Michael Turner hasn’t had a great week, but he’s still needed

Michael Turner's job is to break tackles, not get tackled. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Michael Turner's job is to break tackles, not get tackled. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Flowery Branch – A lot of folks are down on Michael Turner. He’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry, which means if you handed him the ball four times in a row he’d make a first down, but you’d need a measurement to prove it. He also managed to sully one of the sweeter moments this franchise has lately known by getting arrested for DUI on the way home.

Comments left on AJC.com blogs suggest that Turner should be benched, cut or traded within the next half-hour, but none of the above is up to happen anytime soon. Because the Falcons, like it or not, still need Michael Turner.

Their offense is changing, yes, but it isn’t changing so much that it will have no further use for yards rushing. On the contrary, the more you throw — and the Falcons under Dirk Koetter have and will throw more than they did under Mike Mularkey — the greater the opportunity is to run. We saw it happen Monday night: The Falcons deployed five defensive backs on nearly every snap to counter Peyton Manning, and Willis McGahee ran for 113 yards.

Defenses will do the same against the Falcons’ offense. Heck, they’re doing it already. “That’s one of the things that happens when you put that personnel group [three wide receivers] on the field,” quarterback Matt Ryan said Wednesday. “You spread out the secondary. That’s something we plan for, something we look to exploit.”

To date, they haven’t. The Falcons are tied for 26th in the 32-team NFL in yards rushing. (Meanwhile, Ryan leads the league in passing efficiency.) To their credit, they’re 2-0. But Victory No. 2 was imperiled because the Falcons couldn’t do against Denver what coach Mike Smith insists his team must do, which is run the ball when it needs to be run.

Up 27-14 with 11:48 remaining, the ideal would have been to hand the ball to Turner and let him pound. The Falcons handed it to him on first and saw him gain a yard. On their next possession, they tried the same tack and saw him gain three yards. With 3:25 left and the lead down to six points, the Falcons handed it to Turner twice. He gained four yards on first down, one yard on second. If not for Ryan’s nerveless third-down completion to Julio Jones, this sweet franchise moment might have become just another Falcons whiff.

Some will put the blame on Koetter/Smith for Getting Too Conservative With A Lead, but that’s the way of the neo-NFL: You throw to get ahead and run to stay there. If you keep throwing it every down when you’re in front, you don’t burn the clock and you run the risk of getting intercepted and blowing your lead. But if the Falcons can’t line up and push somebody backward when circumstances mandate, they’re going to blow some leads that way.

No, the lack of a running game isn’t all Turner’s fault. Backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling totaled a whopping five yards on four carries, and there didn’t seem to be many holes until Turner popped the clinching 15-yarder on the night’s final handoff. To that point, the longest gain by a Falcon had been a 7-yard Ryan scramble.

Said Ryan: “We need to keep chipping away. We’re close.”

Also this: “[Running the ball] is something we want to do better. But it’s early.”

Then, speaking of Turner: “He’s proven he can do it. He’s consistent.”

Over his first four seasons here, Turner averaged 1,320 yards on 4.4 yards per carry. Through two games he has 74 yards. The Falcons hinted over the offseason that they wanted the big man, who’s 30, to accept a slightly lesser role, but doing less isn’t the same as doing nothing. He’s still the feature back. (Rodgers hasn’t proved he can run between the tackles, and Snelling is a career backup.) He’s still the Falcon most apt to get the toughest yards.

Addressing the media for the first time since his arrest, Turner apologized to the organization and to fans and expressed what sounded like sincere contrition. “It was a bad decision on my part,” he said, and then: “I don’t think anybody is more disappointed than I am.”

Michael Turner can’t take back the hours that led to his early-morning arrest, but he can show that there’s still spring in those massive legs. Even this Koetting-edge (sorry, couldn’t resist) offense will have moments when it needs the Burner to churn. He doesn’t have to gain 1,000 yards anymore; he just has to bang out the necessary ones. Like it or not, no other Falcon can do what he does.

