Turner returning to prominence for Falcons

Running back Michael Turner has found his groove and it couldn’t

come at a better time for the Atlanta Falcons.

The first two weeks of the season were tough on Turner, who

struggled to establish some rhythm on the field and made his

circumstances worse with a Sept. 18 arrest on DUI and speeding

charges.

But his showing over the last two weeks proves that Turner

perhaps has regained some focus in Atlanta’s offense.

”Yeah, and hopefully we can keep that going,” Turner said on

Friday. ”There’s still some things we need to improve on, but

we’re winning, so everything’s fine. You’d like to fix it while

we’re winning than wait ’til something bad happens and then you

start worrying about it. Get it while it’s good.”

Turner averaged a paltry 2.6 yards per carry over his first 28

attempts this season, his most explosive run coming 15-yard gain

that helped the Falcons seal a Week 2 victory over Denver.

A few hours after the game, Turner was arrested in Gwinnett

County driving 97 mph on Interstate-85 and was charged with

DUI.

Because it’s still an ongoing legal matter, Turner said he will

not comment on the incident until it’s complete, but he did

apologize for embarrassing the team and vowed to get better on the

field.

His promise has held true so far.

Turner has averaged 6.8 yards per attempt over the last two

weeks and looks more like the two-time Pro Bowl running back who

has rushed for 5,538 yards and a franchise record 52 touchdowns

since signing as a free agent in 2008.

When Turner is in sync, Atlanta’s opponents are forced to bring

up a safety for run support, a scenario that gives quarterback Matt

Ryan the option of using play-action passes to exploit one-on-one

matchups for receivers Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio

Jones.

It’s a good formula for success and one that Atlanta (4-0) hopes

to keep building on Sunday at Washington (2-2).

”When (you) play against us, what are you going to do?” said

Gonzalez, the 16th-year tight end and the NFL’s No. 2

career-leading receiver. ”It just adds to the choose-your-poison

offense that we want to be, that we strive to be.”

”We’ll see what they to do, but if they want to stop the run,

they’ve got to put more people in the box, which is going to open

up for Matt and passing game to throw it to us. So that’s the good

balance and we’ve got to keep it up.”

Four-time Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White benefited enormously

from the man-to-man matchups against Carolina, catching for 169

yards and two touchdowns.

”Any time we can get the big guy running like that and those

guys got to bring their safeties down to the box, me and Julio are

going to have a fun day,” White said. ”We love when we can get

that safety down there and helping out on the run and we can

play-action and go deep and things like that. If the big boy can

run like that for the next 13 games (laughing), we’ll be

fine.”

The Falcons are third in scoring with 31 points per game, maybe

not a good omen for a Washington defense that allows an average of

30.8 and ranks 27th.

Washington’s pass rush has produced just seven sacks, with 3.5

of them belonging to outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, but Turner

believes the Redskins could still pose some problems with ball

security.

Led by 15th-year inside linebacker London Fletcher, Washington’s

3-4 front has helped lead an attack that ranks sixth in the NFL

with nine takeaways.

”He’s probably the most underrated player in the league,”

Turner said. ”His resume speaks for itself. He’s always going to

be around the football. He has a great nose for the football, has

great skills to get off blockers and make plays. We’ve got to be

able to handle him and other guys. They’ve got some big boys up

front, too.”

Turner just wants to keep staying his current course – shoulder

pads square, hitting an open space and breaking tackles into the

second level of the defense.

He even showed some savvy in the passing game last week,

catching a screen over the middle and running for a 60-yard

touchdown.

”We want to be two-dimensional offensively,” Turner said. ”As

long as we can keep improving, we’ll be all right.”

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