Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 11/7/11

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 03: Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against the Baltimore Raves at Georgia Dome on September 3, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. The Falcons showed the benefits of their bye week in Sunday's 31-7 win over Indianapolis, but it wasn't all from rest. Head coach Mike Smith gave the player the entire week off but that didn't mean that the coaching staff took off for lush tropical shores. Some of the changes that the Falcons implemented will look to have implications for the entire rest of the season. Entering Sunday's game with Indianapolis, the Falcons were 4-1 when running back Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards and 1-2 when he didn't. Nonetheless, during the bye week the Falcons coaching staff decided that with the famously heavy load that Turner carries that Sunday's matchup might be an opportunity to lighten it a little bit. The team still rushed for more than 100 yards albeit in a somewhat unconventional fashion but Turner finished with 71 yards on only 19 carries. Turner's reduced workload perhaps taking advantage of an inferior opponent with a key divisional game ahead -- was just one of the decisions the Falcons' coaching staff made during its bye week that showed itself on Sunday. "We want to be able to run the football and up until yesterday, Mike had the majority of the snaps," said Smith of Turner, who carried the ball at least 26 times in three of the last four games. "I think if you add the yardage up, we're going to be over 100 with the rest of the guys (163 in total). We gave more snaps to Jason (Snelling), we gave more snaps to Jacquizz (Rodgers) and then, of course, we had (wide receiver Julio Jones) carry the ball twice as well in the ballgame. "We want to evaluate the load and the workload of our players. It's something that you have a great opportunity during the bye week to evaluate and it's something that we did and we revisited. We went into this game knowing that we wanted to spread the touches around and not have them so concentrated in one area." Jones proved a revelation in the game, with his touchdown receptions of 80 and 50 yards after missing two games with a hamstring injury, but he also helped the Falcons to stretch the Colts' defense laterally with two end arounds totaling 33 yards. The same is true of Rodgers, the 5-foot-6 rookie who is dangerous with his speed in the open field. The Falcons often line him up wide and throw passes to him behind the line of scrimmage that look like screens but are technically laterals. He had a long gain on one of those plays on Sunday and finished with season highs in both carries (10) and yards (44). Another key change the Falcons made after their self-scouting was to demote right guard Garrett Reynolds to the bench and promote center Joe Hawley as the starter at that position. During training camp, the competition for the starting right guard spot was chiefly between Reynolds and Mike Johnson with Reynolds coming out on top. Hawley started the first two games of the season at his natural position while Todd McClure was out with a knee injury and then also in Week 5 against Green Bay when McClure was ruled out for that game. The coaching staff evidently liked what it saw. The Falcons began experimenting with Hawley in practice at guard when Smith promised an open competition on the line after it allowed 13 sacks in the first three games. However, in that next game against Seattle on Oct. 2 the Falcons' offense did not yield a sack and put 30 points on the board. Apparently, however, during the bye week the coaching staff revisited the idea. Hawley is roughly 10 pounds lighter than Reynolds and four inches shorter, perhaps making him slightly more nimble and with a lower center of gravity. "We're always evaluating everything that we do," Smith said. "It's something that you have to do and there are a number of things that we wanted to look at and, as I said last week, we changed some things about how we practice, we cut some things back, we changed some things in the way our fields are laid out. But we came to a determination after going through an extensive evaluation of all of our positions that we were going to start Joe Hawley at guard and Joe got the start in the ballgame and I thought he did a very nice job for his first time in there. "There definitely are some things that he can improve on like all of us. He's only played the center position and even though it's just lining up right next to him, there are some different nuances playing the guard position than the center position." For now, it seems as if he'll have some time to learn those nuances.
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