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Running Backs Get Strong Late In Games


Better late than never seems to be the approach this year's Falcons are taking to the running game.

And it's almost by design.

There was concern early only on this season that something with the running game needed fixing. That may have been true, but Atlanta seems to break off an important run each week, echoing what Smith has repeatedly said this season about getting the runs when they need them most.

In a tight game last week against Dallas, Michael Turner ran off a 43-yard gain to end the third quarter. A few players later he scored and that run against a Cowboys defense that had played well throughout the game signaled the beginning of the end of Dallas' hopes for a win.

Against the Eagles a week earlier, it was Jacquizz Rodgers that rattled off a 43-yard run of his own to keep the Philly defense honest. Turner said the running game can get the Falcons what they need if defenses overcommit to the pass, it just takes time.

"We're going to stick with it and be patient with the run game," Turner said on Wednesday. "Teams are going to try to defend the pass; we've got to run it. That's one of the things we were able to get done on Sunday night."

In Week 8 against the Eagles the Falcons managed 146 rushing yards behind solid games by Rodgers and Turner. Last week Turner broke 100 yards for the second time this season, reaching 102 on 20 carries. Those two games mark the first time all season Turner has reached 20 carries in a game.

Justin Blalock, the left guard on the offensive line, says every guy on the line plays every rush attempt like it's going for a big gain. They don't have a sense that at some point in the game Turner and Rodgers will break off a big run, they know it will happen. As a game continues on, they see the physical affect their consistent pounding with Turner has on opponents.

As the game goes on, Blalock and the line know it will happen on any play.

"It's the kind of back that he is," Blalock said. "It really wears on guys. It might be a short gain in the first quarter, but it could be a 12- or 20-yard gain by the third or fourth quarter. He's made a name for himself in this league by being the type of back that can ground and pound it and be a homerun threat at times. We have the utmost confidence that the more opportunities we give him, something is going to happen sooner or later."

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