By PETE SCHNATZ
For the Journal-Constitution
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Philadelphia — The Falcons rushing game has seen more fluctuations than the stock market this season, with encouraging performances interspersed with pedestrian efforts.
Michael Turner opened the 2009 campaign by torching Detroit for 220 yards, but came back to earth the following week with a 42-yard day at Tampa Bay. A week later, Turner was on the upswing again with a 104-yard outing against Kansas City, yet followed that up with just 56 yards on the ground at Carolina. In the next game at Green Bay, Turner was super once again with 121 yards. He was then held to 54 yards by Chicago before the Falcons headed into their bye week.
Rested, recharged and ready to at least resume the cycle, Turner seemed destined to burn up the turf Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against Philadelphia.
The Eagles defense had other ideas in posting a 27-14 win.
The Falcons’ ground attack went nowhere, amassing just 77 yards on 24 carries. Turner contributed 58 yards on 17 rushes, had just one carry in the final quarter with his team trying to play catch-up, and his longest haul of the afternoon went for 22 yards.
“I thought we were establishing the run early, we were doing some good things, but we fell behind and had to get away from the run game a little bit,” Turner said. “And I think every big run we had, we got a flag. I think the personnel we had in there was working, we just have to play penalty free.”
Turner did break off a 17-yard gain in the opening quarter, only to see the ball brought back by a holding call. But the majority of the Falcons’ running plays went for little or no gain, with four that lost yardage. The Eagles, on the other hand, followed the lead of Michael Westbrook (22 carries, 167 yards, 2 touchdowns) to total 192 yards on 32 rushes.
Turner also didn’t get the ball on a second-and-goal from the Eagles’ 1-yard line in the third quarter, an opportunity the Falcons squandered when Matt Ryan’s pass was picked off in the end zone by Lito Sheppard.
“I wanted to run it, but I think it was a personnel issue where we couldn’t get our goal-line package in,” Turner said.
One factor working against the Falcons was the revolving door at left tackle.
Todd Weiner started the game in place of Sam Baker, who was inactive with a hip injury. But Weiner went down with an unspecified knee injury in the second half and was replaced by Quinn Ojinnaka.
But veteran center Todd McClure wouldn’t pin the Falcons’ ineffective ground game on one position.
“I think we’re handling [the line changes] pretty well,” McClure said. “The guys that have had to come in have done a good job. It’s something during a 16-game season that you’ve got to deal with. There were some holes there, and there were times when we didn’t block the way we should have. It’s a whole offensive effort — we have to be more consistent with our running game, because it will help us down the road.”
While the Falcons running backs seemed to disappear into the line, play after play, head coach Mike Smith saw something entirely different.
“We really were close,” he said. The Eagles “did a very good job up front in terms of putting eight men on the line, [but] I think when we go back and look at [the film] we’re going to see that there were opportunities for some big plays that we just weren’t able to convert.”
I'm a Devin Hester guy.