By CARROLL ROGERS
FLOWERY BRANCH — If the Falcons are looking for things to draw on that are different from recent one-and-done trips to the playoffs, they could start with Michael Turner.
The Falcons’ running back has carried the ball 222 times this season, well below his 301 total of last season, which was second-most in the NFL. That leaves him feeling that much fresher as the Falcons enter the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 13.
Entering the Falcons previous three playoffs trips, in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Turner had 376, 334 and 301 carries in the regular season, respectively. He led the NFL in that category in 2008 and 2010. In each of those three ensuing playoffs losses, Turner had no more than 42 yards rushing.
Turner rushed 18 times for 42 yards in 2008 against Arizona, 10 times for 39 yards in 2010 against Green Bay and 15 times for 41 years in 2011 against the Giants.
In first-year coordinator Dirk Koetter’s offense, the Falcons don’t use the power run game like they have in the past. But that means Turner is fresher, both by circumstances and by design.
“I tore my groin the last two years, one side one year, the other side the next year,” Turner said. “So I don’t have those problems coming into this year. I’m good.”
The Falcons finished the regular season ranked 29th out of 32 teams in the NFL with only 87.3 yards rushing per game. But the three teams they could match up with next week, Washington (169.3), Minnesota (164.6) and Seattle (161.2) rank first, second and third respectively. The Falcons know they’re not in that conversation anymore, but still see the importance of running the ball with success in the playoffs, using Turner up the middle and Jacquizz Rogers on the edge.
“I think we’re our best when the run is working,” offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said. “Now whether or not we’re leaning on it, and running it every play, that’s probably not going to happen. But when our run game is successful, four or five yards a carry, I think we’re at our best at that point.”
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