Turner left short of 1,000-yard mark

HOUSTON – Falcons running back Michael Turner came into the game against the Houston Texans needing 52 yards to register the third 1,000-yard season of his career.

Next week, when the Falcons face the Carolina Panthers, Turner will need eight more yards to reach that milestone. The Houston Texans held him to 44 yards on 14 carries in their 17-10 victory on Sunday.

Turner, who didn’t practice for most of last week because of a groin injury, had one run of 16 yards. The Texans made him earn every other inch that he gained.

The Falcons knew that the Texans were going to crowd the line of scrimmage. They tried to loosen things up by throwing some deep passes early in the game.

“We were aggressive,” Turner said. “I didn’t have any problem with it. We had some big plays out there for us. We just didn’t make them.”

When the Falcons couldn’t connect on their long passes, safeties Danieal Manning and Glover Quinn came up to greet Turner. Quinn and linebacker Brian Cushing led the Texans with six tackles.

Turner said he was healthy and that his groin did not bother him.

“I’m fine,” Turner said. “They just rested me [during the week] to make sure that I was ready for the next game.”

Since coming to the Falcons, Turner has had some rough days running against some 3-4 defenses.

“It’s a good scheme,” Turner said. “We couldn’t get into a flow of what they were doing. They were doing a lot of blitzing and putting a lot of pressure on us. They were just crowding the line of scrimmage.”

Turner and most of the Falcons knew they played a clunker of a game against the Texans.

“We are just going to stick together,” Turner said. “That’s one thing that this team is going to do. We are not going to turn away from each other. We are going to keep fighting until the end.”

Under pressure

The Texans won the battle of which defense did a better job of putting the quarterback under pressure.

The Texans did not have any sacks, but they had 10 quarterback hits. The Falcons had three sacks, but just two quarterback hits.

Falcons defensive tackle Vance Walker got one of the quarterback hits and it was ruled a forced fumble. James Sanders returned it for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back after players from both teams went onto the field.

“I wasn’t too sure at the time, but after watching the replay I thought it was [a fumble],” Walker said.

Playoff picture

After the game, the Falcons didn’t have a clear view of their playoff status in part because the New Orleans Saints were playing in the late Sunday night game.

“This is the time of the year where it gets hard,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “This is the time of the year where it gets fun, too. We are right in the mix of things. . . It’s going to be important for us, through thick and thin, to stay together. I think our team will. We’ve got a great locker room. I think that’s going to give us a chance.”

Getting Gonzalez going

With the Falcons attempting to throw deep passes early, they did not have tight end Tony Gonzalez featured. But after the deep passes didn’t work and the Texans were laying some wood on Turner, Ryan started to lean of Gonzalez.

“Tony made some big plays for us in the middle of the field,” Ryan said. “Although we didn’t hit those [deep] plays we backed their safeties off little bit in the passing game and that opened things up for Tony and he did a great job of moving us down the field.”

Gonzalez finished with seven catches for 100 yards. He improved his NFL record for consecutive 60-catch seasons. Jerry Rice did it for 11 seasons. By going over the 60-catch mark, Gonzalez now has 13 seasons with 60 or more receptions.

Peterson makes a move

On his 32-yard interception return, linebacker Mike Peterson made a couple of nice moves to get to the end zone.

The play was nullified by cornerback Dunta Robinson’s holding penalty.

“I tell these guys all the time, I played quarterback in high school,” Peterson said. “Once, I get the ball in my hands, I’m no stranger to that. I know what to do.”

Peterson, who started for the injured Stephen Nicholas, had 10 tackles and one pass defensed. He was taking the defeat hard.

“It hurts,” Peterson said. “Man, it hurts. It really hurts.”

Target practice

Roddy White was targeted on 15 passes and caught four for 51 yards.

Julio Jones was targeted on 11 passes and caught four for 68 yards.

Jones was called for an illegal touching call later in the game.

“I thought it was defensive pass interference,” Jones said. “I still caught the ball, and I didn’t feel like I went out of bounds.”

Jones was the target on the last play of the game. If he had hauled down a Ryan pass for a 30-yard touchdown, the game would have likely gone to overtime.

“You put any receiver in that position, and you’ll know you should have made that play,” Jones said. “I think about stuff I could have done differently, but that’s football.”

Etc.

There were no injuries announced by the Falcons. . . Ryan’s record as a starter on grass fields dropped to 8-9. . . Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton led the Falcons in tackles with 11. Strong safety James Sanders, free safety Thomas DeCoud and Peterson had 10 tackles.