FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — There would be no question that recent Atlanta Falcons teams would try to exploit a defense that had just given up almost 300 yards rushing the week before.
The Falcons led the league in rushing each of the last two years. They always emphasized the run under former coach Jim Mora, but this is a new era.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Falcons play Sunday at Jacksonville, which was supposed to have a strong defensive front but instead gave up a franchise-record 282 yards rushing in a 13-10 loss to Tennessee last week.
Meanwhile, Atlanta running backs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood combined for only 88 yards rushing in a 24-3 loss at Minnesota.
‘‘Everyone is still adjusting to what we’re doing offensively,’’ Dunn said.
First-year coach Bobby Petrino is trying to install a more balanced attack. It would be a surprise if Atlanta cut back dramatically on its passing attempts this week — even against a Jaguars defense that struggled on run defense.
Quarterback Joey Harrington completed 23 of 32 passes for 199 yards against the Vikings. His longest pass was for only 15 yards and he threw two interceptions, including one off the hands of receiver Michael Jenkins.
Harrington said he thinks the rushing yards allowed by the Jaguars last week were ‘‘a bit abnormal.’’
‘‘That being said, I’m sure we’re going to try to do some of the things Tennessee did well and see if they can stop it,’’ Harrington said.
All in the Cards
At the end of a news conference earlier this week, Petrino was asked his thoughts about ‘‘what’s happening Saturday night in Lexington.’’
Petrino, the former Louisville coach, thought for a second and asked ‘‘What’s happening in Lexington?’’
Told that the Louisville-Kentucky college game is today, Petrino smiled and said ‘‘I’ve got to go with the Cards.’’
As he walked out of the room, Petrino asked someone ‘‘So that game is Saturday night?’’
Petrino was Louisville’s coach from 2003-06, but he obviously hasn’t had time to follow the Cardinals this year.
In his defense
Defensive end Jamaal Anderson, the team’s first-round pick, had two tackles in his mostly quiet debut against Minnesota.
Petrino said Anderson’s productive preseason led to the rookie receiving extra blocking attention from the Vikings.
‘‘They did a nice job game-planning against Jamaal,’’ Petrino said. ‘‘There were times where they lined up a tight end on his side or a guy that was off the ball to chip him off the line. I also know that they cut him one time. They were concerned about him.’’
Petrino said Anderson and other rookies picked up the pace late in the game.
‘‘They have to learn now to start that same way against Jacksonville,’’ Petrino said.
Defensive tackle Rod Coleman, expected to miss the first four games while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, is Atlanta’s only player who has been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Safety Chris Crocker was held out again Friday with a knee injury. Rookie receiver Laurent Robinson (hamstring) was available for only limited drills.
Still the best
A new offense with a new quarterback hasn’t changed tight end Alge Crumpler’s status as the team’s leading receiver.
Crumpler led Atlanta with four catches for 40 yards against the Vikings. Last year, he led the Falcons in catches and receiving yards in eight games and has been the team’s leading receiver the last three years.