Notebook: Offensive line struggled until the very end

Atlanta Falcons defenders Ray Edwards (clockwise from upper left), William Moore, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas gang tackle Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert during second half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons defenders Ray Edwards (clockwise from upper left), William Moore, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas gang tackle Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert during second half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The Falcons’ offensive line had a long day against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The unit, which had played well in the previous three games, was shredded for seven sacks and allowed quarterback Matt Ryan to be hit 12 times.

But with the game on the line and the Falcons backed up, the unit held long enough to let Ryan launch a 59-yard pass from the back of the end zone.

“We didn’t play our best ball today, but that just goes to show you that we always have a chance,” center Todd McClure said. “If we’ve got the ball and are within a score, we always have a shot. We found a way to win.”

Ryan made a plea for the line to dig in on that long throw. He knew he had to cover a lot of ground and needed a little time.

“I thought our offensive line did a great job,” Ryan said. “We put certain guys in there specifically for that protection and they blocked it up and gave us an opportunity to shoot it down as far as we could.”

Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson did most of the damage with 3.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. Frank Alexander had 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. Greg Hardy and Ron Edwards also had sacks.

Johnson and Alexander gave Falcons tackles Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo fits. The Falcons also brought in offensive guards Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley as tight ends in power formations to help with the blocking.

The Falcon had given up just four sacks in victories over Kansas City, Denver and San Diego.

But the Falcons knew their line could struggle against athletic fronts from the playoff loss to the New York Giants. The team drafted offensive linemen with their second and third round picks, but center-guard Peter Konz and tackle Lamar Holmes could not unseat the veterans and are still getting some seasoning from offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.

Despite the relentless pressure, the unit continued to battle through its long day.

“You’ve got to win close games,” McClure said. “I think it’s something down the road that we’ll be able to draw back on. We are not going to always be up two scores in the fourth quarter. That was an experience that we’ll be able to draw on later in the season.”

Defense stood up

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was proud of his line mate John Abraham, who had left the scene by the time the media was allowed in the locker room.

Abraham’s forced fumble on Cam Newton knocked the ball back 1-yard and ended up getting the ball back for the offense.

“That’s what our defense is made of,” Babineaux said. “We have to stop the offense no matter what part of the game it is. That’s our job. We stepped up today on the third-and-one and made them punt the ball.”

Slow start

Carolina scored first and the Falcons found themselves behind for the first time this season.

“I think we came out too relaxed,” Babineaux said. “As the game went on, we stepped up and did our responsibilities and tried to make it a game. It was a division opponent. We knew they were going to come in and give us a great challenge.”

Gonzalez knew what to do

Tight end Tony Gonzalez had a big play, hauling in a 7-yard gain on the play following White’s 59-yard gain. With no timeouts, it was vital that he get out of bounds to stop the clock.

“I’ve been around a long time,” Gonzalez said. “I knew what had to be done. We had no timeouts left. You have to make a play and make a break for the sidelines.”

Where were you?

Falcons safety William Moore is not exactly sure where he was in 1986, the first time the Falcons were 4-0, but he has a good guess.

“I was probably chilling in the cradle, you know what I mean,” Moore said. “I was watching TV or something. I was born in 1985. I was out in the world. I was chilling, probably watching Sesame Street.”

28 comments Add your comment

J-Man Falcon Fan

September 30th, 2012
9:12 pm

First….Just like the Dirty Birds!

StuDawg

September 30th, 2012
9:27 pm

I really enjoyed Scam Newtons heart getting ripped out and stomped on on live TV. That guy has a lot to learn. Great game Falcons! Way to play and finish.

Bill

September 30th, 2012
9:32 pm

It looked like we started a little flat and they were sharp. Mon night, Sun in San D. and long flight back may have taken a toll on us. Panthers had much longer to prepare for us. Good W against a well prepared team.

Jesse

September 30th, 2012
9:38 pm

Lamar….. get your cleats ready….

Falcon James

September 30th, 2012
10:07 pm

Great game. The -O Line did a good job today in run blocking. Carolina has a strong Defense and our guys played their hearts out. They delivered when in mattered the most. I am sure they will work out the bugs and only get better. Bring on the Redskins and MeAngelo. Can’t wait to see him burned over and over and over and over and over.

RA

September 30th, 2012
10:11 pm

Yea, it wasn’t pretty, but when you look at Ryan’s numbers for the game, you see that the offensive line did fight through. I was a little disappointed at the play calling. With the success that the Falcons were having in the running game. I would have have just lined up, run and play action passed them to death. Alls well that ends well, but when it’s obvious that one facet isn’t working, the Falcons need to go more with what is…

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
10:22 pm

“I thought our offensive line did a great job,” Ryan said…………..Matt is first class……………………..Rise up Falcons……….4 – 0 ! ! ! !

Brenda b

September 30th, 2012
10:38 pm

Wow what a great game Falcons y’all made me proud what a way to Rise up!!!

panic fan

September 30th, 2012
10:58 pm

IN YEARS PAST WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PULL OUT A WIN (THIS TEAM IS SPECIAL) WAY TO GO TEAM — 4-0

Falcon James

September 30th, 2012
11:26 pm

Carolina brought Superman and the Falcon brought Kriptonite.

