This was long overdue -- and surprising, considering Turner waited to get it done against the New Orleans Saints' sixth-ranked run defense: 20 carries and a season-high 151 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown run on Atlanta's opening drive.
Turner tore through Saints tackles up the middle, and he broke loose in the flats like an angry man.
That's because he was.
"Yeah, because I haven't been satisfied with the way I've been playing," said Turner, who entered Monday's critical NFC South meeting with the undefeated Saints averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, more than a yard less than in 2008 when he ranked second in the NFL with 1,699 yards rushing. "I just wanted to bounce back hard. And this was the perfect game to bounce back."
Turner, who rushed for just 80 yards combined and averaged 2.6 yards per carry in Atlanta's last two games, a win over the Bears and a loss to the Cowboys, put up his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. But it marked the first time the Saints allowed a 100-yard rusher in 2009.
The Turner turnaround didn't stall the Saints' continued march of perfection, as New Orleans and that prolific Drew Brees-led offense scored just enough to secure a 35-27 victory. That gave the Saints their first 7-0 start since 1991 -- a playoff season that ended, coincidentally, with a wild-card loss to the Falcons.
But if Atlanta (4-3) hopes to keep pace with a runaway New Orleans team, which now maintains a three-game lead in the division, it was high time that the Falcons' ground game became a factor again.
"We ran in the flats, up the middle. We did some different things and that's what we have to do -- mix it up and do different things," said Turner, who got his biggest gainer midway through the second quarter, when he broke loose on a 37-yard burst off the right end. "The line played great and opened up some holes for me."
Injuries in the Atlanta backfield have done their part to counter a 4-1 start with a two-game losing streak. The return of fullback Ovie Mughelli (calf injury) after a two-game absence finally helped Turner find some holes. And the semblance of offensive balance did give quarterback Matt Ryan some breathing room to find wide receiver Roddy White on a 68-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter, which brought Atlanta within 28-21.
But there is no denying, too, that something isn't right with Ryan.
The second-year quarterback, who threw only two interceptions in his first four games this season, was picked off three times Monday night by the NFL's most opportunistic secondary, and has been intercepted eight times in his last four games. For the season, Ryan is two interceptions shy of his 2008 total of 11.
One pass intended for White was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Jabari Greer -- giving New Orleans five interception returns for touchdowns this season. Another throw to tight end Tony Gonzalez was tipped en route by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, which made it easy pickings for cornerback Tracy Porter.
"I felt like Tony had beaten the defender on the route for the touchdown but credit [goes] to them, that's how it goes sometimes and it's frustrating," said Ryan, who completed 19-of-42 passes for 289 yards and was sacked three times -- one of which was a strip fumble that was returned 48 yards by Saints defensive end Kroy Biermann for a first-quarter touchdown.
The VIlma tip and subsequent Porter interception, which came as the Falcons were on the verge of erasing a 28-24 deficit with 8:30 remaining, ruined one of many scoring chances for Atlanta.
"It was a good play by them -- I had beat the safety and I thought it was going to be a touchdown but that linebacker came out of nowhere and tipped it up," said Gonzalez, who did convert on a key fourth-down play for the Falcons. "Vilma made a real good play there. That was crucial.
"If that ball crept in there and I had caught the touchdown, we would have gone up. It would have been great."
But the killer turnover came in the final 11 seconds, after Atlanta had pulled with 35-27 and then recovered an onside kick, when NFL interception leader Darren Sharper swiped a Ryan pass intended for White.
While Ryan is visibly struggling, Atlanta coach Mike Smith refuses to even speculate that the 2008 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year has hit an anticipated sophomore slump.
"I thought Matt's play through the game was good. We have to take care of the football," Smith said. "That was a very good defense.
"I thought that was a very hard-fought game. I thought we showed a lot of resolve to stay in it. We dug ourselves into too big of a hole to be down by two touchdowns."
The rematch comes in Week 14 at the Georgia Dome, and Gonzalez promises that the Saints will see a different Falcons' team.
"We were right there in the thick of it [Monday night]," he said "I don't know what they're saying over there in that other locker room, but I'm sure they're saying 'Hey, that was a close one.'
"Luckily, we get to play them again and hopefully the outcome is different."