Falcons-Chargers PreviewBy MATT BEARDMORE
2012-09-19 18:47:40 -
The Atlanta Falcons haven't been getting much out of their running game, but Michael Turner could still play a major role in the team's 2012 success.
It's uncertain if Turner will be able to play at all against his former team following a recent arrest.
Atlanta will try to win its sixth straight against the San Diego Chargers and stay unbeaten on the road in this series when two of the league's six remaining undefeated teams meet Sunday.
The Falcons (2-0) have been putting more of an emphasis on the passing game with first-year coordinator Dirk Koetter now running the offense, and the early results are impressive.
Matt Ryan is the league's top-rated passer at 117.6, and he's completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 518 yards and five touchdowns. He has plenty of weapons to work with, as the Falcons and New Orleans are the only teams to boast three players with at least 122 receiving yards. Roddy White leads with 189, tight end Tony Gonzalez has 12 receptions for 123 yards and second-year wide receiver Julio Jones has 122.
However, Atlanta is 28th in the league with 3.0 yards per carry. The Falcons ran for 67 yards on 28 attempts in Monday night's 27-21 victory over Denver, with Turner totaling 42 yards and rushing for his first touchdown - extending his team record to 51.
It's uncertain when Turner will get his next chance to line up in the backfield after getting arrested early Tuesday outside Atlanta on charges of drunken driving and speeding. He spent two hours behind bars and was released from the Gwinnett County jail after posting $2,179 bond.
"It was a bad decision on my part," Turner said Wednesday.
Turner has met with coach Mike Smith about the situation, and he said that no one has told him that he won't play Sunday.
"This is a legal matter, and it's very well-defined how we have to proceed with it through the league, and we'll let this process run its course," said Smith, who cited the collective bargaining agreement.
If Turner can play, it will be the second time he faces San Diego after spending 2004-07 with the team that drafted him out of Northern Illinois.
Turner ran for 120 yards and Ryan, then a rookie, threw for 207 with two scores as Atlanta won 22-16 in its last game against the Chargers on Nov. 30, 2008. That victory improved the Falcons' record in San Diego to 5-0.
Atlanta's only loss in eight matchups with the Chargers was 10-7 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on Nov. 13, 1998.
If the Falcons can extend their winning streak in this series, they'll improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2004.
San Diego goes for its first 3-0 start in a decade following last Sunday's 38-10 victory over Tennessee. The Chargers had never been 2-0 in coach Norv Turner's first five seasons.
"The thing that is unique to me is how close they are," Turner told the Chargers' official website. "The number of new guys we brought in (are) the right types of guys - (tight end) Dante (Rosario), (linebacker) Jarret (Johnson), (running back) Le'Ron (McClain). They feel the chemistry that's already there."
The new guys have also been producing. Starting for Antonio Gates (sore ribs), Rosario had a career-high three TDs against the Titans. With starting running back Ryan Mathews (broken clavicle) out again, Jackie Battle rushed for 69 yards, including a pair of one-yard TD runs in the fourth quarter.
"It is a super unselfish team all the way through, it's just win," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who has the league's second-best completion percentage at 73.8. "I just want to win and that's how every guy thinks: 'I just want to win, how can I help us win?'"
It's uncertain if Gates and Mathews will be able to help the Chargers win Sunday.
While San Diego's offense is clicking with 60 points and just one turnover, the defense under new coordinator John Pagano has surrendered 24 points. That unit is giving up a league-low 41.5 rushing yards per game.
That doesn't bode well even if Turner can go.
Atlanta's concerns don't end there, as the team has surrendered 270 yards on the ground and four scores.
"At some point in time this year, even though this is a passing league ... you're gonna have to stop the run," Smith said.
San Diego finished with 148 rushing yards in Week 2.
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