175 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

September 19th, 2012
4:37 pm

Steve

September 19th, 2012
4:47 pm

I can’t believe people still get excited about being “first.” Rather sad.

Paul

September 19th, 2012
4:49 pm

Superior pun in that last paragraph, Mr. Bradley.

GTT

September 19th, 2012
4:49 pm

One hundred yard games will make people forget all about it Michael. Get on it.

GTT

September 19th, 2012
4:50 pm

It’ll be a sad day when people no longer get excited about finishing first.

P B Orr

September 19th, 2012
4:53 pm

He’s a normal young man who had some drinks at a “gentleman’s club”. Big deal! The bad thing to me is driving 100. The police report stated he wasn’t drunk. It’s a stupid law that is basically a form of passive prohibition, and it doesn’t stop REAL drunks from driving and killing people. If you want DUI to stop, then either make a real prohibition and live with it (fat chance), or fit all cars with alcohol interlocks (doable and smart). As it stands, it’s just pure hypocrisy and random fate. Many pillars of respectability drive technically “drunk” every day.

As for Turner? He had 1300+ yards last year. He’s a huge part of the offense. He’s a good dude. Cut him some slack.

Mark Bradley

September 19th, 2012
4:56 pm

Newspaperman

September 19th, 2012
4:57 pm

…said the guy who didn’t post first.

BURN!

P B Orr

September 19th, 2012
5:01 pm

He may have earned a new nickname – “Magic Mike” :)

Hot err

September 19th, 2012
5:10 pm

The burner is burnt out. His gut is a disgrace to athletes everywhere.

Grace

September 19th, 2012
5:13 pm

P B Orr >>> he blew 0.19. Legal limit is 0.08 … that’s a lot more than “technically drunk”. Would you want someone who had 5 glass-sized shots driving next to your wife or daughter or mother? Doubtful.

Look, Falcons players have managed to keep their noses clean for several years. Mr. Blank, Smitty & Thomas haven’t had to make this type of decision in awhile. Do you do what’s best for the winning percentage, or do you do what’s best for the community? Tough questions.

As a Falcons fan, I hope Mr Turner is on the field and RUNNING again, but as a member of this community, I hope his behavior isn’t condoned.

Jt

September 19th, 2012
5:14 pm

Doesn’t take long to forget does it Mark? When he joined the Falcons and led them to a 13-3 record it was hailed as one of the greatest FA signings. Now a few years later and fans are ready to kick him to the curb. If you do that, you better have an option that is just as good and they do not. Yes, rodgers is quick and has potential, and Snelling seems to run north and south and can catch the ball out of the backfield. But just when you are about frustrated with Turner, he breaks off 12 to 15 yards. Too often it looks like he is running in mud- not sure whether that is waiting for a hole to open up that hasn’t or if he is slowing down from lack of conditioning or taking a beating over the years. But again, what are the other options? None. He has been a model citizen since he arrived- he messed up. I would hope that if the Falcons benched him it would be from a prolonged lack of production not because he made a bonehead decision one time- who knows? Maybe I will make a bonehead decision one day. Nah, I doubt it. I have used all mine up already

Don Waddell

September 19th, 2012
5:18 pm

It’s too bad he can’t move that fast on the field. Maybe he would if the Falcons got him liquored up and got some talent in his face before kick-off.

Doodaddy

September 19th, 2012
5:25 pm

PB Orr – well said.

I wonder how some of these posters deal with it when they make a mistake. Thank goodness no one was hurt, except Mr. Turner and hopefully he will grow and be a better person for his mistake. Give him some slack and quit with the judgment already.

Greg

September 19th, 2012
5:40 pm

Turner = has been an average NFL back for a long time, but is now struggling to hold that position against becoming a below-average NFL back. I don’t see much upside for him. Our inability to run the ball will hurt us repeatedly this season.

