Atlanta Falcons: Michael Turner Has Faded, At Least for Now

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes upfield past London Fletcher #59 of the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Rewind to exactly a year ago, and you would find yourself looking at the Atlanta Falcons

Potential Super Bowl candidates at the time, the team that had amazed everyone in the NFC South got knocked out early in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl runner up Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card round of the 2008 season.

Sure, the loss was sudden.  However, considering people's perspectives of Atlanta before the season began, Atlanta had definitely become a sleeper pick for years to come following their impressive display.

Although Atlanta had looked like a true contender following their impressive 2008 run, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan had also made a case for himself. 

The Offensive Rookie of the Year, Matt Ryan finished his 2008 rookie campaign with 3,340 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

Matt Ryan showed a lot of potential, especially for a team that was expected to go through years of rebuilding after the sudden departure of Michael Vick, and the loss of Alge Crumpler. 

Not only did his first possession as an Atlanta Falcon result in a touchdown, experts and analysts had picked him as a future star quarterback.

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The 2009 season eventually rolled around, and Matt Ryan found himself ready to prove to everyone that he was the real deal.  The only trouble was, that didn't really happen.

Instead of leading the Falcons back to the playoffs for the second straight year in a row, the Falcons dropped to 9-7.  Still a winning record, but it wasn't what Falcon fans wanted to see.

A lot of the blame could ultimately go on the New Orleans Saints.  Obviously being incredibly tough competition for the dirty birds, Atlanta didn't really stand a chance at winning the South after Week 7.

However, blaming a better team is no way to build a positive vibe in a locker room.  Why couldn't the Falcons muster up a record to challenge the Saints?  They had the talent to, but they didn't make it happen.

2009 marked a struggling year for many teams.  The New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers, and the Tennessee Titans all went through the same dilemma that faced Atlanta come mid season.

What was the problem though?  Offense?  Defense?  Coaching?  Special Teams?

Well, I guess it could come down to either one.

Offensively, the Falcons struggled at times.  Losing crucial games to tough teams like Dallas, Carolina, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Minnesota, the Falcons never looked like the same team.

Stats-wise the Falcons weren't as good as they were in 2008 either.  451 attempted passes for Matt Ryan, only 263 were completed. 

Wide receiver Roddy White also finished below his 2008 records.  85 receptions on the year, and 1,153 yards seem like decent enough figures, but the slightest difference mattered in the long run to the Atlanta Falcons passing game.

What about Michael Turner though?  One of the most feared backs in the league, had a noticeably very quiet season. 

Although he was injured for a five-game span, his numbers also suffered.  Rushing under 871 yards on the season and only 10 touchdowns, he looked better on Madden 10 than he did in real life.

Total defense was appalling as well.  Ranked 21st in the NFL in front of underperforming teams such as Detroit and St. Louis, it is no wonder that the Saints got a clear advantage over them early in the NFC South.

Overall, the Falcons season was at least a winning one.  No firings, no benchings and no trades are yet to happen.  The Falcons staff simply don't need to consider that option just yet.

To get back on track, though, they need their offense.  From one of the top passing and rushing teams in the league in 2008, to one of the most under performing and above all, disappointing teams in 2009. 

A change is needed on offense.  Whether the Draft brings that, we'll have to wait and see.  The Falcons need to find their spark again, though.

If the Saints take an early exit from the playoffs, don't be surprised to see Atlanta right back in the thick of things come next January.  If Michael Turner gets back to how he is expected to be, I think the Falcons will challenge a lot of NFC teams in the long run.

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