Falcons get tough with chippy Titans

ATLANTA -- Roddy White couldn't help but laugh as he reflected on all the confrontations on the field Saturday night.

The Atlanta Falcons receiver can talk trash with the best of them, but even White didn't understand what was going with the opponent in the Titans' 24-17 preseason win over the Falcons. Much of the heated conversation occurred in the first half, when White and the first-team offense jumped out to a 17-3 lead.

"Those guys were chirping all night and getting in everybody's face," White said. "I guess they were upset. I don't know why: We just practiced with the guys like two weeks ago. And they were getting on Harry [Douglas]. They were 'jibber-jabbering' all night."

The primary culprit was Titans safety Bernard Pollard, the same guy who repeatedly called the Falcons "pretenders" during the joint practice between the teams.

"They did a lot of talking, but they didn't do a lot of scoring," White said. "I really didn't care. I just didn't want any guys to get kicked out the game."

Well, one Falcon did when rookie outside linebacker Jacques Smith was ejected for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter. But the Falcons tried their best to get tough with the Titans within the lines.

Case in point came when quarterback Matt Ryan took a hand in the face mask from Titans linebacker Zach Brown after a scramble. Several offensive linemen rushed over to defend their quarterback. Unfortunately, tackle Ryan Schraeder couldn't avoid a penalty for unnecessary roughness, although it was offset by the same call on Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

Falcons coach Mike Smith didn't like the penalty, of course. But Smith was asked if he was OK with his players trying to send a message to the Titans following the play against Ryan.

"Absolutely. There was a punch to the quarterback's face," Smith said. "I absolutely have no issue with that. Not at all. That is our quarterback, and their job is to protect our quarterback."

Remember, these were some of the same Falcons that had their toughness questioned by owner Arthur Blank for not standing up for Ryan following last year's illegal hit by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Tackle Lamar Holmes was the one player who seemed to say something after the Vaccaro hit. Holmes definitely got involved after Saturday's play.

"I'm going to protect Matt until the bitter end," the right tackle said. "Whatever I've got to do to protect my quarterback, I mean, that's my guy. I'm going to do it.

"You think about (the Vaccaro play) all the time because the attention that it brought. It's something that we learned from. We know what we need to do. Now, we just have to go out there and do it."

Said left guard Justin Blalock, "Obviously, the Saints game was something that was brought up a lot last year. It's something that's not going to fly now. We've got guys, within the rules of the games, that are going to take care of that as well as we can and make sure that people get the message that all the extracurricular stuff, there's really no place for that here. We're going do our best to get that message out there."

Ryan, of course, downplayed Saturday's incident and said the game was just physical. But no doubt he appreciated seeing his teammates come to his defense.

The Falcons preached getting stronger and tougher all offseason. With the regular season around the corner, it's time to live up to the talk.

Saturday was a good start in the toughness category.

"Well, we don't need to get penalties and put ourselves in bad situations,'' White said, ``but it's always good when you display toughness and things like that. We always want to play on the edge. That's always been our (approach). We just have to get back to where it's more consistent.

"I feel like now, with Mike (Smith) yelling from the sidelines, we'll be more consistent with it."