Heck of a weekend for close football games. Now its going down to the wire with the Eagle and Giant!

Innocent Bystander

October 1st, 2012
12:07 am

I’ll take the win, but the o-line and defense were just embarrassing. Figure it out quickly, because we’re facing another athletic QB next weekend, this time on the road.

Tell it like it is

October 1st, 2012
1:48 am

I will take the win, however Monday shouldn’t be their normal day off, is should be a special film session day. O-line stunk, defense couldn’t tackle or get off field on 3rd down, luckily Carolina has problems finishing games (just like last season). Falcons better figure out their problems, cause most teams in this league will not just hand you a victory.

iron head

October 1st, 2012
2:25 am

Seenthisb4 where are u? Seenthis come out and play, seenthis come out and play. Lol aints 0-4

Falcons Chic

October 1st, 2012
5:07 am

What is with the AFC West teams? Do they play by some Marquis’ rules like the British Redcoats who knelt to fire (in their tighty-whitey pants)? This was a brawl. Where were our magnificent safeties? Our offensive line? We have to get ready for the NFC Kudzu down and dirties or we will get rolled.

aizdaman

October 1st, 2012
6:21 am

Sam Baker is so weak its pathetic, he gets pushed back every play and has alligator arms.

aizdaman

October 1st, 2012
6:22 am

Lamar Holmes ain’t ready this year he doesn’t have the footwork down yet, were basically red shirting him this year

Esquire

October 1st, 2012
7:56 am

Frankly we are lucky that Ryan will be able to go next Sunday vs the Redskins.

CDFALCONS

October 1st, 2012
8:16 am

Remember DirtyBird nation. We have a long ways to go. I recall when we went 5-0 and didn’t make the playoffs. So, every win no matter how ugly is a good win for this team. Julio what happen last night, Roddy is still the go to guy! Go Dirty birds

DISGUSTING

October 1st, 2012
9:32 am

CURSING OUT YOUR ASSISTANT COACH AND MAKING A SCENE LIKE MIKE SMITH DID LATE IN THE 4TH WAS INAPPROPRIATE AND UNACCEPTABLE, I DO NOT CARE IF YOU ARE 4-0. HE SHOULD BE THANKFUL THE ASST. COACH DIDN’T PUNCH HIS LIGHTS OUT.

Falcon James

October 1st, 2012
9:57 am

Has anyone see a Saint fan lately? If you see one, please let them know that they team is still OhFur!

E-Roll

October 1st, 2012
10:02 am

Disgusting – Something tells me that you don’t get close enough to any NFL sidelines because I worked at the Georgia Dome for 19 years and players, coaches and management on NFL sidelines curse each other out all of the time The cameras usually don’t catch it but they did this time but trust me a win like that keeps any bad feelings out of the locker room. I am sure that the assistant coach is not thinking about that scene this morning so why should you? Just asking? Atlanta Falcons 4 – 0, RISE UP!!!!

Statick

October 1st, 2012
10:27 am

aizdaman: Sam Baker is so weak its pathetic, he gets pushed back every play and has alligator arms.

Dude, I’ve had my criticism of Baker in the pasts, but I’m thinking your just talking out of your butt now. Did you even watch the game? Baker wasn’t anywhere near the weak link in yesterdays’s o-line play. Clabo, Johnson and Hawley were atrocious. Baker did his job.

aizdaman

October 1st, 2012
11:06 am

Joe Hawley is a backup only next year I want Kontz starting at center

Leeman Bennett

October 1st, 2012
11:08 am

Can we stop all the talk about Michael Turner being finished as a running back? Let us all try to be positive as we hopefully continue to see a great season unfold for the Falcons.

North FLA Falcon

October 1st, 2012
11:17 am

Leeman B — you are so right! I was one of those screaming that Turner should be cut or traded. But he really proved something yesterday. He even caught a few passes (dropped a few, too) … just another dimension to our offense. I love how fearless we are with the pass … at one point we had 3rd and 17 … Ryan dropped back and made the throw, first down. Just amazing, with so many weapons. Downsides include bad tackling / being out of position on defense … the play late in the game where we “bull rushed” and Cam ran into an empty field was kind of scary. Especially considering we face RG3 next week. Gotta improve on the Oline … Reynolds and Clabo were getting pushed all over the place. Folks I am GLAD we got scored on first … I am GLAD Matt threw a pick and got knocked around … face it, we had gotten complacent … but we came back and won it. I am so proud of this team right now! GO FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 1st, 2012
12:02 pm

bigdawg1

October 1st, 2012
1:47 pm

The best news today is that, after two weeks, no Falcon got arrested last night/this morning! Way to stay home and be smart, Dirty Birds!

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

October 1st, 2012
8:08 pm

The O-Line got beat like a drum all game long by Carolina’s front four. Hopefully they can get back to playing like they did the first three games otherwise someone (as in one of the starters) needs to be benched.

Looking forward to the team being 5 and 0 after the game this coming weekend!!!!! I’ll be in DC supporting the team….GO FALCONS!!!!!!