Sounds like a decent matchup, huh?
The Eagles have defeated the Falcons in each of the last three seasons, and each time, with a different cast of players and even a couple different defensive coordinators, they slammed the door on the vaunted Atlanta rushing attack.
The Falcons have averaged 129 rushing yards per game the last three years, but in losses to the Eagles the last three years, they’ve gained just 77, 61 and 65 yards.
But the Falcons (0-1) will likely try again to establish their running attack Sunday when they play host to the Eagles (1-0) at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons will try to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2007, and the Eagles are after their first 2-0 start since 2004.
Atlanta’s two-time Pro Bowl running back, Michael Turner, gained 100 yards in a 30-12 loss to the Bears Sunday despite getting just 10 carries, since the Falcons fell behind quickly.
So, even in a loss, the run game was there.
“Michael Turner is one of the best running backs in the league,” Eagles safety Kurt Coleman said. “You look at him on film, and there’s not many flaws to his game. He can block, he can catch, he can run. He can do almost anything. When he’s out there, we have to honor the run. When he’s on the field, he always poses a threat.”
The Eagles allowed 154 rushing yards in their 31-13 win over the Rams, even though St. Louis starting running back Steven Jackson left the game after two carries. So, there has to be a little concern headed into Atlanta.
Turner has rushed for 5,298 yards in his career with a 4.7 average. But he has just 103 yards and a 3.2 average in two games vs. the Eagles, his fourth-lowest average against any opponent.
Either way, the Eagles expect a healthy dose of Turner Sunday.
“He’s a very physical back, a very hard runner,” Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney said. “He led the NFL in yards-after-contact the last couple years. They have a real good offensive line, too. Physical bunch. Nasty bunch.”
The Eagles defense was put together to rush the passer, but defensive end Jason Babin, who had two of the line’s five sacks against the Rams, said the linemen enjoy stopping the run, because that puts teams in position where they have to pass.
And that’s when the sacks come.
“That’s the No. 1 goal: Stop the run, so we can rush the passer,” Babin said. “First and foremost, we know we have to stop the run. It’s like when you’re dating, there’s certain things you’ve got to do. That’s what stopping the run is: Buying ’em dinner.”
The Eagles were encouraged that, after allowing 98 rushing yards in the first quarter against the Rams, they gave up only 56 the rest of the game.
“The more you play, the better you’re going to be, and I think we did that,” Chaney said. “We’re looking forward to this week and not coming out like we did in the first quarter and not have to go through that before we start playing well.”
The Eagles have dropped in run defense the last few years, from fourth in the NFL in 2008 to ninth in 2009 to 15th last year.
“We can be a really good run defense,” Chaney said. “The more we play, the better we’re going to be. Just got to continue to work at it and go out there and do it.”