P B Orr

September 19th, 2012
5:47 pm

Grace, it’s .109 – .11 rounded off. The legal limit was once .15, and THAT was too low. A person who is not a beginner is fully functional up to .15. It’s .08 now because Republican baptists and Democrat nannies make the laws. There were perfectly good drunk driving laws before. They came into effect when the driver was actually drunk, not when some stupid arbitrary chemical test says he is. The real danger to your kids and others are people who can’t drive stone sober. The Atlanta roads are stuffed to the curbs with these.

The stupid thing Turner did was to drive nearly 100 miles per hour on city roads. That should cost him his license for a year, not his slurping a few shots with the hotties.

The Mighty Quinn

September 19th, 2012
6:04 pm

At least it was the night AFTER the big game and not the night BEFORE the Super Bowl…like some Falcons past.

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
6:08 pm

I HAVE MADE MY FAIR SHARE OF MISTAKES IN MY LIFE, NO DOUBT! BUT, TO BASICALLY SAY, OH, WHO CARES, HE WAS JUST WITH THE LADIES IS JUST PLAIN LUDACRIS AND UNREASONABLE! IF YOU ASK ME THE PUNISHMENT FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE IS WAYYYYYY TO LENIENT! THAT ACT IS ONE OF THE MOST SELFISH ONE CAN UNDERTAKE! YOU ARE PUTTING OTHERS’ LIVES AT RISK WHEN YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL INEBRIATED! YOU COULD END SOMEONES LIFE WITH THAT KIND OF ACTION AND ALL YOU GET IS A MISDEMEANOR AND SOME COMMUNITY SERVICE! ANYONE WHO CAN DEFEND THIS ACTION IS COMPLETELY IGNORANT!

Magic City

September 19th, 2012
6:13 pm

Barry

September 19th, 2012
6:19 pm

HEY Y’ALL :

THE “PROCESS” FOR OUR 2012 DRIVE TO THE SUPER BOWL IIS STILL EVOLVING INTO SOMETHING REAL “EXPLOSIVE”, HOWEVER, SOME THINGS NEED TO BE TWEEKED ALONG THE WAY. FIRST, THE RUNNING GAME. FOR TWO GAMES THE RUNNING GAME STAGNANT. IT IS NOT DUE TO THE RUNBING BACKS BUT THE LINEMEN. THEY ARE NOT MOVING PEOPLE TO OPEN HOLES. REMEMBER, AS A GROUP, THESE ARE THE SAME LINEMEN THAT COULD NOT MOVE AN INCH FOR A FIRST DOWN AGAINST THE SAINTS. AND WE DO REMEMBER WHAT THEY DID AGAINST THE GIANTS. THEY SLMOST COULD NOT MOVE PEOPLE ON THE GOAL LINE AGAINST THE BRONCOS. THEY CAN PASS BLOCK BUT THEY CAN’T. RUN BLOCK. WE NEED BIG. LINEMEN THST CAN DO BOTH. THAT IS WHY WE DRAFTED SOME “BIG NASTIES” IN THE DRAFT. IT IS ALNOST THESE ROOKIES TIME TO SHOW UP AND SHOW OUT IF THESE VETS COBTINUE TO NOT NOVE THE MEN IN FRONT OF THEM OB RUNNING PLAYS,SINCE WE ARE NOT RUNNING MY PREFERENCE “THE ZONE RUN BLOCKING SCHEME”. WE GOT TO GET
PROFESSINAL LINEMEN THAT ARE PRIMIER AT THAT THEIR GAME IN BOTH RUN AND PASS BLOCKING.
IF THE FILN SHOW SOME OF THE VETS CAN’T. DO BOTH, IT’S TIME TO GIVE THE ROOKS A CHANCE. THAT’S THE ONLY WAY WE CAN ATTEMPT TO IMPROVE UP FRONT AND IMPROVE THE PSSSING AND THE RUNNING GAME. WE NEED TO REVIEW SND FIX THIS IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”.

GO FALCONS. THE “PROCESS” CONTINUES.

“FALCONS,RISE UP!! WE”RISE UP!” IN ONE HEARTBEAT!!!

