Despite back injury, Falcons' Milloy expects to play against Cards

ATLANTA -- Lawyer Milloy hasn't missed back-to-back games since Week 6 of the 2004 season.

Though he was limited in practice for the third straight day Thursday, the 13-year NFL safety is expected to start when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Arizona Cardinals in Saturday's NFC Wild-Card Game.

A back injury, sustained during Atlanta's 24-17 win at Minnesota on Dec. 21, kept Milloy off the field last week for the first time in 74 games. Since the New England Patriots drafted him out of the University of Washington in 1996, Milloy has missed just six games.

"I'm very blessed not to have had a lot of injuries in my career," Milloy said. "I think that's credited to how I approach the game and how I play it. Last week, I tried to get ready to go on Sunday, and it just didn't feel like I'd be able to put my product on the field in a positive way."

Defensive end John Abraham knows the Falcons didn't exactly shut down the St. Louis Rams in last week's 31-27 victory. The NFL's No. 3 sacks leader, Abraham believes Milloy helps against the run more than casual fans might realize.

The Falcons allowed a season-high 202 rushing yards to the Rams, 161 by Steven Jackson.

"Everybody could see that our defense was kind of flat without Lawyer in there," Abraham said. "He's kind of like our guy on the defense. He does a good job coming up and making big plays for us. He's a safety, but he plays like a linebacker."

The soft performance against the Rams dropped the Falcons four spots to No. 25 against the run, allowing 127.5 yards per game.

Though the Cardinals rank last in the NFL with an average of 73.6 rushing yards per game, Edgerrin James returned from eight weeks of a backup role and ran 14 times for 100 yards last week in a 34-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Arizona is still trying to sell approximately 3,700 tickets so the game won't be blacked out on local television, but Milloy expects the partisan Cardinals crowd to make conditions difficult for the Falcons.

"We're going to have to go out there in a hostile environment and block it out as quick as possible," Milloy said. "Our young guys are going to have to go out there, inhale the elements and then blow it out as fast as they can and just play Falcons football. I think we've shown we can win big football games on the road. We're a very even-keeled team. When we do that and play within the scheme of our offense and defense, we win ballgames."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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