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In a rush for the rush


### Falcons are focused on getting the running game on track

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. —Despite a difficult first-week effort on the ground, the Atlanta Falcons still want to be known as a running team.

Against the Steelers, last season's third-best defense against the run, the Falcons managed only 58 yards on the ground, 42 from running back Michael Turner.

The Falcons believe when they run the ball well, they win. Under head coach Mike Smith, they're 11-2 when they have a running back rush for 100 yards or more.

But last Sunday, they just couldn't get it going.

"It's just frustrating because that's kind of what we pride ourselves on here is being able to run the football," tackle Tyson Clabo said Wednesday. "Last week we got away from that, and it's just not us."

On the Falcons' offensive tree, everything branches from the run game. If it's not going, the offense can at times struggle to find life, as it showed against Pittsburgh.

This week as they prepare for the Arizona Cardinals, they know they must focus on what went wrong on the ground and get it fixed. A potentially deadly passing attack at the hands of quarterback Matt Ryan is hindered without Turner and Co. running well out of the backfield.

"We actually have to work a little bit harder to get over it," wide receiver Eric Weems said. "We need that running game for us so we can do all the play-action pass and do everything of that nature."

The Cardinals present a slightly different challenge for Atlanta. While they run a similar base 3-4 defense, the scheme itself is different. In Pittsburgh the front three work to occupy blockers at the line of scrimmage and allow the playmakers behind them to pursue.

Arizona's 3-4 is more active up front and it means a different sort of preparation from one week to the next for Atlanta.

"They're a little bit different," Clabo said. "As far as their front, they're a little bit more of a penetrating attack, as opposed to the two-gap scheme that we saw last week. That's going to present its own set of challenges for us. We just have to prepare and go out and execute."

Last week against the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals weren't gashed on the ground, but they allowed 85 rushing yards total. Former Pro Bowl back Stephen Jackson ran for 81 of those yards for a 3.7 yards-per-carry average and a long of 18 yards.

Turner knows he is one of the main cogs in the offense. If he and the run game can't find lanes and put together positive carries, the offense becomes one dimensional. But they know they can't be one dimensional on the ground either. The running back believes a fast start on early downs can make all the difference.

"There's just little things (we need to do to get better)," Turner said. "Get some positive runs early on first down, so that Coach can call a better run play again, and just get a rhythm. Rhythm is the main thing. Once we get a rhythm of things we will be hard to stop."

Despite their struggles on ground, the Atlanta locker room is not panicking after one loss and one bad performance. They're approaching Week 2 with a short memory of Week 1.

But they also know they don't want to continue their winless streak, however brief it is.

"It's important for every team not to go 0-2," Clabo said. "We're no different than anyone else in that respect. Obviously 1-1 is better than 0-2. We understand that and we're going out there on Sunday to win."

To get a win on Sunday they know they have to run the ball, but also not to beat themselves. They acknowledge that Pittsburgh's defense is stout, but they believe firmly much of what happened came at their own hands.

"It really is on us," Turner said. "A majority of it was us. Pittsburgh's a great defense. They did a great job of doing what they're supposed to do. If we cleaned up some things and did stuff that we've been working on all week right, we would have had better chance. "

Turner said the loss was especially stinging because they felt they didn't execute to the level they're capable. If they're outplayed, it's one thing, but they don't want to deliver a performance on the field that makes an opponent appear better than they are.

"You don't want to lose to a team when you're beating yourself," Turner said. "If the other teams just go to you and they come out with a win, you can live with that better than you just going out there and not doing anything you're supposed to do."

On Sunday against the Cardinals, the Falcons plan to remind the league that they're still a dominant run team and their early-season performance is an exception to their running rule.

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