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Former Central Gwinnett standout Massaquoi gets first NFL sack

Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) causing a fumble during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Central Gwinnett grad Jonathan Massaquoi (96) pursues the play. (Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon (8) causing a fumble during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Central Gwinnett grad Jonathan Massaquoi (96) pursues the play. (Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

ATLANTA — Jonathan Massaquoi certainly couldn’t complain about a missed early opportunity Sunday and he ended up having to share is first NFL sack.

That didn’t matter, though.

The Atlanta Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak on Sunday at the Georgia Dome and the Central Gwinnett graduate played his part in the 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Massaquoi, who had 37 ½ sacks in 36 college games, got his first as a pro when the second-year defensive end combined with rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu to bring down rookie Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon in the third quarter.

“It felt good to get it out of the way and hopefully open up the Pandora box for a lot more,” Massaquoi said.

The fifth-round draft choice from Troy University almost had his first sack on the Falcons’ third defensive play of the game, breaking free and boring in on Glennon on a third-down play from the Tampa Bay 45-yard line.

Blitzing safety William Moore, though, reached the quarterback first and knocked the ball free.

Fellow safety Thomas DeCoud, who also had been blitzing, picked up the ball and ran 30 yards for the touchdown in what could have been the key play off the game.

“I thought I had the sack,” Massaquoi said. “But William is a safety, so he’s faster. Next time, I’ll have to hurry up so I at least get part of the sack.”

Instead, Massaquoi was left to throw a block and then take part in the celebration.

“The ball popped loose and I reached for it,” Massaquoi said. “But DeCoud jumped over me and all I could do was lead block. At least I got to be part of the fun in the end zone.”

“It was unexpected, so I didn’t have my dance prepared,” DeCoud said.

Massaquoi finally broke into the sack column midway through the third quarter of his 14th NFL game, teaming with Bartu to drop Glennon for a 5-yard loss on first down from the Bucs’ 35-yard line.

“The quarterback rolled out and I got on the same level with him and pulled a move on the running back,” Massaquoi said. “The quarterback stepped up and I made the play.”

Massaquoi was introduced as a starter before the game and has been first team on the depth chart since Kroy Biermann suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the second game of the year against St. Louis.

Since a start for Massaquoi at Miami the week following Biermann’s injury, though, the Falcons have actually opened in three-man fronts. That means mostly third-down duty for Massaquoi.

Against the Bucs, Massaquoi shared two tackles and also made a solo stop on a kick return. That gives him seven tackles in six games this season and nine for his career. He played in eight regular-season games and two playoff games last season as a rookie, making two tackles on special teams.

“I just feel blessed to be out on the field with these guys. I want to contribute in any way I can,” Massaquoi said.

The Falcons’ lack of a consistent pass rush as been an issue this season, but they got to Glennon three times.

“It felt good to be a part of this,” Massaquoi said. “We definitely needed a win.”