Falcons will attempt to grind out victory with ground game

Friday, January 2, 2009

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- 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 (11-5) , 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.

"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," Turner said. "If we execute, we'll be fine."

The Cardinals (9-7), dead 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.

Arizona's defense has had a penchant for missed tackles, a trait that could prove disastrous against the Falcons.

In Game 14, the Cardinals gave up 239 yards on the ground in a 35-14 home loss to Minnesota, and a week later in the snow of New England, surrendered 183 yards rushing -- and a whopping 514 overall -- in a 47-7 loss to the Patriots.

Even the Cardinals would seem to have a chance on the ground against an Atlanta team that ranks 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.

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