Falcons need more from run game

Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch.

Lost in the Falcons’ impressive season-opening victory was a poor rushing attack that coaches and players say must be better if the team is to be truly successful.

It’s hard to find warts after the offense amassed 376 total yards, scored on its first eight possessions and dominated the Chiefs in a 40-24 win. However, it didn’t go unnoticed that the Falcons rushed for only 84 yards.

Falcons running back Michael Turner bulls his way into the end zone following a block by Justin Blalock for a 1-yard touchdown run and a 28-0 lead over Tampa Bay last season.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons running back Michael Turner bulls his way into the end zone following a block by Justin Blalock for a 1-yard touchdown run against Tampa Bay last season. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

“We didn’t run the ball very well,” right tackle Tyson Clabo said. “We had a couple of good runs, but overall I don’t think that we did what we need to do to go where we want to go.”

Michael Turner had just 11 carries for 32 yards, an average of 2.9 yards per carry. He did not play after the Falcons scored 44 seconds into the fourth quarter to take a 20-point lead.

“Not after one game,” Turner said when asked if fans should be concerned with his production. “If it’s a couple weeks down the road and I’m still looking like that then trade me off your fantasy team.”

The second part of his statement was said in jest, but Turner is serious about the need for an effective rushing attack. The Falcons ran 55 offensive plays against the Chiefs, with 31 passes. Turner said there were several issues in the run game, including blocking schemes, sustaining and finishing blocks and backs making better runs and reads of blocks.

“We missed some blocks and we missed some cuts,” coach Mike Smith said. “It was a group effort and that’s something we want to address here in the next couple of days. We will address it.”

Turner has averaged 20 carries a game in his five seasons with the Falcons (1,200 carries in 60 regular-season games). While the Falcons are looking to decrease his workload, they had 12 more carries by Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling and Matt Ryan and threw two screen passes.

Clabo said he believes the mentality of the Falcons is still to be a run-first team. However, they are going to take what a defense gives. The Chiefs’ two-gap defense, run out of the 3-4 scheme, is designed to stop the run. It’s a defense that Clabo said has given the Falcons fits for years. He said in the past the team might “keep hitting our head against the wall” grinding a defense down until it broke a long run.

“I think we are happy with the results of the game,” Clabo said. “Obviously we’d like to run the ball better. I think probably there are going to be games where the opposite happens, where we have to lean on the run. That’s what good offenses can do. I think we can potentially be a very good offense.”

Turner believes the success in the passing game will eventually equate to success in the running game. He said in the past opponents have tried to make the Falcons one-dimensional. They would concentrate on stopping the run because they believed the Falcons couldn’t win by predominately throwing the ball. Now, defenses have to concentrate on Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Just ask the Chiefs.

A good run game cannot be underestimated in this week’s Monday night matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Keeping Manning off the field can only be an advantage. Manning was 19 of 26 for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the Broncos’ 31-19 season-opening win over the Steelers.

The Broncos run a 4-3 defense so at least the Falcons’ rushing attack won’t have to deal with the troublesome two-gap scheme.

“It’s important to eat up the clock, but we’ve got the offense that can score, so go ahead and get seven [points],” center Todd McClure said. “The key to playing against a guy like [Manning] is that you always want to be up two scores. You don’t ever want to leave the ball in his hands at the end of the game. You’ve got to try to get up two scores and stay that way.”

- Chris Vivlamore

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21 comments Add your comment

tjhook

September 12th, 2012
11:05 am

tjhook

September 12th, 2012
11:09 am

That’s the second time today . . . I definitely need to go see about the Powerball jackpot today . . . I am a big Snelling fan and I am hoping he gets a chance to shine extensively. I also am curious about Antone Smith because I think he can accomplish the same things we want Rodgers to do at running back. Turner clearly deserves the opportunity to prove himself against our next few opponents but we have enough talent that Coach Smith should pull a Fredi Gonzalez (w/ Dan Uggla) and stay loyal to the team’s detriment. The NFC will be highly competitive and ten wins may actually not be enough to automatically get into the playoffs.

