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Broncos first task is to stop TURNER


SWIFT HITTER
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The Broncos have seen enough of Michael Turner running the ball to know it's trouble. But they figure to see a whole lot more of Turner on Sunday now that he has gone from a backup role in San Diego to the centerpiece of an offense in Atlanta.

"You knew he was good," Broncos linebacker Louis Green said. "You knew he was fast. Now he's dragging guys 8, 10 yards."

In his four seasons with San Diego, Turner had a limited role in the offense, a player the Broncos would only have to defend if do-it-all running back LaDainian Tomlinson was injured or needed a breather.

Turner would pop in for a few plays, then back to the sideline again, but his potential as a lead back was clear, at least to Denver, last season when he had 147 rushing yards with a touchdown on 10 carries in the Chargers' 41-3 win against the Broncos.

And since signing as a free agent in March, Turner is the leading man for the 6-3 Falcons. Meanwhile, the Broncos, who were having troubles defending the run even before they started filling up their training room with injured players, are playing backup players in five defensive spots, at linebacker or in the secondary.

"He's a stud, just a stud," Broncos defensive coordinator Bob Slowik said. "Hard to tackle, runs over people, runs around people, runs through people, can't arm tackle, can't tackle him high, can't tackle him low."

Added Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil said: "Right now, he's setting up everything they do on offense."

That he does. In his first regular-season game with the Falcons, Turner rushed for a single-game career-high 220 yards in a win against Detroit. He since has had three other games with at least 100 rushing yards and four times in the Falcons' past five games, Turner has carried at least 25 times.

First-year Falcons coach Mike Smith said Turner has become the focus of what he believes the team's offensive philosophy should be.

"I know a good running game makes it easier for everybody," Smith said. "I'm talking about the quarterback, the defense, the special teams. Nine-tenths of this game to me is possession of the football. When you have possession of the football, usually good things are going to happen."

The Broncos have surrendered at least 150 rushing yards five times this season, including 160 yards Nov. 6 in a 34-30 comeback win in Cleveland. And those results have rippled through their games.

As a result, opposing quarterbacks also are completing 70 percent of their passes against the Broncos and averaging 6 yards per play overall.

"Our running game contributes to a lot of what we were able to do offensively in these first nine games," Smith said.

Turner's presence also has allowed the Falcons to bring along rookie quarterback Matt Ryan a little more quickly without subjecting him to the rush in a pass-first mode. Ryan has thrown five interceptions and has been sacked 12 times.

He already has handed the ball to Turner 203 times - Turner had 228 regular-season carries in his four years with the Chargers - and the Falcons have run 312 times, the second- highest total in the league this season behind only Baltimore.

"We knew philosophically we wanted to be a team that could run the football," Smith said. "We knew to win in this league, and I know it sounds cliche, you've got to run the football regardless of who the quarterback is."

Reunion time

Former Broncos cornerback Domonique Foxworth has started the past three games for the Falcons and figures to start Sunday against the Broncos.

Foxworth, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, was traded to the Falcons just before the start of the regular season. The Broncos received a seventh-round pick for Foxworth, but the compensation improves if Foxworth re-signs with the Falcons.

"We got him right before the season started, so he was a little bit behind in terms of what we were doing schematically and how we put our defense together," Smith said. "He's done a whole lot to try and catch up."

Foxworth did enough to catch up to start at left cornerback in the Falcons defense against Philadelphia, Oakland and New Orleans.

Against the Saints, Falcons coaches credited him with five pass break-ups. Foxworth was a visible player in the community in his time with Denver, having been active in the efforts to raise funds for the Darrent Williams Teen Center at the Boys & Girls Club, and he also has been the Broncos' local representative for the NFL Players Association.

Time heals

The Broncos had a little more time since their Thursday night game in Cleveland last week to rest their weary bones.

But the Falcons likely got a little more time to prepare for what the Broncos offense might toss their way as well. Because of injuries at running back, the Broncos went to a no-running back look at times against the Browns and basically were forced to use a one-back, pass-first attack for the game's second half.

Quarterback Jay Cutler said it worked because the Browns, in a short week as well, didn't have a lot of things prepared to deal with that.

"They had one (defensive call), maybe they put another one in there for the red zone," Cutler said.

Cutler said the Browns basically played both of their safeties deep to "hope for the best."

Knowing the Broncos' injury situation hasn't improved all that much, the Falcons will have a full week to prepare for what the Broncos might do in the passing game. Smith, a former Jaguars defensive coordinator, faced the Broncos three times in the previous four seasons.

Etc.

* Former Broncos kicker Jason Elam, now with the Falcons and a budding author, said Wednesday his first book, Monday Night Jihad, just went to paperback and a second book, Blown Coverage, is due out at Christmastime. Elam said a third and fourth book in the series are planned.

* Selvin Young (groin), cornerback Champ Bailey (groin), safety Marlon McCree (ankle), linebacker Nate Webster (knee) and linebacker D.J. Williams (knee) were held out of Wednesday's practice.

* For the Falcons, Elam (hip) did not participate in practice. Left tackle Sam Baker (hip/back) and defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead (foot) also did not practice.

* The Broncos put in a waiver claim on running back Michael Bennett, who was released by Tampa Bay. But San Diego also put in a claim and because the Chargers (4-5) have a worse record than the Broncos (5-4), Bennett will go to the Chargers. Bennett appeared in five games for the Buccaneers this season and has 12 yards on seven carries.

The Broncos also put in a waiver claim on kick returner/cornerback Justin Miller, who had been released by the Jets. But the Raiders and the Dolphins also put in a claim and Miller was awarded to Oakland because it has the worst record of the three teams to claim Miller.

The Broncos also had former Southern California running back Ryan Powdrell in for a workout Wednesday.

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Bennett To San Diego??

LT

Darren Sproles

Mike Tolbert- undrafted rookie of the year in my opinion

Jacob Hester-maybe a dissapointment at running back, only sees the field on special teams.

Kris Wilson- inactive H-back

I could see San Diego maybe dropping a wideout, they have 6 in a run oriented scheme....although a few of them do only play special teams.

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Bennett To San Diego??

LT

Darren Sproles

Mike Tolbert- undrafted rookie of the year in my opinion

Jacob Hester-maybe a dissapointment at running back, only sees the field on special teams.

Kris Wilson- inactive H-back

I could see San Diego maybe dropping a wideout, they have 6 in a run oriented scheme....although a few of them do only play special teams.

IMO they took Bennett just to prevent the Broncos from getting him. DEN is hurting, and SD doesnt want them to get any help in a tight division race. football politics baby.

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