Falcons' Michael Turner hits stride after slow start

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Running back Michael Turner has found his groove and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Atlanta Falcons.

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Falcons running back Michael Turner has started to produce on offense after struggling in his first two games and a drunken driving arrest in September.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Falcons running back Michael Turner has started to produce on offense after struggling in his first two games and a drunken driving arrest in September.

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.

“Yeah, and hopefully we can keep that going,” Turner said. “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, 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 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?” Gonzalez said. “It just adds to the choose-your-poison offense that we want to be, that we strive to be.”

The Falcons are third in scoring with 31 points per game, 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 <0x2014> 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.”

FALCONS AT REDSKINS

1 p.m. Fox-Ch. 54

RECORDS: Atlanta 4-0, Washington 2-2

SERIES RECORD: Redskins lead 15-6-1

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Redskins 31-17, Nov. 8, 2009

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Game features NFL’s top-rated passer (Matt Ryan, 112.1 rating) vs. top-rated rookie (Robert Griffin III, 103.2). ... Both have completed 69.4 percent of their passes, trailing only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (69.9). ... Falcons’ Ryan has only two interceptions in 102 attempts; Redskins’ Griffin has one pick in 86 throws. ... Griffin also league’s top rushing QB (234 yards) and has already tied Washington’s single-season record for rushing TDs by QB (4), matching Joe Theismann in 1979 and Eddie LeBaron in 1955. ... Falcons lead league with plus-10 turnover differential. They are only team yet to lose a fumble this season. ... Washington has lost seven games in a row at home.


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