- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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The Atlanta Falcons have lots of weapons on offense: running back Michael Turner, who was third in the NFL with 1,340 rushing yards; wide receiver Roddy White, who had 100 receptions for 1,296 yards; and fellow wideout Julio Jones, who had 54 catches for 959 yards.
But the Giants were particularly complimentary of tight end Tony Gonzalez on Wednesday.
"Everything," said linebacker Michael Boley, when asked what Gonzalez does well. "He’s only gotten better with age, obviously. He’s still doin' it."
Gonzalez, who will turn 36 next month, is finishing his 15th season in the NFL, playing in 238 of a possible 240 regular season games during that span. And he is showing little evidence of slowing down. Gonzalez finished this season with 80 catches for 875 yards and seven touchdowns -- numbers that stack up with the rest of his career.
In fact, Gonzalez has played so well that he was just given a one-year contract extension for just under $7 million to remain with the Falcons next season.
Atlanta coach Mike Smith gushed about Gonzalez as well on Wednesday, in a conference call with Giants reporters. In particular, Smith lauded Gonzalez's influence on his teammates. "Without a doubt, one of the greatest tight ends that’s ever played the game," said Smith. "Tony’s work ethic is just unbelievable. It rubs off on everybody. … He’s had a big influence without having to say a whole lot."
As for why Gonzalez continues to be effective year after year, some Giants shared their perspective.
"You can tell he’s a smart player," said safety Kenny Phillips. "Just the way he runs his routes. He knows who’s covering him and how to beat him."
"He has little tricks of the trade," said Boley. "He just knows how to get open -- he knows how to use an opponent’s leverage against him."
Boley will be one of the players charged with keeping an eye on Gonzalez on Sunday. Shutting down the future Hall of Famer could be one of the keys to this game.