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Devonta Freeman puts Falcons on his back

As Week 3 comes to a close, things are starting to take shape in the NFL. The Patriots are back to their winning ways -- and running up the score -- rookies, like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, are falling down to Earth, and the AFC South, well, it's still terrible. Also, road teams are starting to show their mettle, going 8-6 on Sunday, including three wins by more than 10 points. While some traveling teams decided not to show up on time (ahem, 49ers, Bears and Jaguars), the Falcons, Bengals, and Bills all won in emphatic fashion and had a player earn his spot on this week's Greatness on the Road column.

Greatness on the Road winner ...

Devonta Freeman


In his first start as a pro, Freeman took the Falcons into Jerryworld and put them on his back. Freeman scampered for 141 yards on 30 carries, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and ran for three red zone touchdowns, including the game winner early in the fourth quarter. Freeman also caught five balls out of the backfield for 52 yards. He played the role of the versatile workhorse in the Falcons' 39-28 win over the Cowboys -- their second straight road win against the NFC East -- and kept the team undefeated in the NFC South and neck-and-neck with Cam Netwon's Panthers.

At points during the offseason, we weren't sure whether the Falcons would go with Freeman or Indiana standout Tevin Coleman as the starting running back, or if they'd choose a committee approach. However, after Coleman was ruled out with a fractured rib this week, Freeman took the reins, and possibly the job full-time.

With a healthy balance of Freeman in Atlanta's arsenal, Matt Ryan will have more time to find open receivers, like Julio Jones, who will shed single coverage easily en route to a historic season. It's only one game, but if Freeman can contribute consistently as he did Sunday, the Falcons will boast an offensive attack as balanced and feared as any in the league.

Runners up

A.J. Green

Another day, another unbelievable performance for the Bengals' $96 million man. Green finished with 227 yards on 10 catches -- that's 22.7 (!) yards per catch for those mathematically challenged -- and two touchdowns, leading the undefeated Bengals to a vital 28-24 win over the division rival Ravens in Baltimore. Green's day silenced the hostile crowd and kept the Ravens winless on the year.

Locked in a duel with Ravens wideout Steve Smith (Sr.?) -- who unlike Green is on the Road to *Retirement * -- Green got the last laugh, catching Cincinnati's final two touchdowns, the last of which came on a picture-perfect goal-line fade with just over two minutes to go in the contest. One could look at the battle as a passing of the torch of some sorts, or you could take it for what it was -- a microcosm of the supplantation taking place atop the AFC North. Green and the Bengals are here to stay; Smith and the Ravens may be sitting in a rocking chair come January.

Preston Brown


Defenders don't often get much love on the Greatness on the Road column. Maybe it's an oversight, or maybe it's tough for opposing defenses to dominate without the support of their home fans. This week, however, Bills linebacker Preston Brown stood out.

Brown left Miami Gardens with three total tackles and two interceptions, including an impressive pick-six, which served as the nail in the Dolphins' coffin during Buffalo's 41-14 thrashing at Miami's half-renovated stadium. Brown's two picks doubled his career total of one and halted two potential Dolphins scoring drives in the first half. His hand-eye coordination on both snags was unnaturally quick, and the getaway speed Brown displayed on his interception return rivaled that of anybody on the Dolphins' roster -- save for coach Joe Philbin, who may soon be run out of town.

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