SSSSSSSSSHHHHHH!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN.TELLL EVERYBODY! !!

……………”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!……

Joe Falcon

September 19th, 2012
6:24 pm

Hard to believe that some moron is blaming “Republicans and Baptists” for Turners actions…obviously, personal responsibility is a concept that is wayyyyyy over the heads of stupid people.

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
6:33 pm

Joe Falcon,
VERY WISE MAN INDEED! SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T “GET IT” AND NEVER WILL!

loel

September 19th, 2012
6:37 pm

Yea Bradley, we need him. He would be good for the play where we “take a knee”
We gain about a much taking a knee as he does carring the ball.

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
6:38 pm

Barry,
TELL ME ABOUT BROTHER! TELL ME ABOUT IT!

Name Changed to Avoid Moderation

September 19th, 2012
6:46 pm

Cut him now. He is a bad influence and can’t run the ball anymore.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Not what the Falcons need now.

Name Changed to Avoid Moderation

September 19th, 2012
6:47 pm

Oh, and you guys with the caps lock on…knock it off!

moboman

September 19th, 2012
6:50 pm

Lose 20 pounds and we might see the resurgence of Turner. He just needs to shed those cinderblock cleats hes wearing. The Burner needs to shed some ballast. He used to have a burst of speed once he broke the line. Nothing but a plodder now. 20 pounds off would do wonders.

Hillbilly D

September 19th, 2012
6:51 pm

In my opinion, Turner is slow hitting the hole (when one is there) and he has been for a couple years now. He’s a once good back who’s getting old, in football terms.

JSS

September 19th, 2012
6:53 pm

Harpy Barry sighting! It’s a drinking game!

No excuse for Turner’s DUI…

Turner is a weapon that they have not learned to reuse… Ever since Houston stuffed the Falcons running game, he’s been an afterthought… As Hillbilly D has so eloquently said since 2006, the team is not really interested in doing the real work to maximize a running game (or a player like Turner). It is an investment in real talent… Otherwise, it is like parking a 30,000 pound stream roller on 30 degree incline and expecting it to work efficiently… That is such a waste…

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
6:55 pm

Mr. Bradley,
I JUST WANTED TO PERSONALLY THANK YOU FOR THE COVERAGE OF THE GAME MONDAY NIGHT! I’M SURE IT IS A THANKLESS JOB IN MANY FACETS! WHAT YOU DO FOR THIS CITY SHOULD NEVER GO UNRECOGNIZED! I’M SURE MANY ATLIENS AGREE WITH ME ON THIS!

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
7:03 pm

IT’S AMAZING HOW SOMETHING SO SMALL LIKE CAPS LOCK ON CAN IRRITATE SOME PEOPLE! THESE BLOGS ARE MEANT FOR ENJOYMENT AND TO GET AWAY FROM THE DAILY GRIND, SO TO SPEAK! I’M SORRY IF IT OFFENDS BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO WORRY ABOUT THINGS SO MINUTE! I DON’T, AND NEVER WILL CRITICIZE THE METHOD OF COMMENTING ON THESE BLOGS SO WHY ARE YOU?

Getaway

September 19th, 2012
7:16 pm

PB Orr didn’t blame Rebublicans and Baptists for Turner’s indiscretion, he blamed them setting for a ridiculously low blood alchol level for establishing impairment. I don’t know if it was really the republicans or not but I agree that the level is too low.
You can have one 16 oz beer with your buddies on your way home from work and blow .08. I don’t know about you, but one beer doesn’t impair my abilities in the slightest and certainly doesn’t quailify me as drunk.

Denver Falcon

September 19th, 2012
7:20 pm

it’s not the caps lock on that irritates some people – it’s spelling a word “ludacris”…

Getaway

September 19th, 2012
7:20 pm

Because ALL CAPS means you’re yelling. It’s an etiquette thing.

Mrs. Jones the grammar teacher

September 19th, 2012
7:25 pm

life’s not just about rap music, fellas…. in adult communication it’s actually spelled ‘LUDICROUS”….

