We’ve been talking a lot about records lately, because it’s fun to see where players stand on the all-time NFL leaderboards. Now we’ll turn our eyes to some franchise records, and specifically the ones that I think could stand for a long, long time, if not forever.
Let’s kick things off with Michael Turner. The Burner is a franchise great who was Mike Mularkey’s battering ram of choice from 2008-2011, and while he was done after the 2012 season, he put some truly magical years together for Atlanta. At his best, Turner was like a tank on roller blades, all power and terrifying size until he suddenly changed direction more gracefully than you’d ever expect.
Turner set a franchise record immediately after arriving in Atlanta. In Matt Ryan’s very first NFL game and Turner’s first as a Falcon, he ran for a preposterous 220 yards against the Lions, keying a 34-21 win for Atlanta. Turner ran for a 66 yard touchdown and a 5 yard touchdown on a tidy 22 carries, turning in exactly 10 yards per carry on the day and chipping in one catch for 6 yards. It was an astonishing performance and a sign of things to come for Turner, who was one of the best backs in the league for four seasons.
It’s also a franchise record that seems unlikely to be broken, at least any time soon. Every NFL team has a 200 yard rusher in their history somewhere, but not a single franchise single game record has been broken since 2013 as committees have become common, backs have become more integrated into passing games, and running backs have become less and less valuable to NFL teams, at least on paper. The Falcons followed Turner with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, both terrific backs in their own rights, and neither came close to 220 yards. As good as Todd Gurley is, chances are good he’ll never get a real shot to break that record in a Dirk Koetter-led offense, either.
Turner holds enough franchise marks to have a serious case as the best back in franchise history, but with time and carries, others may someday break his career marks. This single game record, set in his very first Falcons game, may well stand the test of time.