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Falcons notebook: Milloy not planning on missing another game
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ATLANTA — Lawyer Milloy hasn’t missed consecutive games since Week 6 of 2004.

Though he was limited for the third straight day Thursday, the 13th-year NFL safety is expected to start when the Falcons visit Arizona in a wild-card matchup.

A back injury, sustained in Atlanta’s 24-17 win at Minnesota on Dec. 21, kept Milloy off the field last week for the first time in 74 games.

Since New England drafted him out of the University of Washington in 1996, Milloy has missed only six games.

"I’m very blessed not to have had a lot of injuries in my career," Milloy said. "I think that’s credited to how I approach the game and how I play it. Last week I tried to get ready to go on Sunday and it just didn’t feel like I’d be able to put my product on the field in a positive way."

Defensive end John Abraham knows the Falcons didn’t exactly shut down St. Louis in last week’s 31-27 victory over Rams. The NFL’s No. 3 sacks leader, Abraham believes Milloy helps against the run more than casual fans might realize.

Atlanta allowed a season-high 202 yards rushing, 161 by Steven Jackson.

"Everybody could see that our defense was kind of flat without Lawyer in there," Abraham said.

"He’s kind of like our guy on the defense. He does a good job coming up and making big plays for us. He’s a safety, but he plays like a linebacker."

The soft performance against St. Louis dropped Atlanta four spots to No. 25 against the run, allowing 127.5 yards per game.

Though the Cardinals rank last in the NFL with an average of 73.6, Edgerrin James returned from eight weeks of a backup role and ran 14 times for 100 yards.

Arizona is still trying to sell approximately 3,700 tickets so the game won’t be blacked out on local television, but Milloy expects the partisan Arizona crowd to make conditions difficult.

"We’re going to have to go out there in a hostile environment and block it out as quick as possible," Milloy said.

"Our young guys are going to have to go out there, inhale the elements and then blow it out as fast as they can and just play Falcon football. I think we’ve shown we can win big football games on the road. We’re a very even-keeled team. When we do that and play within the scheme of our offense and defense we win ball games."

Time to shine

If the Falcons win, they will visit either New York or Carolina next week.

If they lose, fourth-year linebacker Michael Boley is likely to have taken his final snap for coach Mike Smith.

Neither has listed a reason, but Boley, a pending unrestricted free agent, hasn’t started since Atlanta’s last loss, a Week 14 setback in New Orleans. Coy Wire, a reserve since his rookie year with Buffalo in 2002, has taken his place.

"Michael has handled this very well," Smith said.

"I think he’s been more productive over the last couple of weeks."

It’s possible that Boley is unhappy with his role in coordinator Brian VanGorder’s schemes, which require him to drop into coverage more than he did earlier in his career.

He was credited against St. Louis with 11 tackles, a personal season high that was as many as he had in the previous four games combined.

"Michael played very well last week," Smith said.

"He had 11 tackles. I thought he was very active."

He’s back

David Irons’ season-ending injury two weeks ago led to additional snaps for cornerback Brent Grimes.

Now with the specter of facing three 1,000-yard receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, Grimes’ role could increase.

Coincidentally, it was a leg injury that cost Grimes his left-side starting job after the Falcons’ two-point win over Chicago. Though he contributed on special teams in six of the next 10 games that he was in uniform, Grimes took no snaps on defense until the Dec. 21 win at Minnesota.

The former career practice squad player made his NFL debut last December in Atlanta’s loss to the Cardinals.

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