biermann (28 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) can also be a factor stopping the run if Tampa Bay’s backs bounce to the outside, but their forte is rushing the passer. Abraham has eight sacks in 10 games in this series.
The Atlanta pass defense must be on its game and didn’t have such a great showing against Packers wideout Greg Jennings, who sped past defenders for 119 yards on only five receptions. The Falcons own 21 takeaways, with 15 interceptions and six fumble recoveries in 2010.
Linebacker and leading tackler Curtis Lofton (86 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) has forced a team-high three fumbles and recorded one interception. He is tied with safety William Moore (42 tackles, 4 INT) for turnovers created.