FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. For a number of seasons, Sam Baker ranked high on the list of whipping boys among Falcons' fans.
Left tackle is one of the hardest positions to play in the NFL and when your owner comes out publicly, as Arthur Blank did after last season's 24-2 loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs, and blames the lack of protection for the quarterback for the loss, well, fans and media alike couldn't take an easier cue.
Coming off an injury-filled season, the Falcons could have gone the free-agent route to replace Baker, as some expected them to do, but they did not. They stuck with the player they selected in the first round in 2008 out of USC and their faith has paid off.
Baker thinks that he's had the best season of his career and the statistics back it up. The 3.5 sacks he has allowed this season are the fewest in his five seasons other than his rookie campaign when he played in only eight games because of injury. His sacks allowed also are the second-fewest among ...