Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Freeman, Coleman provide 1-2 punch

Published:Saturday | February 4, 2017 | 2:14 AM
Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman (left) and Tevin Coleman.

HOUSTON (AP):

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are so interchangeable in the Atlanta Falcons backfield, Matt Ryan gets a little mixed up at times.

"He doesn't even know who's in the game," Coleman said, breaking into a huge smile. Quite a 1-2 punch, these two are.

It really doesn't matter who you put at "1'' and who goes at "2."

Sure, Freeman is the starter, but there's no drop-off or any reason to change things up when Coleman comes into the game, a back-and-forth arrangement that keeps both backs fresh and gives fits to opposing defences.

But their relationship runs beyond the field.

Far beyond it.

"That's my brother," Freeman said in the lead-up to tomorrow's Super Bowl against the New England Patriots . "When you see someone, you see that they want to be a part of something special, they're working hard, they're working their butts off, you have no reason but to love that person and have the utmost respect for that person."

They'll savour it while they can, because chances are this won't be a long-term partnership.

They'll be friends for life, that's for sure, but the realities of the NFL with its salary cap and other devices that make it difficult to keep a team together will likely lead to a breakup in the not-too-distant future.

Freeman, a fourth-round pick out of Florida State in 2014, already created a bit of a stir early in Super Bowl week by bringing up his desire for a new contract.

He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and has been selected for the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons. Not surprisingly, he wants to be paid like one of the league's top backs.

Then there's Coleman, a third-round pick out of Indiana in 2015. Despite missing three games with an injury this season, he rushed for 520 yards and eight touchdowns. At some point, he's going to deserve more money and probably a larger role in someone's offence.

"We've thought about this a lot," Coleman said. "But that's going to be my brother always, wherever we're at."

In addition to combining for just short of 1,600 yards on the ground, they are nearly as dangerous in the passing game.

Freeman had 54 catches for 462 yards and a couple of scores, while Coleman hauled in 31 passes for 421 yards and three TDs.