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Gonzalez a key part of Falcons' offensive attack


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ATLANTA – Evidently on Sunday morning Tony Gonzalez had eaten his Wheaties -- or whatever else the author of “The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion” puts in his body.

The Falcons tight end caught a short pass from Matt Ryan and Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell stood between Gonzalez and the end zone. Gonzalez stiff-armed the 6-foot, 205-pound Bell, shoving him to the ground and out of bounds. Then he waltzed into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.

The Georgia Dome erupted and Gonzalez, a pro’s pro, did something that Falcons fans had yet to see, showing emotion as he repeatedly pointed to the crowd in celebration.

Bell “came to me and it was one-on-one for him to get the tackle and I was fortunate to break out of that,” Gonzalez said. “[No.] 37, he’s usually a for-sure tackler, so I was pretty fortunate to get out of that one. Roddy White on that block -- amazing -- setting it up perfect.”


Maybe that’s just modesty for the player who holds the NFL record for receptions, yards and touchdowns at his position. In his Falcons debut, Gonzalez was everything that fans had anticipated.

They can argue amongst themselves: Which was the better reception, the touchdown play that exhibited Gonzalez’s raw toughness or a 19-yard display of finesse in which he stretched his 6-foot-5 frame to an incredible length to set up the Falcons’ first touchdown?

Gonzalez can beat you either way, much as the Falcons showed how he adds to their already high-powered offense the ability to defeat an opponent in a number of different fashions.

“Some games you have to run the ball to win and some games you have to throw the ball to win,” Ryan said. “The hallmark of a good offense is you do what you have to do to win and that’s what we did today.”

The Dolphins made it plain their game plan was to stop Michael Turner, the NFL’s second-leading rusher last season. Largely, they did, as Turner totaled only 65 yards on 22 attempts.

But that left Gonzalez open and he led the Falcons with 73 yards on five catches.

“I’ve always envisioned that since I got here,” Gonzalez said. “They’re going to want to stop the run and they should. [Turner]’s a phenomenal player and I think our offensive line is going to open up some holes for him and if [defenses] want to stack the box and stop him then we should hurt them.

“There’s no doubt about it. You’ve got a guy like Matt Ryan throwing the ball, and then Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, [brian] Finneran and [Jerious] Norwood coming out of the backfield, making big plays. And myself.”

The touchdown reception represented another milestone in Gonzalez’s career, which is certain to land him in the Hall of Fame. He surpassed the 11,000-yard mark, only the 21st player in NFL history to do so, and the first tight end.

Gonzalez, 33, said as he has matured over time, the importance of such records has diminished.

“I think at this point in my career, I’m doing what [Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith] said, taking it one game at a time,” he said. “Maybe it was about [records] at the beginning of my career, but now that I’m at the end of my career and I see that window closing, I just want to be on a good football team and this is a good football team. But we’ve got a long way to go.”

Said Smith: “Tony is not only going to be able to help our offense -- I’ve said this many times -- but he’ll help our defense, our special teams. He’s going to help our whole entire football team. It’s great to see him wearing the black helmet with the bird on it.”

Ryan said the touchdown reception was an example of the type of player that Gonzalez is. On his pre-snap read, Ryan recognized the Dolphins were going to blitz and communicated it to Gonzalez, who knew to break off his route.

“That’s something that we worked on from the first day he got here, blitz communication -- obviously understanding when you’ve got to break hot,” Ryan said. “There’s not much you have to tell him. He’s played for a long time. He understands protection as well as anyone I’ve been around.”

As the season unfolds, Gonzalez figures to continue bedeviling opposing defenses.

“He’s a mismatch nightmare for defenses trying to decide whether you’re going to cover him with a safety, corner, linebacker, whether or not you’re going to single cover him,” Ryan said. “… He did a good job for us today and that’s what we’re going to need from all of our offensive guys from one week to another different guys’ stepping up.”

remember when everyone was saying we shouldn't have given up a 2nd for a TE when our offense doesn't even use a TE? well we use tony.

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