FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez called it "embarrassing" to give up his first sack in 13 years last week against the Saints and vowed not to do it again.
The Falcons allowed three sacks and six hits on quarterback Matt Ryan last Sunday and face on paper, at least an even better pass-rushing team (the 1-0 Rams) this week at the Georgia Dome.
In particular, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn posted three sacks and two forced fumbles against Arizona, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
In allowing a sack to the Saints' Junior Galette a talent short of Quinn, the 14th overall pick in 2011 was "just laziness on my part."
The play in question occurred on 2nd-and-10 from the Saints7 47, just before halftime. Gonzalez lined up next to left tackle Sam Baker and Galette, an outside linebacker, beat him to the quarterback for a 10-yard loss. On the next play, Ryan was called for intentional grounding and the Falcons ultimately punted and went into halftime down 13-10.
How long had it been since Gonzalez surrendered a sack? His son Nikko, 12, had yet to be born.
"The way I look at it, it wasn't like I got physically beat, like the guy pushed me back into the quarterback," Gonzalez said. "It was a miscalculation on my part, which is inexcusable. This is my second sack in my whole career. Same thing happened last time. Peter Boulware it was either Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football; it was night time and he was on the edge and I was like, 'He's way out there. There's no way he can get to the quarterback. Matt's going to throw it by then,' and I just had a slow lazy kick instead of kicking back there and getting aggressive with it like I should, like I've always done.
"(Nikko) let me have it. He was like 'What was up with that? He said it's lucky you scored the touchdown or that wouldve been a bad game for you.' As far as Im concerned, that's something I've been thinking about a lot and it won't happen again, hopefully."
Gonzalez then repeated something from the coaching staff: He thinks the protection of Ryan will improve this week and said it was early in the year.
"I think all of us, we have to keep Matt upright keep him in that pocket nice and clean so he can throw the ball down the field," Gonzalez said. "Besides that, I thought we played well at times. We just have to be way more consistent holding up."
On Sunday, Gonzalez was targeted six times, but only caught three passes for 36 yards, including that touchdown, the 104th of his illustrious career. The Saints played physically against Gonzalez. On one third down, he appeared as if he were obstructed in trying to catch the ball close to the line of scrimmage. The Falcons looked for a flag but nothing came.
Gonzalez cited the rule regarding use of hands. According to the NFL rule book, it reads:
Within this five-yard zone (beyond the line of scrimmage), a defensive player may chuck an eligible player in front of him. A defensive player is allowed to maintain continuous and unbroken contact within the five-yard zone until a point when the receiver is even with the defender.
"Well, they're allowed to with the rule change this year," Gonzalez said. "They're allowed to just hold you. I don't call it physical, they're just holding. That's the rules, though. I'm not going to complain about it. Just like defense: There's rules they have to abide by, and they've got to deal with it, whether it's fair or not and the same thing with me.
"Obviously, holding off the line of scrimmage or just grabbing you, it's hard to get off that unless you push and get extension, so I'll do what I got to get away from that a little bit more. It wasn't anything more than I've had in my career. Teams have been doing that since I started catching a lot of balls. I'll make the adjustment and hopefully Ill be able to get off a little bit quicker this time."
Head coach Mike Smith said it was less of a rule change than a point of emphasis.
"We go through this every year at the beginning of the season in terms of what's going to be called and what's not going to be called," Smith said. "It was a point of emphasis in the film and video that all the players and all the coaches saw in the preseason."
Yet another adjustment the Falcons and Gonzalez will have to make this week.