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All offseason we heard about how Falcons RB Michael Turner was in great shape and ready to return to his 2008 form after an ankle sprain derailed his '09 campaign. Head coach Mike Smith said Turner looked fast and more confident this year. QB Matt Ryan, now in his third season, was expected to improve and help the offense become an elite unit with weapons like WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez.
In Week One, however, that offense failed to score a touchdown in a 15-9 overtime loss at Pittsburgh. With the Steelers starting backup QB Dennis Dixon in place of the suspended Ben Roethlisberger and the injured Byron Leftwich, the Falcons missed a chance to beat Pittsburgh when it was down.
Ryan completed 27-of-44 passes for 252 yards and an interception. Turner is off to a slow start for the second consecutive season. He rushed for just 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 avg.) and didn't break a run longer than seven yards.
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The Falcons want to be a power-running team that is productive on the ground against even the toughest defenses, but they couldn't hang with the Steelers' front seven, which was dominant.
That being said, Turner could bounce back in Week Two against the Cardinals — although they held Rams RB Steven Jackson to 81 yards on 22 carries (3.7 avg.) in Week One. Turner won't succeed, however, if the offensive line fails to clear running lanes again. The Falcons have to get more of a push, specifically from OLG Justin Blalock, vs. Arizona's three-man front, which includes disruptive NT Darnell Dockett.
The aerial attack, led by a maturing Ryan, has great potential, but Turner is still the most valuable piece of Atlanta's offense. The Falcons have a 12-2 record when he rushes for 96 yards or more. Plus, a mistake by Ryan nearly cost Atlanta the game late in the fourth quarter.
Ryan's throw, which was intended for White, whom Ryan targeted 23 times Sunday, hung in the air long enough for Troy Polamalu to pick it off and keep both feet inbounds before stepping out of bounds. It gave the Steelers the ball on the Falcons' 30-yard line with 1:40 left in regulation time, but PK Jeff Reed missed a 40-yard field goal in the final minute.