TAMPA — The Falcons are a tough team to beat in a lot of ways. But a huge reason they have the best record in the NFC is they don't beat themselves.
Atlanta has turned the ball over a league-low 10 times, none in its past four games. To put that in perspective, the Falcons can become the first team to go five in a row without a giveaway since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, according to ESPN.com.
The Bucs say third-year QB Matt Ryan should get a lot of credit for that.
"He doesn't make those bad throws that you see a lot of young guys make," DT Gerald McCoy said. "You see young guys trying to make that extra play. He doesn't do that. If it's not there, he's not going to throw it."
Ryan has not thrown an interception in his past 165 passes and has just five all season (compared with 19 touchdowns).
"Even if he's taking a sack, he's keeping the ball close to him and not just giving it away to the defenses," Falcons WR Roddy White said. "That's a big key in this league to winning. If you don't turn over the ball, you always have a chance of winning. Matt is doing a great job of just keeping the ball away from other people, and the backs and receivers are doing a good job of catching it and just putting it away."
RUN GAINS: Though Tampa Bay still ranks 27th in the league in run defense (132.5 yards per game), it has gotten better over the past few weeks, holding the 49ers and Ravens to a combined 163 yards.
On Sunday it faces Michael Turner, whose 974 yards are fifth in the league and who has rushed for more than 100 in four of his past five games.
What has been the difference?
"Tackling," McCoy said. "When we hit the guy, he's going down. That's what we've got to do with Turner. He's a yard-after-contact guy. He gets hit and still gets 15 (yards). When we hit him, we've got to get him on the ground."
DECISION TIME: Coach Raheem Morris said he hasn't decided who will start Sunday at right tackle. Though Jeremy Trueblood (knee) is feeling better, James Lee has played well in his absence. Morris planned to discuss it Thursday with offensive line coach Pete Mangurian and offensive coordinator Greg Olson. "These guys are both practicing very hard," Morris said. "Lee has done a great job. I'm not going to sugarcoat the fact that we have not rushed Trueblood back because of how well (Lee) is playing. But Trueblood is a fighter. I'm certain he wants to get back on the field as well. So we'll have to see."
MEDICAL MATTERS: LBs Barrett Ruud (back) and Dekoda Watson (hamstring) did not participate in Thursday's practice, though Morris said it was just due to soreness and they should be fine for Sunday. TE Kellen Winslow (knee) was back to full participation. RB Cadillac Williams (ribs) was limited.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.