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FALCONS NOTEBOOK: White’s ankle limits impact in loss; UGA’s Dent shines

Roddy White had just two catches in Sunday’s season-opening loss and played a limited number of snaps to protect his badly sprained ankle.

Roddy White had just two catches in Sunday’s season-opening loss and played a limited number of snaps to protect his badly sprained ankle.

ATLANTA — Falcons receiver Roddy White made his 129th consecutive start against the Saints on Sunday, despite being limited by an ankle injury he sustained over three weeks ago in an exhibition game against Baltimore.

White, who has never missed a game since coming into the NFL out of Alabama-Birmingham is 2005, was clearly slowed. It appeared that the Falcons used him as a decoy for much of the game. He was only targeted on two passes, catching both for 19 yards.

“I wasn’t my usual self,” said White, who had the ankle heavily taped after the game. “But you go out there and play as much as possible and try to help your team win. But it will be maybe a few more weeks before I can go out there and be myself. But no excuses. We just came up short (Sunday).”

White admitted that he was to play a limited part of the game plan.

“We had a package going in,” White said. “They wanted me in certain areas to do certain things so that they couldn’t just bracket guys. That’s what we did.”

White was limited in practice all last week, though the Falcons have insisted that his injury wasn’t a high ankle sprain.

Asked twice if his injury was high ankle sprain, White said, “Yeah. It’s hard to cut. It’s hard to do just about everything at the position. No excuses. When you go out there, you try to win.”

White said he also played more that he expected.

“They had me on kind of a snap-count,” White said. “I know I played more snaps than I was supposed to. I was supposed to play 10 or 15. I played a lot more. I wanted to be out there.”

His performance aside, White was not pleased with the offense’s 17-point showing.

“We (shot) ourselves in the foot on a lot of drives,” he said. “We had penalties. We had things called back and drives stalled. We got off to such a good start, but then we kept doing things wrong.

“But when you’re that bad and you still have a chance to win the game … Our defense played a hell of a game. They give us an opportunity and came up big when we needed it most. Kudos to our defense. We on offense, with the players we have, have to win this game.”

JACKSON UPSET WITH HIMSELF OVER DROPPED PASS: Running back Steven Jackson made a strong debut with the Falcons. He also believes he could have helped win the game.

On the third-and-goal from the 3-yard line in the final minute, Matt Ryan’s pass clanked off of Jackson’s shoulder pads and fell incomplete at the goal line.

With a reception, the score would have been tied and kicker Matt Bryant could have given the Falcons the lead with 49 seconds to play.

“It wasn’t the easiest catch, but I’m not a person that makes excuses,” Jackson said.

He finished with 16 touches for 122 total yards. He also set up a third-quarter touchdown with a 50-yard run.

Signed as a free agent during the offseason after opting out of his contract with St. Louis, Jackson has rushed for 1,000 yards during each of the past eight years and entered the season with 10,135 career rushing yards.

The Falcons felt that he was an upgrade over former running back Michael Turner because of his pass-catching ability. In addition to the late drop, Jack dropped a pass earlier in the game.

Falcons coach Mike Smith was still pleased with Jackson’s performance. He finished with 77 rushing yards in 11 carries.

“I thought we were able to run the ball effectively at times,” Smith said. “There were times when we needed to do it better. I think he’s a great addition to our offense. It shows what he’s capable of doing in the scheme that we are running.”

It was also Jackson’s indoctrination to the rivalry with the Saints.

“It was definitely something that I expected,” Jackson said. “I knew it would be a tough and hard game. I knew the environment here in New Orleans would be loud. The rivalry is as competitive as I thought it was.”

Nevertheless, the Falcons had trouble blocking the Saints’ defensive front.

“They did a good job of mixing personnel up,” Jackson said. “When the opportunity came up, they made the plays to keep us off the field and at the end of the day, that made the difference. They played lot of different defensive fronts. There was a lot of defensive personnel that they showed.”

Despite the drops, Jackson believes the Falcons’ offense can improve. Next opponent: Jackson’s old team, the Rams on Sunday.

“As a unit, we want to get better,” Jackson said. “We are going to gel, especially in the run game. We are going to continue to get better over the weeks as we go through battles together.”

SECONDARY SHUFFLE: The Falcons determined about two hours before kickoff that cornerback Asante Samuel was not able to play with a thigh injury. With Samuel out, Robert McClain started at left cornerback.

When the Falcons went to five defensive backs, McClain played inside in the slot and rookie Robert Alford took over at left cornerback.

McClain became an important contributor after making the league as a long shot when Carolina selected him in the seventh round of the 2010 draft.

“I made some mistakes that I have to improve on,” said McClain, who was credited with 10 tackles.

Alford had a strong game in his NFL debut. He broke up two passes and wrestled a pass away from Saints receiver Marques Colston for an interception.

“I went in and I competed every day at practice, trying to get ready for my moment,” Alford said. “My moment presented itself. They came over there and I knocked down a ball and I didn’t want to let out any explosive plays.”

Alford expected he’d be targeted by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

“We were prepared for it,” Alford said.

At the right cornerback spot, rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant also had a solid game with five tackles and one pass break-up.

“I felt that I held my own,” Trufant said. “As a secondary, just as a whole, we did pretty good. The future is very bright for us.”

TACKLE LEADER: Linebacker Akeem Dent, a former UGA star, led the Falcons with 11 tackles, including two for losses.

On their second possession of the game, the Saints went for a fourth-and-1 and Dent stuffed running back Mark Ingram for a yard loss.

“I felt like we went and made some plays here and there,” Dent said. “We’ve still got some work to do. We have to keep improving. It’s Week One.”

NOTES: Quarterback Matt Ryan, who passed for 304 yards, recorded his 18th career 300-yard game. … Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught his 104th career touchdown in the first quarter. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gonzalez became just the third player in NFL history to catch a touchdown pass in 17 different seasons. He joined Jerry Rice (19) and Irving Fryar (17). … Gonzalez has also caught at least one pass in 196 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.