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Thursday, October 24, 2013
Falcons offensive line still has a lot to prove

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Give Justin Blalock credit for being honest.

The Atlanta Falcons' starting left guard didn’t try to overstate the offensive line’s performance coming off last Sunday’s 31-23 win over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

True, the line kept quarterback Matt Ryan relatively clean while not allowing a sack. But it wasn’t as if the line came up with some exotic new blocking scheme to enjoy more success. Plus Ryan helped his own cause by working out of the shotgun and stepping up to avoid pressure.

"Granted, there were lots of things that we really didn’t do well, as is always the case," Blalock noted. "We just seemed to make the right play at the right time. Someone out there was looking out for us."

One can understand why Blalock tempered his enthusiasm. A performance that coach Mike Smith deemed the best of the season in terms of protection will mean nothing if the line goes out to Arizona and gets demolished in the desert.

It could happen.

The Cardinals -- led by Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, and former Falcons John Abraham -- have 19 sacks and through seven games. Last week, they got after Russell Wilson to the tune of three sacks in a 34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"They’re all excellent players," Blalock said. "I think it’s well-documented the type of players the each of them are. And when they’re all playing well together, you definitely have your work cut out for you as an offensive front."

The Falcons are tied for first in league in sacks allowed with nine, but that number is skewed by the way Ryan has been able to get the ball out quickly. It also helps to have running backs such as Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling that are solid at picking up blitzes.

But there will be plenty of times come Sunday, of course, when the Falcons' offensive linemen will just have to line up and win their one-on-one matchups in both pass protection and with run blocking.

Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood could find himself on an island with the ex-Falcon Abraham, who had a couple of sack-fumble plays rushing from both sides last week. Trueblood faced Abraham in the past while playing for Tampa Bay.

"They have a lot of good players on that team, but we’re ready to go, physically and mentally," Trueblood said. "We’ve got a good game plan. We just have to execute."