FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (WFAN/AP) — The Falcons have something to say to Giants defensive end Justin Tuck: Who are you calling a dirtbag?
Tuck called out Atlanta’s offensive line on Monday when he said “most people” would classify the group as “dirtbags.”
“I have to find out the Wikipedia definition of dirtbag, I don’t know there. I was joking maybe we should make T-shirts and start branding this, you know?” said Falcons left tackle Will Svitek. “We could make a profit in the New York market. It’s an opportunity.”
The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions have complained this season about the Falcons’ blocking techniques — and apparent shots after the whistle.
Svitek laughed at Tuck’s comment but defended the unit’s cut-blocking as within the rules.
“I think we play to the whistle,” said Svitek. “We’re going to be pests, we’re going to always be hovering around, but if (Tuck) thinks that’s being dirty or being cheap, we can’t control that. We don’t think it is. We have our style, we’ve always done it and that’s the kind of way we do things here.”
Tuck made his comments as the Giants started preparations for their wild-card game against Atlanta on Sunday.
“The way I look at it, I take it as a compliment,” said Falcons guard Todd McClure. “We’re a unit that prides itself on getting down the field and protecting the guys that have the ball in their hands. If they consider us dirtbags, that’s what we are.”
Meanwhile, Matt Ryan, the man Atlanta’s o-line are charged with protecting, says he’s “a lot more mature” than in his first two NFL playoff appearances.
Ryan is bringing the best passing numbers of his career into the matchup. He said Wednesday he’s also bringing his best focus and wouldn’t be deterred by outside distractions.
“I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned in my two appearances in the playoffs is to not let all the outside things that come along with it affect your preparation and affect your approach to playing on Sunday,” Ryan said. “I think I’m a lot better served. I’m a lot more mature than I was a couple years ago and even last year. I think that’s going to help out.”
Right on cue, Ryan was asked about comments from Tuck that were the hot topic in the Falcons’ locker room.
Asked about the comment, Ryan just grinned and said “That’s not something I worry about too much.”
Ryan said he’s keeping his focus on his game. He’s entering the playoffs on a roll.
He has 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last four games. He set the Falcons’ record with 4,177 yards passing this season and set another personal high with his 29 touchdown passes.
Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who played with Ryan at Boston College, said the fourth-year quarterback is “fearless.”
“You can’t assume because you’re in tight coverage that he won’t try to squeeze the ball in there,” Kiwanuka said. “He’s a prototypical quarterback. He has the confidence and ability to get it in there. He is going to make our job tough.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning also set a team record, throwing for 4,933 yards. Manning threw 29 touchdown passes with 16 interceptions.
Manning, like Ryan, lost the first two playoff games of his career. Manning won the Super Bowl in his third chance after the 2007 season.
“I think when you compare them physically they’re very similar in height and stature,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith. “I think you can see they have a very good understanding of the game. I think there are a lot of similarities to the two.”
The Falcons are making their third playoff appearance in four years.
“I think it helps,” Ryan said. “I think anytime you’ve been in the position before, the things you learn from it, they’re invaluable. I think we have a much more experienced football team coming in this year and I think that bodes well for us.”
As a rookie in 2008, Ryan and the Falcons lost a first-round game at Arizona. The Falcons had a first-round bye last year before a blowout loss at home to Green Bay. Ryan threw two interceptions in each loss.
Ryan said his 0-2 playoff record is “not that much” of a burden.
He said talk of the past playoff games is another distraction he has learned to ignore.
“I think the past doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “We had opportunities and we really didn’t take advantage of those. What matters is we put ourselves in this position again and we have an opportunity to move forward.
“I don’t worry about it too much. I kind of just focus on trying to prepare and do well this week and doing everything we can to take advantage of the opportunity we have.”
Receiver Roddy White said Ryan isn’t the only Falcons player looking for a first playoff win.
“There are a lot of guys who didn’t win a playoff game until late in their career, but Matt’s been doing a good job of getting us there and getting us an opportunity,” White said. “I mean, we all want to win. That’s going to validate everyone in this locker room if we get a playoff win. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
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