Falcons Host the Giants on Monday Night

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

(AP) The New York Giants face the Atlanta Falcons in tonight's Monday Night Football game.

Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington will be playing behind a banged-up offensive line that has allowed 18 sacks en route to a 1-4 record. The Giants' 17 sacks were tied for the league lead after last week's play.

There's no home field advantage in this one. The Giants have won six straight in Atlanta.

New York will be looking to post a fourth straight win following an 0-2 start.

Harrington will be protected - he can only hope - by a banged-up offensive line that has two new starting tackles, including undrafted rookie Renardo Foster, who'll be responsible for Harrington's blind side.

Foster fell into his first career start when left tackle Wayne Gandy went down last week on the next-to-last offensive play of another Atlanta loss. Compounding the problems up front, right tackle Todd Weiner will be out several weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, handing off the job to second-year player Tyson Clabo (who wasn't drafted either, by the way).

"It's quite a tragedy," Giants offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie said. "That's tough, to lose the two bookends of your offensive line. Man, I've never heard of that, ever. But you know what? If you've prepared them well, it shouldn't be that difficult. It's just like changing a spare tire."

What if the spare turns out to be flat, too?

Foster, who followed coach Bobby Petrino from Louisville to the Falcons, is certainly big enough at 6-foot-7, 338 pounds. Clearly, he wouldn't have been passed over in the draft by every team, Atlanta included, if there was an indication he would be ready to start in his sixth pro game.

"I know it will be a large task," Foster said. "We've all seen the Philadelphia game, so we know what we have on our hands."

Ahhh, the Philadelphia game.

Two weeks ago, Osi Umenyiora had a team-record six sacks and the Giants (3-2) tied the NFL mark by taking down McNabb 12 times in a 16-3 victory that rekindled memories of Lawrence Taylor terrorizing the other team's quarterback.

Not that the Falcons (1-4) can devote all their attention to Umenyiora. New York's other starting end is Michael Strahan, who just happens to be the NFL's active leader with 133 1/2 sacks.

"If anything, it makes you nervous," said Strahan, who'll be matched against Clabo. "The expectations ... are so high that I don't know if you can live up to them."

Strahan has been double-teamed most of the season, opening up things for Umenyiora and second-stringer Justin Tuck on the other side. The Falcons, of course, don't have enough blockers to double up on everyone.

"We can expect to see a lot of double tight ends, backs that chip, sliding both ways," Tuck said. "But I mean, lucky for us, it's pick your poison. You've got Strahan and Kiwi (Mathias Kiwanuka) on one end, me and Osi on the other."

Center Todd McClure, the senior member of the Falcons' line, can only hope the new starters are inspired by their opportunity, not intimidated.

"They have a chance to come in and get their career going," McClure said. "It's a big loss for us, but we have to try to move forward."

Harrington is hoping for some help from the running game.

The Falcons led the NFL in rushing the last three years, but that was with Michael Vick at quarterback and a line that was comfortable with the zone-blocking schemes favored by the previous coaching staff.

Harrington is no Vick, and the line has struggled to adapt to Petrino's new offensive scheme. Atlanta ranks 21st with an average of 91.6 yards and is still looking for its first 100-yard game of the season.


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