Alex Mack and his brothers-in-scrum have made sweet blocks recently, and you ought to add a tackle to the Falcons’ offensive line’s highlight reel, but they’re no help when you ask about their best-ever blocks.
That’s not the way their minds work. And, in their defense, their bodies of work make for a different process of evaluation ahead of this quiz. They rarely do work so as to be singularly recognized for the results.
“It’s hard to say, man. We block somebody every play, so it’s so broad,” right tackle Ryan Schraeder suggested. “I feel like we have blocks like that every game so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly.
“It’s like saying from receivers -- you say what’s your greatest catch? Well, Julio (Jones) has had a (large quantity)-ton of great catches ... but for blocking it’s not like people say, ‘Oh, Ryan Schraeder just made the greatest block in history.”
Ask Dwight Clark what was his greatest catch? Easy answer. Google it. The 49ers wide receiver’s snatch for the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship game after the 1981 season is a no-brainer.
San Francisco passed Dallas at the bitter end and went on to win the first of five Super Bowl titles in franchise history.
Ask a defensive back about his greatest interception? Hey, Malcolm Butler has a sure-fire answer. Remember his pick when the Seahawks left Beast Mode in the stall and Butler jumped the pass route to close it out?
Perhaps conclusive responses should not be expected of offensive linemen.
There might be an exception or two to this lack of clarity when posing such an open-ended question to offensive linemen; pump into your search engine “Jerry Kramer Packers Ice Bowl Jethro Pugh,” and we’ll get back to findings later.
For the big boys up front, it’s a tough question, like being tasked to calculate the volume of weirdly shaped things, like, you know, calculus.
For a lineman, it’s like a shrink asking, “How do you feel on a cloudy day, and how does it impact your performance?”
Hit the Falcons’ offensive linemen with that one, and they’ll say, ‘Man,” quite frequently without referencing the moon.
There are endless highlight videos of big blocks within the NFL where an offender de-cleated a defender, few of them by O-linemen, by the way.
Frankly, most of those happen in the open field and involve wide receivers and running backs cracking unsuspecting defenders who didn’t see what was coming, and at higher speeds than typify the workplace of offensive linemen.
Offensive linemen work in a closet, with asteroids streaking aside them.
“Man, that’s a hard question. Anything where we score; something like that,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said. “I think the way I think about it more is based on games. If we win the game, how’d we run the ball? How’d we protect Matt (Ryan)? It’s a tough question.
“Any time we can get Devonta (Freeman) or Tevin (Coleman) out in the open, that feels pretty good. Sorry man.”
Who can tell when a lineman flattens a defender or traffic-jams one, whether that action made for a spectacular play by the offense – which will be recorded in the history books as a play made by someone else, by the way – actually work?
Chances are, without the blocks of others, or a sublime cut by a back or an unbelievable catch by a receiver, the play wouldn’t have succeeded.
Or, like last Saturday in Los Angeles where Mack made the most notable play of his five-time Pro Bowl career by tackling Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman into the end zone for a touchdown only to say after a playoff win over the Rams, “I should have been blocking the linebacker.”
So,no surprise, Mack seemed perplexed by this question.
“It’s easy to remember to remember the last game, when I pulled on Free (on a nice stretch play),” Mack said. “There’s another one where a D-lineman was holding me, and my jersey snapped off, and I was actually able to make my block. It was a couple years ago; I don’t remember who it was, who it was against.”
Left guard Ben Garland has had a busy life, having served in the Air Force and all, and the scramble of a couple of thousand plays in the NFL has left him with no single moment stands out.
“Best block ever?” he said. “I don’t know. Ever. That’s a good question. I like pulling; any time I get to pull.”
Kramer stands alone atop the greatest-block list.
And it might not have been so great but for its timing and the actions of others. And, well, there were extenuating circumstances.
The former Packers right guard contacted Pugh for Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr to convert a short-yardage score right behind him in the waning seconds of the “Ice Bowl,” which is to say the 1967 NFL Championship game in which temperatures were well below zero.
On that play, Pugh slipped, and the Packers may have gotten lucky in that he tracked backward as if on ice skates.
It made Kramer a legend.
Falcons right guard Wes Schweitzer, who was many years from being born when Kramer made headlines, wants nothing to do with defining a great block.
Should he feel better about a pancake block on the side opposite of a play, or making a good – or great – block – near the point of attack?
“How do you qualify what’s your best-ever block? Maybe you had a great block, but it wasn’t a good offensive play,” he said. “Maybe it was a game-changing third-and-1 ... I don’t know. It’s hard to qualify in my mind.
“You feel good about both, but you want to succeed as a team first and foremost, whether you barely get the block or just crush the guy, that’s what you’re looking for.”