Getaway

September 19th, 2012
7:26 pm

But it’s okay when Barry does it. He means well.

hee hee

September 19th, 2012
7:28 pm

New Falcons slogan…..”Bottoms Up”

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
7:32 pm

SORRY FELLAS IF YOU COULDN’T UNDERSTAND THE PUN THAT WAS INTENDED! I KNOW HOW TO SPELL LUDICROUS, JUST TRYING TO HAVE A LITTLE FUN GUYS, BEEN A LONG DAY! BY THE WAY, I HATE RAP!

P B Orr

September 19th, 2012
7:34 pm

This is what I don’t get. People are complaining about Turner being done. Koetter is loser. No, Koetter is an offensive genius. Peyton is HOF bound. Wait, Peyton has a weak arm. Romo is great. Wait. He actually still sucks.

What is it with all this fear and panic? Are we all hyperactives? Is fantasy football responsible? The Falcons do not have a “cutting edge” offense. They have what every other NFL team has – an offense that works if you execute the plays on the chalkboard. Part of that is running. We’re gonna need a running game. Turner is averaging 1300 per year. See the connection?

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
7:38 pm

Mrs. Jones,
IN ADULT LIFE WE DON’T CRITICIZE UNTIL WE KNOW ALL THE FACTS! YOU ARE ASS-SUMING SWEETHEART!

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
7:40 pm

THE LEVEL OF ARROGANCE THAT IS PORTRAYED ON HERE AT TIMES IS BEYOND ME!

Billyho55

September 19th, 2012
8:00 pm

PB Orr,
WE HAVE HAD OUR LITTLE SPATS HERE AND THERE BUT WHEN A MAN IS RIGHT I HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE HIM! YOU COULDN’T BE ANY TRUER!

oldfart

September 19th, 2012
8:04 pm

Schlitz happens. I will leave his punishment for that to the judges, whether appointed by self or otherwise.

I have more of a problem with his takeoffs the last couple of seasons reminding me of an old steam locomotive leaving the station with too much weight in the caboose.

JSS

September 19th, 2012
8:17 pm

Barry is a Harpy…

Norwegian Blue

September 19th, 2012
8:21 pm

PB Orr- THANK YOU for telling it like it is. It is insane to arrest someone for 0.109 BAC (which by all reasonable standards is not remotely “drunk”), but driving 97 mph is a whole ‘nother matter. For my part, I hope this incident does prompt Turner to re-dedicate himself to football. As Bradley (correctly) states, the Falcons need him.

dawgsfan1990

September 19th, 2012
8:23 pm

it’s kind of funny ya’ll arguing over whether what he blew made him technically drunk or not since he refused to take a breathalyzer test…

Hillbilly D

September 19th, 2012
8:26 pm

Just for general info, does Georgia still have an implied consent law?

GTPhenom

September 19th, 2012
8:28 pm

The law states that if you blow anything higher than a .08 for your BAC, you are guilty of a DUI. You can’t just excuse Turner’s actions because you are of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that this law is too harsh. That is besides the point. If he’s foolish enough to drink enough to go over the legal limit, and then drive, then he deserves whatever punishment comes his way. And he deserves even more for going 100 mph while drunk. I don’t particularly care one way or the other what the Falcons do with him, but as long as he gets his just desserts from the law, do what you will. But acting like it’s “no big deal” to be drunk and driving is inane and stupid.

JSS

September 19th, 2012
8:39 pm

@ Hillbilly…
You can decline a field test, but the law was changed to a form of self-incrimination law… You declined so they charge you with suspicion of DUI. You’re arrested and they can get a blood alcohol test instead…

Mel inda Moon

September 19th, 2012
8:44 pm

MT is still a threat based on his cumulative yards total even as of today. With him in the backfield it gives 7 the Playfake the O requires for “matriculating” the ball downfield ( homage to Steve Sabol)…If the CBA doesn’t allow for the club to impose a penalty, I don’t care one way or the other…