FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons, who usually stress their running game, all but gave up on Michael Turner in the second half of last week's loss at Tampa Bay.
Turner said Wednesday the best way to make sure he returns to the 100-yard form he showed the first two weeks is for Atlanta to have a better start on Sunday at Seattle.
Turner had only nine yards rushing in the first half of last week's 16-13 loss to the Buccaneers. The Falcons trailed 13-3 at halftime and leaned more heavily on quarterback Matt Ryan and the passing game in the second half.
Turner had only four carries for 11 yards in the second half to finish with 20 yards rushing. It was his low total since Dec. 20, 2009 against the New York Jets, when he was limited by an injury and had one carry for seven yards.
"It just turns out that way sometimes in a game," Turner said. "Playing from behind, the fastest way to come back is by throwing the football. Hopefully this week we get ahead and don't have to be one-dimensional."
Turner is coming off a Pro Bowl 2010 season in which he had 1,371 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. He opened strong this season with 100 yards in a season-opening loss to the Bears and 114 yards and a touchdown in a win over Philadelphia.
Atlanta has emphasized running the ball and stopping the run in four seasons with coach Mike Smith.
The Falcons have been almost unbeatable, posting an 18-3 record, when Turner has rushed for at least 100 yards. That's why some observers were surprised Turner became an afterthought in the second half last week.
"We probably didn't run effectively enough in the first half to keep going with it and so we went to the pass game and I thought Matt did a fairly good job of distributing the ball," Smith said.
The Falcons made wide receiver Julio Jones the No. 6 overall pick in this year's NFL draft. Jones has joined Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez to make the Falcons' passing game more dangerous.
"I wouldn't say we have more emphasis on the pass," said fullback Ovie Mughelli. "I would just say when we do pass we have more weapons. Smith knows to open up that pass game, you've got to get that run game started.
"We think we have weapons out there on either side, run or pass. We want to be able to use both, especially the run game with Michael Turner, whenever we can."
Ryan passed for 300 or more yards in only one game in the Falcons' 13-3 2010 season. He already has two 300-yard games this year — both in losses — while spending more time in no-huddle formations.
Smith said the numbers are not proof of a dramatic change in the team's offensive philosophy. He said decisions to run or pass from the no-huddle formation are based on "how people are defending you."
"Most of the looks we got were looks for us to throw the football and that's why we were throwing the football more in the second half," Smith said.
Turner said he wasn't worried about losing carries in the no-huddle plays.
"It's just the looks that the defenses have given us and Matt has done a great job of getting us into some great plays for us to be successful," he said.
More passes also mean more opportunities for opposing defenses to hit Ryan, who has been sacked 13 times. Tampa Bay had four sacks.
Turner said the Falcons' offense has not found its identity.
"No, we definitely have to tune some things up, obviously," he said. "We're just going to keep focusing and keep trying to jell as a unit and move on."
NOTES: As he promised on Monday, Smith gave backups Joe Hawley and Will Svitek time with the first-team offensive line. "We've said we were going to have open competition, and that's what we're doing," Smith said. ... LB Stephen Nicholas, who missed the Tampa Bay game with a calf injury, and RB Jason Snelling, who left the game with a concussion, did not participate in the practice. DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), CB Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) and White (thigh) also were held out. ... S William Moore was fined $7,500 by the NFL for using his helmet on a late hit on Bucs RB Earnest Graham. Moore drew an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play.