The Atlanta Falcons' offensive line has grown a reputation this year for alleged dirty play. And Giants defensive end Justin Tuck has heard the charges and seen evidence of them on tape.
"Yeah we've seen it," Tuck said. "We know they have that quote-unquote 'reputation.' But in a way it is kind of exciting. Most people, you would call them dirtbags."
Exciting indeed, especially as the trash talk escalates into Sunday's 1 p.m. wildcard matchup at MetLife Stadium. Along with a strong-armed quarterback in Matt Ryan, a great running back in Michael Turner, and a powerful defense, the Falcons' offensive line just gives the Giants' defensive front more to worry about.
The fact that it's a group that has waded through injuries at both defensive end spots, what with Tuck just over his toe issues, and Osi Umenyiora just back, but not totally healthy, from some knee problems.
The last thing the Giants need is somebody cutting Jason Pierre-Paul down to size.
"It is what it is," Tuck said. "We got to make sure we do our job. And if we are doing our job well, then they will be upset and they will be trying to do things to get us off our game, and we got to take that as a compliment."
Still, as they say in the boxing ring, protect yourself at all times. Green Bay and Detroit have accused the Falcons of hitting late and dubious blocking tactics. Green Bay DL B.J. Raji said the Falcons' linemen flopped for the refs after getting an extra retaliatory shove for blocking after the whistle.
That's not a first in the NFL, of course. In the late 1990s, the Broncos' offensive front was considered one of the dirtiest groups in the league.
Pierre-Paul will get to deal with left tackle Will Svitek, and Tuck, while playing DE, will face veteran tackle Tyson Clabo. Neither of those guys are great players, though Ryan's 26 sacks did rank as the 21st lowest number among the league's starters.
Tuck just hopes that if there is any extra-curricular activity, the refs will act accordingly.
But you can bet the defensive line will be playing with their heads on swivels.
"In the same sense you got to protect yourself," said Tuck. "And hopefully the referees have 20-20 vision this week."