North FLA Falcon

September 12th, 2012
11:18 am

Run some sweeps and screens. Turner is a load, so let him block for Rogers or Snelling.

elvis the falcon fan

September 12th, 2012
12:58 pm

Hey, I’ve got an idea….why not use a running back that actually has a little speed and escapability…Turner just doesnt seem to have the “want to” anymore…..Snelling or Antone Smith or even Quizz HAVE to be a better option. I dont understand this blind loyalty to an overweight slow footed, easily tackled Turner. Was there an honest “open competition” for RB or not?

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

September 12th, 2012
1:48 pm

I totally agree with those who have said that the Falcons need to play Quizz, Snelling (if he’s ready to play) and they need to give Antone Smith some touches during the game.

That is one of my peeves about Mike Smith…..they don’t seem to want to utilize someone else when Turner keeps running into the pile in front of him for no gain. It takes Turner too long to get started. By the time that he does, the hole opened by the O-Line has closed….rarely can he bounce outside because he’s slow.

Redcoat

September 12th, 2012
3:13 pm

I predict Turner will be a force against the Broncos, the passing will have the defense on their heels. Plus I have Turner on my fantasy team! Go Turner and Go Falcons!

TJ Duckett

September 12th, 2012
3:52 pm

Remember me?

SoulKitchen

September 12th, 2012
4:40 pm

If the run is working, then run more. If the pass is working, then pass more. Don’t force the situation. The Patriots do this all the time. Works for them.

The Real Rick

September 12th, 2012
4:51 pm

I am hoping whether its run or pass that they come out strong against a good team…too many times last year we routed mediocre teams and looked terrible against quality teams…..its time to play at a high level all year long……I am hoping the chemistry of the team is finally working and they play strong all year….rise on up

The Real Rick

September 12th, 2012
4:51 pm

I am hoping whether its run or pass that they come out strong against a good team…too many times last year we routed mediocre teams and looked terrible against quality teams…..its time to play at a high level all year long……I am hoping the chemistry of the team is finally working and they play strong all year….rise on up

Th

September 12th, 2012
4:52 pm

I agree with SoulKitchen, take what they give you. Why try to knock a hole through their D-line if you can swing Turner or Rodgers around them and flip it over there. Both have very good run after catch numbers so throw the ball 10 feet and let them run 10 yards. I love watching Clabo block down field on 180 lbs. DB’s anyway.

The Real Rick

September 12th, 2012
4:53 pm

Sick and tired….i agree with you on Smitty in the past …but did you see how little Turner was used in the late 2nd quarter and all the way into the 4th…..he really didnt see action again until the route was on…..I am hoping Smitty now has a win at all cost attitude…actually I think it had more to do with MM than Smitty…Koetter seems to be different…

Mike Franklin

September 12th, 2012
7:53 pm

I’m thinking that once our passing game is respected, Turner will find less clogged lanes to run down…

Didn't hear it from me...

September 12th, 2012
8:47 pm

Turner likes to drink… a lot…. the night before games…… it’s time to set that Bird Free.

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Samuel

September 13th, 2012
6:26 am

Some of these Idiotic Falcon fans think Mike Smith should throw Turner under the bus. Don’t get it twisted, he’s the best running back on the team. Being said that, all the other backs on the team have their own skillset and the Falcon organization is aware of that. Least we forget instant gratification fans, it’s a long season….

Big Ray

September 13th, 2012
8:02 am

Turner was the best RB on the team. Now, I’m not so sure. He’s still the hardest to bring down…once he reaches the 2nd level. At the 1st level, he’s the easiest to bring down because he shows almost ZERO lateral movement or ability to shake off defenders.

But it wasn’t just about Turner in Kansas City. The blocking wasn’t impressive by a long shot. I recall a couple of times there were some good holes, but the rest of the time, you needed to be a shiftier RB than Turner to make something happen.

Tyson Clabo stinks. We should have re-signed Harvey Dahl instead.

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