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Sunday Mar 26th, 2017  

 Falcons adding balance to run-first philosophy
posted 8 years ago

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The first five games of Mike Smith's career as a head coach have proved he was serious about bringing a run-first emphasis back to the Atlanta Falcons. But run-first doesn't mean pass last. A surprise to the Falcons' 3-2 start has been the growing balance in the offense, including a willingness to pass early. When Green Bay's defense stacked the line to stop running back Michael Turner last week, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan was ready to throw. Ryan and Roddy White combined for eight receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown in the first half of Atlanta's 27-24 win at Green Bay. Ryan also threw a first-half scoring pass to tight end Justin Peelle. He finished 16-for-26 passing and set career highs with 194 yards passing and two touchdowns. Atlanta is averaging 180.6 yards rushing and 164.2 yards passing, and that balance could be important on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, who allow only 74.2 yards rushing per game. "We think we can run the football and our mind-set is we've got to be able to run it against everybody," Smith said Wednesday. Turner rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against the Packers. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the team's three wins, including a franchise-record 220 yards in an opening victory against Detroit. Turner says he hopes the Falcons try to prove they can run against any defensive alignment, even if the Bears stack their defensive line. "To win in the league, you've got to be able to run against those big fronts, those eight-man fronts," Turner said. "If you show you can't run against them, that's when everybody is going to do it every week. "You've got to be able to show some sign that we're able to do that, and it gives the offense confidence that we don't care how they line up, we're still going to run it at you."

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