EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—The sarcasm hung in the air.
“So if [the offensive line] would have played better, we would have won?" Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo asked after Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss to the New York Giants. "Basic analogy. I’ll give you that."
Matched up against the Giants’ revolving door of pass rushers, the Falcons' offensive front struggled for most of the afternoon. In a word, the Giants' rush was relentless.
“They have the most number of good pass rushers that we’ve seen," Clabo said. "No matter who comes in, they can rush the passer and it creates problems. You never get a break, never get a breather."
Matt Ryan was sacked twice for a loss of six yards, but that doesn’t adequately illustrate the effectiveness of the Giants’ rush. Consistently pressured, Ryan was often either forced to throw before he was ready or had to scramble out of trouble. Ryan finished with 26 completions in 46 attempts for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Earlier in the week, New York defensive end Justin Tuck suggested the Giants' bye week would produce a return to form of the team's defense.
“The week off allowed everyone to get healthy. I like being at full force,” said Tuck, who also had high praise for the Falcons’ power running game. “They run the ball very well. Very well. I think (Michael) Turner has 4.9 yards per carry.”
But with Turner (high ankle sprain) and Jerious Norwood (right hip flexor) out, the Giants came calling on Ryan, who was hit of total of eight times by Michael Boley, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield and Tuck. Boley and Tuck also had a sack each.
“Those guys have their ears pinned back. They’re always coming off the ball,” Clabo said.
The line play did improve late in the second half, allowing Ryan time to find targets in New York's suspect secondary. In the second half, Ryan completed 20 of 35 passes for 217 yards and two scores.
The Falcons scored 17 points in the final 16:57 spanning the third and fourth quarters to tie the game at 31-31. Ryan threw both of his touchdown passes, one to Eric Weems and the other to Tony Gonzalez, in the rally.
Afterward, the question of ‘What if?’ permeated the Falcons’ locker room.
“There were some things in the first half that we wish we could have back,” center Todd McClure said.