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Sean Weatherspoon's return sparks Falcons' run defense

The linebacker returned after battling a sore ankle.

Al Messerschmidt

The Atlanta Falcons have one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL, but the return of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was a game-changer in that department Sunday.

Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin, who has more than 1,000 rushing yards this season as a rookie, managed just 50 yards on 21 carries against the Falcons defense Sunday. It was his second-lowest output for yards this season as the Falcons walked away with a tight 24-23 win.

"I felt great and my ankle felt great," said Weatherspoon, who tied for a team-high six solo tackles. "I was kind of emotional at the beginning of the game, but once I got back out there with my guys it just felt like being out there at the beginning of the season."

Weatherspoon, 24, missed the previous three games with a sore ankle. Stephen Nicholas and Dunta Robinson also had six tackles in Sunday's game.

This season, Weatherspoon has compiled 46 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three sacks in eight games.

Weatherspoon was a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Falcons. In his three seasons in the league, he's started 29 of 35 games he's played. He has 166 tackles, 11 pass deflections and eight sacks in his career.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.