Regardless of Numbers, Michael Turner Must Be Falcons Go-to Running Back

Nick KostoraContributor IIINovember 29, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 20:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes against Jordan Babineaux #26 of the Tennessee Titans at Georgia Dome on November 20, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Michael Turner's first-half performance against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football proved his worth to the Atlanta Falcons, at least this season.

Turner's numbers are not impressive this year. He has just under 700 yards and seven touchdowns. However, Turner's rushing style is something that cannot be emulated by Jacquizz Rodgers or anyone else on the Falcons roster.

Turner's bruising, between-the-tackles ability provides a perfect complement to the aerial attack posted by QB Matt Ryan and Atlanta's abundance of receiving options. He has been doing so for years, averaging 4.5 yards per carry over the course of his career and scoring at least 10 touchdowns in each of his four years with the Falcons.

Heading towards the playoffs, that is the type of consistency and reliability the Falcons need. At 30 years old, Turner may be nearing the end of his feature-back career, but he is fully capable of handling the bulk of the handoffs this season.

Yes, Rodgers is exciting and may very well be the future of Atlanta's backfield, but he has never carried the ball more than 10 times in any game and is unprepared to carry the Falcons rushing game towards a playoff run.

Right now, Rodgers is best suited as a change-of-pace back that can enter games and diversify Atlanta's playbook. He is an exciting player at 5'6", 196 pounds and spreads the field in multiple ways, forcing defenses to respect plays on the perimeter of the field and vertically down the sidelines.

However, he cannot handle the tough-yardage situations that Turner can. Turner does not have breakaway speed, but he is capable in open space and knows how to properly read his blockers and get up field.

Atlanta must be able to gain yards on the ground in the playoffs in order to be successful. This may be the year that Ryan busts out of his playoff slump, but the fact of the matter is that offensive balance can reduce the enormous amount of pressure already on the QBs shoulders.

Ryan has thrown three touchdowns compared to four interceptions in three playoff starts. Turner's 3.48-yards-per-carry average in the postseason is similarly unimpressive, but Atlanta has abandoned the rushing game early and often in the games.

Turner's legs are winding down, but they are still capable of making a late-season run at the Lombardi Trophy. Rodgers has the flash and the future, but Turner has the history and consistency.

His numbers may not jump off the page, but Turner is the right choice for the Falcons right now.