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Smith puts Falcons' offensive line on notice
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Mike Smith, alarmed by the beating quarterback Matt Ryan has taken in the Falcons' first three games, may make changes on his offensive line this week.

Smith said Monday he is looking first at the Falcons' scheme and then at the players following Atlanta's 16-13 loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday. He said it is the continuation of his trend of "competition on all positions."

"We've done it earlier in the season at other positions on the team, and we'll do it at the offensive line as well," Smith said."We'll let that play out during the week and try to put the best guys out there. That's our job as a coaching staff, to make sure we have the best guys out there to give us what we feel is the best opportunity to win."

The Falcons (1-2) have allowed 13 sacks in three games, the third-highest total in the NFL through Sunday's games.

Chicago and Seattle each have allowed 14 sacks, according to STATS LLC.

Ryan was sacked four times by the Buccaneers.

"We are very disappointed with the way we have protected our quarterback in the first three ballgames," Smith said.

Smith says the line also struggled in run-blocking as Tampa Bay held Michael Turner to only 20 yards rushing on 11 carries. He had seven carries for nine yards in the first half.

"We probably didn't run effectively enough in the first half to keep going with it and so we went to the pass game and I thought Matt did a fairly good job of distributing the ball," Smith said.

Ryan finished with 330 yards passing with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez in the fourth quarter. It was the Falcons' first touchdown on offense in two road games this season — losses at Chicago and Tampa Bay.

The Falcons face another road game at Seattle this week.

Ryan also was sacked four times in the Falcons' only win, a 35-31 home victory over Philadelphia. Ryan was sacked 23 times last season. He's on pace to top that total in only six games this year.

Smith acknowledged he has no quick answers for the sudden problems in pass protection.

Lack of continuity could be one issue. The Falcons lost guard Harvey Dahl, who signed with St. Louis as a free agent.

Center Todd McClure missed the first two games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

McClure returned to start against Tampa Bay.

"He came back and fit right back in and for the most part I felt he played a pretty consistent game," Smith said. "We really had a struggle in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage, especially there in the first half, not only in our pass protection but in our ability to run the football."

Right tackle Tyson Clabo said the line has been forced into more pass-blocking assignments this season because the team has often trailed.

"We've been behind pretty much all season," Clabo said Monday, when he was the only offensive starter to make himself available for interviews in the locker room. "Obviously, we'd love to run the ball more but when you're down by 10 for what seems like the entire game, it makes it difficult to establish your run game."

Roddy White had nine catches for 140 yards with a key drop. Rookie Julio Jones had six catches for 115 yards.

Smith called the passing production "a positive" but he said he wasn't happy with the imbalance passing and rushing yards.

Clabo acknowledged the running game wasn't effective even early in the game.

"I'm not real sure why our runs weren't going for more than a couple yards a pop," he said. "I don't know. They made tackles. We didn't make blocks. It's really a pretty simple equation. They did better than we did so we didn't run the ball very well. I wish that there were some magical formula that I could give you guys, but there's really not.

"We're going to work hard and try to get this thing fixed so we can play better and win football games."

Left tackle Sam Baker has given up sacks in every game and was beaten by rookie right end Adrian Clayborn for a sack on Sunday.

Will Svitek is the team's top backup at tackle. Joe Hawley, who started the first two games at center, and guard Mike Johnson are the other top backups.

Notes: Smith said OLB Mike Peterson was a surprise starter after Stephen Nicholas "tweaked" his calf in Friday's practice. Smith said Peterson was "solid." Nicholas was inactive for the game. ... Rookie punter Matt Bosher is last in the league with his average of 35.7 yards per punt, according to STATS LLC. His net average of 32.4 yards ranks 29th. ... Backup running back Jason Snelling has a concussion, and his status is uncertain.

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