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Posted at 01:09 PM ET, 01/04/2012

Falcons vs. Giants: Justin Tuck calls out Atlanta’s offensive line

Justin Tuck kicked off the trash talk ahead of his team’s wild-card matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. (Al Bello - Getty Images)
The NFL playoffs don’t truly begin until the trash talking commences.

Well, thanks to New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, we’re officially underway.

On Monday, Tuck took a shot at Atlanta’s offensive line and its reputation for extracurricular activity in advance of their Sunday wild-card matchup.

“We know they have that quote-unquote reputation,” Tuck said. “But in a way it is kind of exciting. Most people, you would call them dirtbags. But it is what it is.”

There was a time when the Falcons embraced the nickname “Dirty Birds,” but “Dirtbags” has a slightly different connotation.

Tuck stressed the word “most” in his comments when asked about the remarks on ESPN’s “NFL32” on Tuesday night — even invoking the third-person.

Just look at that dirtbag! (Grant Halverson - Getty Images)
“I said that they have the reputation,” he said. “Never did Justin Tuck say that the Atlanta Falcons’ O-line is ‘dirtbags.’ I said most people would say that. But with that being said, it is football. Those guys play to the end of the whistle.”

You have to figure Tuck’s words will be slapped up on Atlanta’s locker room walls this week, but these are the playoffs — no added motivation should be necessary.

But the Falcons’ O-line vs. the Giants’ D-line will be a critical matchup to watch. Led by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 16 1/2 sacks, New York has 48 sacks this season — to tie Baltimore for third in the NFL. Meantime, Atlanta’s pass protection improved as the season wore on, helping quarterback Matt Ryan eclipse 4,000 yards for the first time in his four-year career. But they still allowed 26 sacks, and between Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora (assuming he can play), they’re sure to have their hands full on Sunday.

The Falcons closed strong with a 45-24 rout of Tampa Bay but its the Giants who are suddenly drawing comparisons to their 2007 Super Bowl team, quickly becoming the darkhorse du jour. The Giants have been in playoff mode for the last few weeks and their do-or-die win against Dallas to clinch the NFC East gave them an early start to the postseason.

More NFL playoff coverage from Washington Post Sports:

Steelers-Broncos: John Elway tells Tim Tebow to ‘just pull the trigger’

Mark Maske: Does defense still win Super Bowls?

Previews: Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos | Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints

NFL playoffs: Schedule and scoreboard

By  |  01:09 PM ET, 01/04/2012

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