FLOWERY BRANCH — The reputation of the Falcons’ offensive line for blocking through the whistle has made its way to the Big Apple.
The Falcons call it being nasty, but earlier this season the Green Bay Packers called them dirty. The Giants seem to agree.
“Most people would call them dirt bags,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck told ESPNnewyork.com on Monday. “But it is what it is. We got to make sure we do our job, and, if we are doing our job well, then they will be upset and they will be trying to do things to get us off our game. We’ve got to take that a as a compliment.”
Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji previously accused the Falcons of flopping for the referees when the Packers retaliated with an extra shove.
“Yeah, we have seen it,” Tuck said. “We know that they have that quote-unquote reputation. But in a way it is kind of exciting. … In the same sense you got to protect yourself, and hopefully the referees have 20-20 vision this week.”
With a chance to advance to the NFC divisional round of the playoffs, the Falcons (10-6) face the New York Giants (9-7) in the wild-card round at 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Here is a look at how the Falcons’ offensive line matches up against the Giants’ defensive line:
Falcons’ starters: Left tackle Will Svitek, left guard Justin Blalock, center Todd McClure, right guard Joe Hawley and right tackle Tyson Clabo.
Falcons’ key reserves: Tackles Sam Baker and Kirk Chambers, guard Garrett Reynolds and center Brett Romberg.
Giants’ starters: Left end Justin Tuck, defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Chris Canty, and right end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Giants’ key reserves: Ends Osi Umenyiora, Justin Trattou and Dave Tollefson, and tackles Rocky Bernard and Jimmy Kennedy.
Matchups to watch: Svitek vs. Pierre-Paul
The Falcons will face one of the best young pass rushers in the league in Pierre-Paul, a second-year defensive end who had a breakthrough season with 16.5 sacks.
Pierre-Paul leads a unit that registered 48 sacks, which was tied for third in the league. Umenyiora had nine sacks, Tuck five, Tollefson five and Canty four.
Pierre-Paul’s emergence has been important because Tuck, a two-time Pro Bowler, has been slowed this season by neck and groin injuries, and Umenyiora has missed seven games because of knee and ankle injuries.
The unit had six sacks and forced a fumble in its 31-14 victory over Dallas to clinch the NFC East title on Sunday. It had five sacks in the previous week’s game against the New York Jets.
The Giants received a boost by the return of Umenyiora against the Cowboys; he’d missed the previous four games with an ankle injury.
The Giants sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo with a four-man rush and didn’t have to manufacture pressure with their blitz packages.
In passing situations, Tuck will play some tackle in order to get three defensive ends rushing. Also, the versatile Pierre-Paul played some linebacker against Dallas.
The Falcons had trouble early in the season with athletic pass rushers before they settled on a unit and solidified their blocking schemes.
The Falcons allowed 26 sacks during the regular season, which was the sixth lowest in the league. Only Cincinnati (25), Oakland (25), New Orleans (24), Tennessee (24) and Buffalo (23) allowed fewer sacks.
Matchup advantage: New York Giants.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog