By Matthew Asher
Following Atlanta’s 27-21 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, the Falcons now look to their trip to San Diego to play their third consecutive AFC West team this season.
Other than the officiating woes that plagued the game, the biggest news story was the arrest of Falcons running back Michael Turner after the game. Just a few hours after the game, Turner was pulled over for going 97 mph on I-85. The speed limit is 65 mph.
Cpl. Edwin Ritter, a spokesman for the APD, said when Turner was pulled over, “The officer could smell an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the driver and proceeded to conduct a DUI investigation.” Turner failed the sobriety test and was booked at the Gwinnett County jail at approximately 5 a.m. Less than two hours later, Turner posted bail and was released.
Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith was obviously not pleased with the incident regarding his starting running back.
“First and foremost, anytime a player sheds negatively on our football team and organization, we are very disappointed,” said Smith. “I’ve spoken with Michael. We’ve had a conversation and like all conversations with my player’s I would like to keep those internal. He knows that we’re disappointed in the decisions that he made after the ballgame last night.”
With the arrest of Turner, several questions about his availability arose. Smith didn’t give any clear response as to whether or not the Falcons plan on having Turner suit up for the San Diego game.
Simply put, Smith said “there are certain parameters that are set in place by the collective bargaining agreement which is between the NFL and the NFLPA. Those guidelines will be followed in terms of what we can and cannot do. If there is going to be any internal discipline, than that it will stay internal.”
Rather than focus on incidents that happened off the field, the other big story was Atlanta’s defense, specifically the secondary. Intercepting three Peyton Manning passes in a game is great, but doing it in one quarter can be described as a Houdini act by itself.
“We got off to very fast start, especially defensively with the four turnovers in the first 15 minutes,” Smith said. “When you create those types of turnovers, you’re going to enhance your chances of winning.”
With the loss of Brent Grimes for the season, one of the big questions was who, besides Asante Samuel, would step up for the Falcons secondary. It appears that Robert McClain answered that question quickly in the opening quarter.
Manning had already thrown two interceptions in the first quarter. With Denver’s offensive finally showing signs of life, the Broncos advanced to the Atlanta 40-yard line. Manning went deep, looking for Eric Decker, but McClain stepped in front of the pass at the 15 and returned it 32 yards to end the drive.
“McClain is a guy that’s very feisty” Smith said. “Every time he’s gone out on the field, he’s made something happen. As you guys saw, we showed a lot of different personnel groupings defensively in the first two ball games…Robert’s role is going to change simply because there is one less DB that is going to be out there.”
Given McClain’s lack of playtime, Smith wouldn’t say exactly where McClain will fit into the defensive lineup for the San Diego game.
The bottom line was that Atlanta needed players to step up in place of Grimes, and they did just that. “When the backup player has to go in the ball game everybody on that sideline is expecting that guy to go and perform like the guy he replaced. Everybody in the stands is expecting that as well, and I think our guys have a very good understanding of that.”
Kickoff for the Chargers/Falcons game will be at 4:05 p.m.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.