NFL: Falcons rush to succeed
Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2009
By Bob Baum
Associated PressGLENDALE, Ariz. ó The Atlanta Falcons can run away with a wild-card victory over Arizona on Saturday if regular-season history means anything.
The Falcons, led by Michael Turner, have one of the best rushing games in the NFL. The Cardinals have the worst.
“It’s no secret. We know what they’re going to come in and try to do,” Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby said.
Turner went from San Diego backup to a Pro Bowl powerhouse in Atlanta, helping the Falcons turn a tumultuous 4-12 finish last season into a playoff run in 2008. He rushed for 1,699 yards, second only to Adrian Peterson in the NFL and 521 yards more than the entire Arizona team.
“That’s at the core of our belief as a coaching staff, that you have to be able to run the football and control the line of scrimmage,” Atlanta coach Mike Smith said, “because when you do that, it opens up the rest of the offense.”
Turner said the Falcons (11-5) don’t need to resort to any tricks or big surprises.
“The team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win the football game,” he said. “Some guys try to make the game seem like they’ve got to make that extra play or something like that, but just stick with what got us here. If we execute, we’ll be fine.”
The Cardinals (9-7), last among 32 NFL teams in rushing, have returned to Edgerrin James as their lead back after banishing him to the bench for seven games. James gained 100 yards in Arizona’s 34-21 victory over Seattle last Sunday to move ahead of Franco Harris into 11th on the league’s career rushing list.
James acknowledges he never bought in to Arizona’s pass-crazy offense.
“They did what they had to do, but at the end of the day, that’s all over with,” James said. “Now it’s time to get serious. We’re through playing around. Everything is serious, and I’m here to try to make plays and try to help this team move forward.”
When Arizona is out of the playoffs, James knows he is gone from the Cardinals.
“I think the feeling’s mutual,” he said, laughing. “It’s something I’m going to contest.”
James, appearing in his 10th playoff game, insists he’s not motivated to show that he still has what it takes to succeed.
“If I felt I couldn’t play, I wouldn’t play,” he said. “I don’t have to play this game. I’ve done everything the right way. I’m not in a situation where I’m financially strapped or I don’t have the statistics or whatever. I play this game because I like to play this game, because I can, and because I want to.”