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Streaking Falcons keep finding wins in 4th quarter
FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. (AP) - Michael Turner doesn’t mind Atlanta being described as a blue-collar team, he actually thinks it fits the Falcons.
“You can say that about us. We’re just going to go to work and put our hard hats on,” Turner said Wednesday. “We do that every week. We’re not a flashy team. We’re not a finesse team.
“We just like to get the job done.”
The Falcons don’t normally rely on long runs and passes. Quarterback Matt Ryan ranks 21st in the league with his average of 6.8 yards per attempt.
The Falcons overcome their lack of flash by coming up big in clutch situations. They have won four straight with strong defense, a knack for comebacks and some unusual big plays.
Defensive end Kroy Biermann clinched the win over Cleveland with a rare 31-yard interception return. He tipped a pass at the line, dove to make the interception and then scrambled to his feet for the score.
Two weeks ago, White had the key play following one of only three interceptions for Ryan this season. White chased down 49ers cornerback Nate Clements and stripped the ball away to set up Matt Bryant’s winning field goal with 2 seconds remaining in Atlanta’s 16-14 win.
“The biggest thing about this team is we’ve won a bunch of different ways,” said center Todd McClure. “It hasn’t been one phase of our team carrying the team. It’s been a bunch of different ways by a bunch of different guys.
“If you can do that and win the turnover game, you’re gonna be pretty successful in this league.”
And if you can play defense, which the Falcons do better than most.
Atlanta leads the league with 10 interceptions, including two by safety William Moore. And the 70 points the Falcons have given up is the fewest allowed by any team that has played five games.
“We haven’t had any easy wins,” Moore said. “We disregard everyone’s record when we’re playing. As you see, every game has been a close one and we’ve had to fight to the end. We’ve had to play two overtime games. It’s been tough to get to where we’re at, but it’s only the beginning.”
The Falcons, 4-1 entering Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, are 3-0 when trailing at halftime.
Atlanta beat New Orleans and San Francisco when trailing after three quarters. They trailed at halftime of last week’s 20-10 win at Cleveland.
Atlanta’s only loss was a 15-9 overtime game at Pittsburgh to open the season. The Falcons recovered with a 41-7 rout of Arizona, followed by an overtime win at the Saints.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez said the Falcons aren’t lucky, they’re good.
“To me it’s indicative of a championship caliber team, from what I’ve seen over the years,” said Gonzalez, in his 14th season. “You look at the Saints last year, they had some squeakers. I know both times we lost to them last year we felt we should have won that game. Good teams find a way to win those close games.
“You can’t call anything luck in this league. It’s just perseverance and staying on your game and grinding it out, no matter what.”
Turner, sixth in the league with 421 yards rushing, has helped Atlanta wear down opponents. The Falcons have outscored opponents 53-19 in the second half, including 27-6 in the fourth quarter.
“We’re running the ball good toward the end of the game,” White said. “That’s the key to success in this league. If you can run the ball in the fourth quarter and keep the sticks moving and convert in the red zone, you usually tend to win.”
Notes: Smith said an MRI revealed LB Sean Weatherspoon has a right knee sprain. Weatherspoon did not practice Wednesday and will be held out Thursday. Smith said he will “look at what happens” with the rookie starter on Friday and Saturday. Stephen Nicholas, who started 13 games last season, would start if Weatherspoon is held out. … Smith confirmed second-year safety William Moore is the starter ahead of Erik Coleman. Moore has two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Moore took the starting job when Coleman was out with a knee injury and he kept the job when Coleman returned in a backup role last week.
By Tom Fitton
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