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Dunn, Norwood enjoy Falcons new passing success
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Warrick Dunn isn’t about to complain about the new balance in the Atlanta Falcons’ offense, even though the improved passing totals the last two weeks have cut into his production at tailback.
    Most teams would be happy with the Falcons’ 143 yards rushing in last week’s win over Cincinnati or the 173 yards on the ground in the previous week’s win over Pittsburgh.
    But those numbers don’t meet what Dunn on Wednesday called ‘‘the Falcons standard.’’
    Atlanta, the NFL’s best rushing team each of the last two seasons, has posted 15 regular-season games with 200 or more yards rushing since the start of 2004. No other team hit the 200-yard mark more than six times in that span.
    Dunn has played the lead role in the ground game, while quarterback Michael Vick also has posted tailback-like rushing totals. In the past two weeks, however, Vick has been most effective as a passer, throwing for seven touchdowns and 533 yards.
    Tight end Alge Crumpler was named NFC offensive player of the week two weeks ago for his three scoring catches against Pittsburgh, and Vick won the honor Wednesday after completing 20 of 28 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns — with no interceptions — against Cincinnati.
    Meanwhile, Dunn rushed for only a combined 126 yards in the two games, and backup tailback Jerious Norwood added 95 yards. Dunn rushed for more than 130 yards in three of the team’s first five games.
    ‘‘I think people always expect us to rush for 200,’’ Dunn said.
    ‘‘We’re always happy to get the win. It’s not about the yards or stats. The guys want to go out and continue to play well and run the football, but also it’s about the team and right now the passing game is helping us win.’’
    The Falcons (5-2) visit Detroit Sunday, and coach Jim Mora said he’ll be interested to see if his team’s recent passing success will discourage the Lions from stacking their defense against the run.
    Even if the Lions design their defensive scheme to stop the run first and force Vick to pass, the Falcons believe the passing numbers posted in late October will open up more running room at some point this season.
    ‘‘I feel if we can pass the ball downfield and keep the defense off-balance, it will open the running game up and give us a little more space,’’ Norwood said.
    Vick rushed for a combined 95 yards the last two weeks, but there were fewer plays where he was forced to run because his pass-blocking broke down.
    ‘‘Mike is staying in the pocket and making completions,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘It takes a lot of pressure off the running game, but we know that’s still the major part of our offense, establishing the run to set up the pass. The last two weeks we’ve been establishing the pass to set up the run. As long as we keep winning, that’s the main thing.’’
    Beginning with the 2004 season, the Falcons are 14-1 in the regular season when they rush for at least 200 yards. The one loss came in their last 200-yard game — a 27-14 home loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 15 when the Falcons gained 223 yards on the ground.
    The new balanced attack took flight the following week against the Steelers.
    The Falcons are averaging 210.9 yards rushing, again first in the league, and 153.3 yards passing this season.
    Mora says he doesn’t believe the team is calling more pass plays, but he says Vick may have had more time to pass the last two weeks.
    Asked if the team has established a new run-pass balance, Mora said ‘‘You’re always looking for ways to do that.’’
    ‘‘The last two weeks we’ve done that effectively,’’ Mora said, ‘‘but the key is to keep doing that.’’
Note: Mora said he hopes RG Kynan Forney can return from a shoulder injury this week. Forney did not practice Wednesday and was listed as questionable on injury report. He first injured the shoulder on Oct. 1 against Arizona and hurt the shoulder again on Oct. 22 against Pittsburgh. He did not play last week. The team also held out linebacker Ed Hartwell (sore knees) and defensive tackle Grady Jackson (sore knee). Hartwell is listed as questionable and Jackson is listed as probable.