0

Falcons' Turner is running 'like a bowling ball'

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) runs up field as Tennessee Titans long snapper Ken Amato (58) falls behind during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) runs up field as Tennessee Titans long snapper Ken Amato (58) falls behind during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

FLOWERY BRANCH -- All the postgame comments from Tennessee's locker room were similar: Tackling Michael Turner is no easy task.

Turner, listed as 5-foot-10 and 247 pounds, ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons' 23-17 win over the Titans on Sunday. It was just a typical game for Turner, who is on pace for one of his best seasons and is a key to Atlanta's playoff hopes in the tight NFC.

Turner already has five 100-yard games. He ranks fifth in the NFL with 888 yards rushing.

The success of the powerful Turner is no surprise to Tennessee's defenders.

"Well, he is like a bowling ball out there," said Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon. "You've got to hit him low to get a hit on him. Really you need to gang-tackle him."

Asked what it is like to try to tackle Turner, Titans safety Jordan Babineaux replied: "Well, what do you think? He's 250 pounds."

Turner had a 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He added a knockout big run late in the game.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said after the game he considered an onside kick after rookie Jake Locker's touchdown pass to Nate Washington, but instead Tennessee kicked off with the hope of making a defensive stop.

Turner put a big dent in the Titans' plan on first down from the 20 with about 3 minutes remaining. Turner ran behind right tackle Tyson Clabo for a 27-yard gain to the 47. Three plays later, Matt Ryan completed a third-down pass to Harry Douglas, and the game was over.

"That's what the good running backs in this league do, and that's run and run hard," Babineaux said. "We just can't let that happen. We get to the (3)-minute mark and he breaks one. That can't happen. We stop him there and we put ourselves in a position to win."

Perhaps the biggest surprise is such a big back has been reeling off so many long runs. He broke free for a 35-yard run earlier in the game when he ran over safety Michael Griffin.

Turner never went down on the play. He was finally pushed out of bounds at the Titans' 17.

"I got a couple of guys; it wasn't just him that I got," Turner said when asked about Griffin. "I was just out there running and playing hard for the team. We needed to win and bounce back from last week. The best way to get through that was to get a win."

He has had runs of more than 20 yards in seven of Atlanta's 11 games.

"He's running about as hard as I think I've ever seen any running back that I've been associated with," Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday.

Ryan said he is motivated by Turner's big runs.

"Absolutely. It fires me up," Ryan said. "It's fun to hand it off and then turn around and watch and he's running guys over."

Atlanta (6-4) hosts Minnesota on Sunday. The Falcons are one game behind New Orleans in the NFC South and in a close race for wild-card spots.

Turner is on pace for 1,420 yards and 13 touchdowns. Each would rank as the second-best totals for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The 100-yard game for Turner was his 24th since joining the Falcons in 2008, tying Gerald Riggs' franchise record. He has rushed for 47 touchdowns, one behind Riggs' team record.

Notes: Smith said left tackle Sam Baker, who missed his fourth straight game with a back injury, had limited work in practice last week and worked out on Monday morning. Smith wouldn't say if Baker would reclaim his starting job from Will Svitek if he is able to play. "We're not going to make that determination until we get Sam back out there on the field," Smith said. ... DT Jonathan Babineaux had two tackles for losses and deflected two passes at the line. "I thought it was without a doubt his best performance of the season," Smith said. The Titans' Babineaux is Jonathan's younger brother.