Falcons Couldn't Get Turner On Track

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner isn't up to his old self, and much of that has to do with the defenses he's playing against. The Patriots did a solid job of containing the Falcons ground attack Sunday.

Last season the Falcons offense was powered by the running of Michael Turner and timely pass receiving of Roddy White.

Both turned in spectacular seasons and were awarded with their first trips to the Pro Bowl.

Turner has rushed for 65, 105 and 56 yards in three games. He has 65 carries for 220 yards (3.5 per carry).

Miami and Carolina targeted Turner, but New England did a good job of playing keep-away in the third quarter.

The offensive line from last season remains in place, except for left tackle Sam Baker taking over for Todd Weiner.

It's not clear if Turner is not hitting the holes fast enough or if the holes are not staying open long enough.

"They did a good job," quarterback Matt Ryan said of New England's defense against Turner. "To a certain degree, we expected that from them, after the couple of weeks that (Michael) Turner has had early in the season."

Also, Turner has had fumbles in each of the last two games, but Falcons coach Mike Smith was not ready to call it a fumbling problem.

"It's an unfortunate situation that we put the ball on the ground twice, but I wouldn't even comment on that in terms of being a problem," Smith said. "You know, they were attacking the ball and they did a nice job."

White was a training camp holdout before he landed a six-year $49 million contract extension.

It's doubtful that the Falcons shelled out that kind of cash for a possession receiver.

But early this season, he's been working underneath.

If they took a few more shots with him down the field, that might open up things for Turner.

White has seen 26 passes come his way. He's caught 15 for 119 yards (7.9 yards per catch). His longest catch of the year went for 17 yards.

When New England decided to double-team tight end Tony Gonzalez, White or Turner needed to deliver more offensive wallop.

"They did the same thing they always do to me, 'bracket coverage,' " Gonzalez said. "Every time I play against him (coach Bill Belichick), it seems like I am going to get bracketed. It was expected and obviously it is not a good thing for me, although it gets everyone else open."

But White didn't get open. He caught only four passes for 24 yards. He did have two drops.

"I have been around a long time and for me it is somewhat a sign of respect," Gonzalez said. "I feel that if I get single coverage I am going to make them pay for it eventually."

But if they don't, White or Turner needs to make defenses pay.

Notes:
--After the bye, the Falcons will see Frank Gore, Matt Forte, Felix Jones and Marion Barber over the next three games. They will need to get much stiffer against the run.
Defensive lineman Trey Lewis had a rough day Sunday in his first action since suffering a knee injury in 2007. On Fred Taylor's eight-yard touchdown run, Lewis didn't hold the point of attack and was pushed back several yards by New England center Dan Koppen and guard Stephen Neal.
--The defensive line has been shut out in the sack department over the last two games.
John Abraham and Kroy Biermann had two sacks in the opener. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas has the only other sack.
The Falcon may have to consider blitzing more to create pressure.
--By the time the Falcons play again, it will have been five weeks since the trade with St. Louis for cornerback Tye Hill. That's seems like plenty of time for him to get acclimated in the "system."
Although Chris Houston, Brian Williams and Brent Grimes have been solid, it may be time to find out if Hill can help. If he can cover man-to-man, then the Falcons would be able to unleash more blitzes.
--While New England quarterback Tom Brady missed a few wide open receivers on deep passes, he was still impressive.
"Brady is one of the smartest QBs out there and when they get a lead and can run the ball a bit it makes it harder," safety Eric Coleman said.
--Coach Mike Smith was not happy with the seven penalties for minus 54 yards against the Patriots.
The most costly one was the pass interference call on Michael Jenkins that erased a touchdown. Also, Smith cited defensive end Jamaal Anderson's roughing the passer penalty on New England's opening drive.
"We want to play aggressively, but we want to make sure that we play smart," Smith said.
--New England elected to use two or three tight ends on 50 of their plays against the Falcons.
"They wanted to make sure they were going to protect their quarterback differently than they did the week before," Smith said.


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