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Old Habits


Tony Gonzalez has never had to reinvent himself.

He's always been a dynamic receiving threat; just check his stats and you'll see why he's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. However, last season the tight end was used as a intermediate option for quarterback Matt Ryan. He was key in converting third downs and his six touchdowns show he was still a force in the redzone.

But his yards per catch dropped to a career low and coinciding with the talk of this being his last season was talk that the 35-year old may be losing a step.

In Sunday's loss, Gonzalez showed he's still got what it takes to go deep and his step is still better than most. He led the Falcons with 72 yards receiving and an average of 14.4 yards per catch. His 30-yard reception in the first quarter was the Falcons' third-longest play of the day.

"Everybody says he's getting older and he might be slowing down," Gonzalez said on Wednesday. "I don't think so. I've got to go out there and hopefully do it again."

Gonzalez said he was sent up the field on at least five seam routes on Sunday, a route designed to get him up the field in the space between the cornerback and the safety. Pressure like that up the field, Gonzalez believes, helps defenses respect the run closer to the line of scrimmage and opens things up everywhere else.

Even if the tight end isn't being targeted, the fact that he's running those routes and his ability to catch the ball and make plays means he has to be respected in that area of the field.

"It puts them in a predicament that, that ball can come up so you can't sit underneath," he said.

He said this season he hopes to run longer routes to help alleviate the tension on the running game and hopefully bust the seams in coverage created in Cover-2 type of defenses, much like what they saw against Chicago. He thinks if trends like that continue, good things will come for all the receivers.

"This year I'm running down that field," he said. "Coaches are putting me in really good positions and Matt is throwing it. We just need to make sure we keep that up. It feeds off everybody. It opens Roddy (White), Julio (Jones) and Harry (Douglas) up. It makes everything easier."

Gonzalez could be a key weapon against the Eagles' perceived weakness on their defense: the linebackers. Most analyst say the Philly linebackers struggled in coverage against the Rams in Week 1, especially on passes to running backs and tight ends. Rams tight ends had long gains of 18 and 19 yards and running back Cadillac Williams had five catches for 49 yards and a long of 16.

If the Falcons can find the advantage on the scoreboard or keep the score close, the running game will be able to do its work. With a typical Falcons run game in action, Gonzalez may enjoy a banner day running the routes the made him famous.

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