Turner believes Falcons on cusp of something good

Michael Turner thinks the NFL caught a glimpse of a coming

attraction in Atlanta.

It’s just what the Falcons envisioned: Tony Gonzalez, Roddy

White, Matt Ryan and Turner playing at an elite level, together,

for an entire game.

”I guess everybody’s been waiting a long time for us to click

like that in one game,” Turner said Monday. ”It felt good. We’ve

just got to keep it going.”

After finishing 9-7 last season and missing the playoffs, the

Falcons’ offense began the season seeking validation. An overtime

loss at Pittsburgh in Week 1 only caused more doubt, and the

blowout win over Arizona last week hardly offered much of a

measuring stick.

But winning 27-24 in overtime at New Orleans is having an

opposite effect. Everyone is starting to believe.

Watching film Monday, the Falcons saw that Gonzalez is still an

elite tight end, that White is among the league’s best wideouts and

that Turner looks like the same workhorse who finished second in

rushing two years ago.

And with Ryan channeling the efficiency that led to his 2008

offensive rookie of the year award, the Falcons now have proof they

can challenge the Saints for NFC South supremacy.

Atlanta used a relentless ground game (202 yards on 50 carries)

to end a three-game slide against New Orleans. The resulting time

of possession was staggering as the Falcons held the ball for all

but 27 minutes of a 73-minute game.

”It’s tough to stop, man, when you’ve got 19-play drives and

stuff like that,” White said. ”Defenses don’t want to play 80

plays.”

Turner ran for 111 yards, but his performance marked the first

time since Week 15 of 2008 that he carried at least 30 times. Jason

Snelling complemented Turner with 62 yards rushing on 14

attempts.

”Our offense went back out there and did what makes us good,”

Gonzalez said. ”I mean, Michael Turner what a player. You saw in

overtime. He just made plays and drove us down the field to get us

in position to win the game, and we did.”

Coach Mike Smith said Monday that Gonzalez, who caught eight

passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, played his best game since

the Falcons acquired him in a trade with Kansas City 18 months

ago.

Gonzalez made the Saints regret trying to single-cover him with

outside linebackers and safeties.

Possibly his best play was adjusting to a 9-yard pass on

fourth-and-2 that New Orleans defensive end Will Smith tipped near

the line of scrimmage. Gonzalez, who gathered control of the wobbly

ball as he was falling to his right ahead of safety Pierson

Prioleau, landed at the New Orleans 2, and Turner scored to make it

14-14 just before halftime.

”Each time, at some point in the game, it seemed like some guy

came up big when his number was called,” Snelling said. ”Being

able to run the ball like that helps out Matt even more. When we

can run the football, it gives him more options to hurt them in the

passing game.”

Ryan did just that, targeting Gonzalez and White a combined 15

times and completing 13 passes for 179 yards and two

touchdowns.

Every time Ryan would complete a pass, it seemed offensive

coordinator Mike Mularkey would call 10 straight runs to pound the

Saints’ front seven.

”It’s a huge deal,” Turner said. ”You want to get that

rhythm. You want to use everyone’s talents to the most their

capabilities to see what this team really looks like. To put things

together like we did yesterday – it felt pretty good.”

As well as the Falcons played, however, Turner understands it

took near-perfection to win. Had Saints kicker Garrett Hartley not

missed a potential 29-yard winning field goal in overtime, nobody

would’ve felt too pleased the next day.

”We are going to go out there and do whatever it takes to

win,” Turner said. ”I’m just so proud of all of these guys today.

This is a character win. We have so many good players on our

team.”

Notes: Smith said starting OLB Sean Weatherspoon, a first-round

draft pick, suffered no aftereffects from cramps that caused him to

leave the field on a cart in overtime. … The Falcons hope WR

Michael Jenkins (shoulder) and S Erik Coleman (knee) return to

practice on Wednesday.