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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Tony Gonzalez expects Falcons to rebound in 2014

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Tony Gonzalez believes the Falcons can rebound in 2014. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Tony Gonzalez believes the Falcons can rebound in 2014. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he felt the Falcons would rebound from their last-place finish in 2014.

After winning his first playoff game and reaching the NFC championship game, he returned to play one more season in 2013, but the Falcons finished 4-12.

“This year’s team, it was just a matter or injuries,” said Gonzalez after talking about his new CBS Sports gig. “I said it during the season. When you lose Julio Jones that’s a huge part of your offense. When he got hurt, he was the best receiver in the league statistically. Then with Roddy (White) not being healthy the whole year, that hurt. You saw what (White) did when he finally got healthy. He started putting up 100 yards a game and touchdowns.”

Gonzalez believes the offensive line holds the key.

“The offensive line has to get better, which I think they will,” Gonzalez said. “Which means (some players need to get) healthy. The starting right tackle (Mike Johnson) went down in the preseason. Sam Baker was hurt all year. You’re plugging holes. It was like a dam that kept springing leaks. You put your finger in one hole and then another one opened up. It was just that type of year for us.”

He was encouraged by the team’s stout play down the stretch.

“We lost so many close games,” Gonzalez said. “I was looking at the playoffs and seeing how Carolina, San Francisco 49ers and the Saints played. We lost games to those guys on the last play of the game and they were in the playoffs.

“The people were saying these are the best teams in the NFL. We were that close and look at how many injuries that we had. Don’t get me wrong, I know other teams had injuries, but not like us. It was just devastating type injuries. Losing (linebacker Sean Weatherspoon). . . .he was one of our No. 1 guys on defense. It was a tough situation.”

He’s expecting the Falcons to rebound and be in the playoff chase.

“I think that they will get back,” Gonzalez said. “I have no doubt that they will get back. Coach (Mike) Smith is going to get them where they need to be. So is (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff). If they can stay healthy, they’ll be right back where they’ve been the previous five years.”

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