Falcons’ O-Line issues still unsolved

A lot of questions remain with the Atlanta Falcons offensive line after letting quarterback Matt Ryan get sacked three times. (USA TODAY Sports: Derick E. Hingle)

A lot of questions remain with the Atlanta Falcons offensive line after letting quarterback Matt Ryan get sacked three times. (USA TODAY Sports: Derick E. Hingle)

The Atlanta Falcons offensive line problems didn’t just go away once the regular season started.

They were dominated by the New Orleans Saints, just like they were by the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans in the preseason as they attempt to revamp the unit.

The Falcons signed Jeremy Trueblood, a former starter with Tampa Bay on Sept. 3. He started 84 of the 101 NFL games that he’s played, but was inactive the Saints game.

Falcons coach Mike Smith didn’t sound like there were any plans to rush the veteran into the lineup at one point.

The Falcons are attempting to replace center Todd McClure and right tackle Tyson Clabo with 2011 draft picks Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes.

Konz, who has struggled at times, accepted the criticism of the unit’s overall play.

“I love to be someone that is under the radar,” Konz said. “That just gives us an opportunity to show everybody in the country that we can be the best (offensive) line.”

Like Smith, Konz believes the line, under the direction of offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn, can provide better pass protection.

“A lot of it is technical,” Konz said.

The Falcons appear set to let the line develop together as unit. If they are panicking, they are doing a good job of hiding it.

“You see little things that come with time (and) a little maturity,” said Konz, a second-year player. “Technique is something that we are always trying to improve on. Shoring up the pass game and making sure that Matt has time and feels comfortable.”

Notes, quotes

• The Falcons don’t want to drop to 0-2 against the upstart Rams.

Since 1990, only 22 of 190 NFL teams (11.5 percent) have made the playoffs after starting 0-2.

Last season, Cleveland, Tennessee, Oakland, Jacksonville and Kansas City all started 0-2 and didn’t make the playoffs.

Only three teams who have started 0-2 have won the Super Bowl. The 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 2001 New England Patriots and 2007 New York Giants rebounded on their way to the title.

• Running back Stephen Jackson played 36 snaps (64 percent) while Jacquizz Rodgers played 16 snaps (29 percent).

Linebacker Stephen Nicholas, who has a thigh injury, played only six plays on special teams. He led the Falcons in tackles last season with 116.

Rookie tight end Levin Toilolo played on 10 snaps (18 percent). He was used mostly as a blocker. He was not targeted in the passing game.

Guard/Center Joe Hawley beat out Ryan Schraeder for the jumbo tight end role. He played five snaps (nine percent).

Of the players who were active only backup quarterback Dominique Davis and backup safety Zeke Motta did not play.

• Fullback Bradie Ewing, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, made his NFL regular-season debut against the Saints.

He had one catch for 15 yards.

“We got a first down on it and it kind of put us in better field position,” Ewing said. “It was good to get my first catch, but it was all about winning that game.”

He played on 12 offensive snaps and 12 on special teams. He was the lead blocker for Steven Jackson on a few runs.

“I did some good things, but I need to improve and get my feet running,” Ewing said. “Get better at contact and continue to help this offense.”

Player notes

• QB Matt Ryan’s bid for a 23rd fourth-quarter comeback came up short. He drove the Falcons down to the 3-yard line, but didn’t convert on two pass plays. Ryan passed for 304 yards. It was his 18th 300-yard game.

• TE Tony Gonzalez has caught at least one pass in 196 straight games which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Gonzalez leads all active receivers with 14,304 yards.

• RB Steven Jackson is the NFL’s leading active rusher with 10,215 yards. The Falcons are the first team to have the leading active rusher and leading active receiver since the Green Bay Packers in 1941 with Clarke Hinkle (3,467) and Don Hutson (3,566).

• WR Harry Douglas turned in one of his best performances as a pro. He had four catches for a game-high 93 yards while averaging 23.3 yards per reception. Douglas’ 50-yard reception set up the Falcon’s first touchdown.

• WR Roddy White played in his 129th consecutive game on Sunday, tying Bob Whitfield for the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. White has played in every game since entering the League in 2005, while Whitfield played in 129 straight games from 1992 to 2000.

Injury impact

• CB Asante Samuel (thigh) was expected to play against the Saints, but was a late scratch.

•WR Roddy White said that he suffered a high ankle sprain against Baltimore on Aug. 15. Falcons coach Mike Smith stood behind his handling of Roddy White’s ankle sprain. He was careful to meet the league medical reporting rules, while not revealing that White has a high ankle sprain. White said he’s three weeks away from being 100 percent. “In terms of injuries with players during the season, we have a policy that’s been in place since I got here, ‘we don’t discuss injuries.’ We have injuries reports on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday per league initiative and rules. I will say this, everybody knows that there different types of ankle sprains. (High ankle sprains are more serious.) We have to list it as an ankle sprain. That’s how we listed it and I stand by that statement from the very beginning. We said he was going to play about 23 days ago and he played in the football game.”

•LB Stephen Nicholas (thigh) did not play from scrimmage against New Orleans. He played six special teams snaps.

Report card vs. Saints

PASSING OFFENSE: D - Ryan threw his 128th and 129th career touchdown passes. He currently ranks second on the franchise’s all-time list behind quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who threw 154 touchdown passes between 1975 and 1985. Ryan was hit six times and sacked three times. White was not 100 percent. Harry Douglas had four catches for a team-high 93 yards. Julio Jones was fighting through double-teams and had a key fumble in the second quarter that was converted into a touchdown. Gonzalez caught three passes and was targeted six times.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The running backs rushed 13 times for 76 yards and Steven Jackson got most of that on his 50-yard scamper. Jackson also had two drops.

PASS DEFENSE: B — Drew Brees passed for 357 yards, but was held to 23 points. That’s the lowest total the Saints have amassed against the Atlanta Falcons in the Superdome since 2007. Left cornerback and nickel back Robert McClain struggled in coverage at times. William Moore dropped an interception that would have kept a touchdown off the board. Rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford played well. The Falcons had two sacks and three quarterback hits. Defensive end/linebacker Osi Umenyiora had one tackle and one hit. The defense finished with seven tackles for loss, including an 11-yard sack by defensive tackle Corey Peters. Peters also added six tackles (three solo).

RUSH DEFENSE: B — Akeem Dent and Sean Weatherspoon combined for 18 tackles and three tackles for a loss. Dent had a key stop of Saints running back Mark Ingram on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Matt Bryant made his only field goal attempt of the day, a 23-yard field goal on the Falcons’ third offensive possession. Bryant has made 95 field goals since joining the Falcons in 2009. He trails Jay Feely (98) for third on the club’s all-time made field goals list. Harry Douglas averaged 10.5 yards on two punt returns.