FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Tony Gonzalez is still bitterly disappointed in himself for allowing a sack for the first time since 1999.
The 13-time Pro Bowl tight end said Thursday that "it was laziness on my part," ''embarrassing" and "inexcusable" when Saints linebacker Junior Galette to sack Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan for a 10-yard loss late in the second quarter of last week's loss at New Orleans.
With the Falcons (0-1) preparing to host St. Louis (1-0) on Sunday, Gonzalez knows that protection will be at a premium. The Rams' pass rush is led by ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, who combined for 22 sacks last year.
Quinn had three sacks in last week's win over Arizona.
"All of us have to keep Matt upright and keep that pocket nice and clean so he can throw that ball down the field," Gonzalez said. "I thought we played well at times, but we've just got to be more consistent in holding up. That's the biggest improvement we're looking for this week."
Gonzalez's mistake hurt Atlanta's chance for a field goal that would've tied the game and was one of three sacks and six hits on Ryan.
Other star playmakers had tough moments, too. Julio Jones lost a fumble that led to New Orleans' first touchdown three plays later. Steven Jackson dropped a touchdown at the goal line on the final possession.
But Gonzalez insists that missing three weeks of training camp and two preseason games didn't affect his performance, which included a 7-yard touchdown catch.
The tight end said that's ridiculous.
The Falcons allowed Gonzalez to take time off last month to spend time with his family and watch the first football practices of his 12-year-old son, Nikko, in Southern California.
"He let me have it," Gonzalez said. "He said, 'You're lucky that you scored the touchdown. Otherwise that would've been a bad game for you.' It's something I've been thinking about a lot. It won't happen again hopefully."
Gonzalez was a third-year tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs when Gonzalez last allowed a sack.
He went on to earn his first Pro Bowl invitation that season, but Gonzalez is still irritated about getting beaten by Peter Boulware for a 6-yard sack in Kansas City's 1999 victory at Baltimore.
Thirteen years later, it happened again against Galette, a fourth-year linebacker with just two starts in 33 career games.