Falcons’ offensive line decimated by injuries

The Falcons suffered injuries to three offensive linemen in the 41-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and had to finish the game with tight end Levine Toilolo playing right tackle on Sunday.

Left guard Justin Blalock, a mainstay on the offensive line, suffered a back injury with 6:53 left in the second quarter and did not return. His injury appeared to the less serious of the three.

Later, right tackle Lamar Holmes left the game with a foot injury. He had a boot on his right foot after the game.

Center Joe Hawley, who left the game on crutches, suffered a right leg injury.

Blalock has started every game since the start of the 2008 season. He started 14 of 16 games as a rookie in 2007.

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Gabe Carimi replaced him in the lineup.

When the linemen down, Jake Matthews played left tackle, Gabe Carimi was at right guard and Peter Konz was at center with Jon Asamoah at right guard and Toilolo at right tackle. Tight end Bear Pascoe game in to play alongside Toilolo.

“I have never played tackle,” Toilolo said. “I was kind of like just moving your assignments down a spot. Obviously, the coaches tried to help out as best as they could. Jon did a great job of communicating with me on the field.

“When I was off the field, the coaches were working with me and telling me what looks to expect and things like that.”

Before moving to tackle, Toilolo caught one pass for 12 yards.

Also, safety William Moore injured his shoulder in the second quarter and did not return.

He was replaced in the lineup by second-year safety Kemal Ishmael.

Moore entered the game as the Falcons’ second-leading tackler along with linebacker Joplo Bartu with 23 tackles.

“We had a lot of injuries,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It was the first time that I’ve been in a game where you had four offensive linemen that could go in and play.

“That’s not an excuse. Guys are going to get injured. That happens in every football game. That happens throughout the NFL every week. You have to have the next man up mentality. You can not concern yourself with injures.”

Smith didn’t share the teams initial medical reports on the injured players.

“No, I don’t,” Smith said when asked for injury updates. “This is very quickly getting in here. I do not have any updates at all. That will be on Wednesday when we give the injury report.”

Shembo starts: Linebacker Prince Shembo started the game at inside linebacker for Bartu.

“We felt that Prince Shembo deserved the opportunity to start,” Smith said. “He’s been playing well. We felt that it was time to give him the opportunity to do that.”

Shembo finished with eight tackles.

Douglas held out: Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas, who suffered a foot injury in the Tampa Bay game, was listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report was inactive.

Douglas, the team’s No. 3 wide receiver, has 12 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown on the season. With Douglas out, Devin Hester will slide up into the No. 3 wide receiver slot.

Hester finished with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring), Hester (ankle), running back Antone Smith (hamstring) and linebacker Prince Shembo (calf) were all listed as probable and played.

The other players declared inactive include: quarterback Sean Renfree, cornerback Javier Arenas, linebacker Tyler Starr, center Jeff Stone, tackle Ryan Schraeder and defensive tackle Cliff Matthews.

Opposite of road warriors: The Falcons are 0-2 on the road this season.

For the next two months the Falcons will play just one game at the Georgia Dome and all of their games away from home will be outdoors. Those could be challenging circumstances for a team with a recent history of losing in the elements.

The Falcons haven’t won a game outdoors since triumphing at Tampa Bay on Nov. 25, 2012. Their only road victory in 2013 came against the Bills in Toronto with the roof closed at the Rogers Centre.

The Falcons lost 24-10 at the Bengals on Sept. 18 in their only road game this season. The Falcons will play one game at the Georgia Dome from now until Nov. 23, when they play the Chicago Bears on Oct. 12 at the Georgia Dome, which has been moved to a 4:25 p.m. start.

The Falcons play at the New York Giants before the Bears game. Then they play the Lions in London on Oct. 26 (Wembley Stadium has a partially-closed, retractable roof). A bye week is followed by games at the Buccaneers and Carolina before the Falcons finally ply a home game against the Browns on Nov. 23.

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