Norwood Hopes To Boost Falcons Ground Game

The Falcons couldn't get their running game going last Sunday against the Patriots. Jerious Norwood aims to help fix that problem.

The running game was the staple of the Falcons' offense last season.

They rode on the shoulders of running back Michael Turner to an 11-5 season and an improbable playoff trip.

With Turner rumbling for 1,699 yards and franchise-record 17 rushing touchdowns, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan was able to develop at his pace and keep the train moving.

As the Falcons are set for the bye week, the most pressing question for them team is this: Where has the running game gone?

The Falcons averaged 152.7 yards rushing per game last season. Through three games they have averaged 92.3, a drop in 60.4 yards per game.

"We want to run the ball effectively," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

Running back Michael Turner has not added any pounds to his frame and Smith said the line was blocking well. They just haven't been able to break off those 15- and 20-yard gains.

They are seeing a lot of eight-man fronts, but they saw them last season also.

"Michael is running the ball very hard," Smith said. "That was a great season that he had last year. Our intentions are to try to duplicate it again this year."

The Falcons has rushed for 58 yards against Miami, 151 against Carolina and 68 against New England. Miami and New England both run 3-4 defenses. The Falcons only faced one 3-4 team (San Diego) last season.

"I think the guys are blocking well up front," Smith said. "We have not been running as effectively as we'd like."

Since Turner joined the team last year, the Falcons are 3-5 when the opposition holds Turner to 70 yards or less rushing.

The Falcons running game should get a boost for the San Francisco game with the return of Jerious Norwood. He missed the New England game with a concussion but returned to practice during the bye week.

NOTES:

--Members of the Falcons' "Over 30 Club" are being rested during the bye week.
--Kickoff returner Eric Weems drew some praise from coach Mike Smith. "I can't say enough about what Eric has done. When Jerious went down, he stepped in and averaged almost 28 yards. He catches the ball and he gets going North and South."
--Quarterback Matt Ryan will spend some time with his family over the bye week. "My sister is expecting her second child so I'm going to get a chance to go up and see her," Ryan said.
--Where's the deep ball? Smith dismissed the idea throwing more deep passes to help move some of the defensive players off the line of scrimmage and out of the box.
"Our offense is predicated and designed on how people are defending us," Smith said. "If they are defending us to allow us to take deep shots, we will take deep shots."
Roddy White has been targeted on 26 passes. He has 15 catches for 119 yards (7.9 yards per catch). He averaged 15.7 per catch last year and 15.4 yards over 230 career catches coming into this season.
--Going back to last season's playoff game, Michael Turner has had three fumbles in his last four games.
--Both teams had nine possessions in the game but New England had five drives that went at least 11 plays. The Falcons had only double-digit drive all day (12 plays), that coming on their first possession of the game.
--Coach Mike Smith was not happy with the seven penalties for 54 yards against the Patriots. The most costly one was the offensive pass interference call on Michael Jenkins that erased a third-quarter 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.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Consecutive games won by the Patriots against NFC teams dating back to a 2005 loss to Carolina.
134 -- Tony Gonzalez streak of consecutive games with a reception. His streak ranks second among tight ends in league history behind Ozzie Newsome (150 games)
60.4 -- The number of yards off the Falcons are from their average rushing total from last season. (152.7).
9 -- The Falcons are 9-1 in the Georgia Dome on second-year coach Mike Smith.
15 -- Roddy White's reception after three games, leading the team.
254 -- Consecutive regular season games PK Jason Elam has scored at least one point.
115 -- Consecutive regular season games C Todd McClure has started, dating back to 2001.
39 -- Consecutive regular season games in which Roddy White has caught at least one pass.

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