Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) gets past Kansas City Chiefs' Bernard Pollard to score a touchdown in the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept 21, 2008 in Atlanta. Turner scored three touchdowns as Atlanta won 38-14.(AP)
ATLANTA - Michael Turner is known as “The Burner.” The Kansas City Chiefs learned there’s more than just speed in his repertoire.
Turner used his power game to run for 104 yards and three touchdowns, and the Atlanta Falcons scored the first 24 points to beat Kansas City 38-14 on Sunday, handing the Chiefs their 12th straight loss.
After spending four years in San Diego backing up LaDainian Tomlinson, Turner is thriving as a lead back. He has 366 yards rushing and five touchdowns in three games.
Jerious Norwood added 75 yards rushing as the Falcons stuck to their plan even when the Chiefs were stacking the defensive line to stop the run.
“We have stressed since Day 1 we want to be a physical team,” said Falcons first-year coach Mike Smith.
Turner, who set a Falcons record with 220 yards rushing in the opening win over Detroit, was held to 42 yards rushing in last week’s loss at Tampa Bay. He was back in form against the hapless Chiefs.
“We just had a better plan,” Turner said. “Last week we just weren’t quite sure how teams were going to defend the run against us.”
The Chiefs forced the Falcons to punt on their first three possessions.
Bolstered by an Atlanta defense that didn’t allow a first down until the second quarter, Smith didn’t panic.
Then, on the first play of the Falcons’ fourth drive, Turner changed the game.
Turner dragged Chiefs linebacker Pat Thomas for a few steps before breaking free and running through other defenders for a 38-yard run from the Falcons 8. A 30-yard pass from Ryan to Norwood helped set up Turner’s first touchdown run.
Turner’s determined run helped to soften the Kansas City defense. Ryan found Roddy White for a 70-yard touchdown pass on Atlanta’s next possession, and the Falcons were on their way to a big early lead.
“They came out playing great defense,” Turner said. “We have to be patient for the run and big things are going to happen.”
Turner’s 1-yard scoring run in the second quarter gave Atlanta (2-1) a 24-0 lead.
Tyler Thigpen, the third starting quarterback in three weeks for Kansas City (0-3), threw three interceptions in his first career start. The third interception, by cornerback Chris Houston, was returned 10 yards for a touchdown with 1:01 left in the game.
“I didn’t play up to my expectations,” Thigpen said.
Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said during the week he would turn to veteran Damon Huard if Thigpen struggled. Thigpen played the full game and was 14-for-36 for 128 yards with one touchdown.
“I thought about it,” said Edwards when asked about changing quarterbacks. “But he put some points on the board.
“He did some bad things, but he did some good things, too. He got the team in position to score some touchdowns.”
Asked if Thigpen would keep the starting job, Edwards said, “We’ll see.”
Down 24-0, Thigpen led a 13-play scoring drive capped by his 15-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe with 3 seconds left in the first half.
Atlanta falcons Chris Houston celebrates with teammate Erik Coleman, left, after returning an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 38-14.(AP)
The Chiefs’ comeback continued when Larry Johnson’s 48-yard run set up his 1-yard scoring plunge to open the second half, cutting Atlanta’s lead to 24-14. It was Johnson’s first rushing touchdown of the season.
Johnson, who had 96 yards rushing in his first two games, had 24 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown.
The Falcons answered as Matt Ryan had a 15-yard run and a 17-yard pass to White to set up Turner’s third touchdown, a 2-yard run.
Ryan was 12-for-18 for 192 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in his third start.
The Chiefs were held without a first down on their first five possessions. Their next two drives ended with interceptions by Erik Coleman and Brent Grimes.
“You have to stay positive,” Thigpen said. “We don’t expect to go three and out. We were planning on making first downs and moving the ball.” ^Notes: Tony Gonzalez had three catches for 35 yards, leaving him 50 yards from breaking Shannon Sharpe’s NFL record of 10,060 yards receiving for a tight end. … The Chiefs’ 12th straight loss came on the 11-month anniversary of their last win. They lost their last nine games in 2007 after a 12-10 win at Oakland on Oct. 21, 2007. … Johnson has 4,981 yards rushing for his career to pass Christian Okoye (4,897) for second place on the Chiefs’ all-time list.