Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 10/1/12

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. Its as if Michael Turner started the 2012 season under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter by dipping his toe in the water to check the temperature to see how it suited him. Thirty-two yards in the first game followed 42 in the second for the player who led the NFC in rushing last season. But over the last two games, Turner has gotten the Falcons running game in gear, as he has averaged 6.8 yards per carry in that span. In Sundays 30-28 win over Carolina, Turner had his break-out performance so far of the season with 103 yards on 13 carries. He also had a 60-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. We did a good job with run-blocking and Michael going north-and-south, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said, and Michael did a great job with yards after contact. The Falcons offense is no longer predicated on a run-first approach, as it was in Turners first four seasons in which he totaled 1,189 carries. That means Turners carries will probably be more in the range of the 13 he had against Carolina or the 14 he had the week before hes on pace for only 220 this season. We still left some plays on the field, but we will learn from those few mistakes and continue to get better as a team, Turner said after Sundays game. I knew it was only a matter of time before the big plays would come on the ground. For the first time this season in the run game, the Falcons used an unusual personnel grouping that was partly inspired by injury. With fullback Lousaka Polite inactive with a hamstring injury, the coaching staff improvised. They lined 302-pound back-up center Joe Hawley at the fullback position at times and used reserve guardtackle Mike Johnson as the jumbo tight end. Sometimes, they lined both Johnson and Hawley up next to each on the line. We put a little package in there together, Smith said. Sometimes just Joe, sometimes Joe and Mike. I thought it was very nice, especially because of matching up personnel groupings. Even with that new wrinkle, the Falcons started to get the running game going the previous week. Turner explained last week after running for 80 yards on 14 carries against San Diego what worked. We didnt have that many mental errors and thats going to be key, he said. Put guys in the right spots and well be fine. Smith has said that screen passes can serve as running-type plays and Koetters offense incorporates the screen to a much larger degree than former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, under whom Turner had four very successful seasons. Turner, who entered the season with 51 receptions in eight seasons, was not necessarily known for his pass-catching skills. Yet already he has six in four games a pace for 24 this season. Turner agreed with the assessment that screens can act as runs. Yeah, it is, he said. Its another way to get a quick look to the back and get us in the open field and let us make plays. On Sunday, he caught three balls but was targeted two other times. One Smith deemed a drop. While the third also might seem like a drop to the layman, Smith said it was not in his eyes, although he said that statistic is subjective. Some guys like red cars, Smith said, Some guys like yellow cars. The week before the San Diego game, Turner was arrested on charges of speeding and suspicion of DUI. Then he took his frustrations out on the Chargers, his former team. He said he was glad to have that week behind him. Glad its glad over, glad its over, Turner said of the week. Get it behind me. Lets move forward and just play football.
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