Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley suffered an elbow sprain on the opening drive of last week's win over the 49ers. Bunkley doesn't need surgery to repair what head coach Andy Reid called a displaced nerve, but "it's a stretch" that the Pro Bowl alternate will be able to suit up against the Falcons.
Fortunately, Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon have received plenty of snaps throughout the season and are well-prepared to handle any additional reps. Reid did not declare which of the two would be the starter if Bunkley can't play. Laws indicated that Dixon would handle the reps in the base 4-3 defense while he worked in the nickel package.
"I just have to do what I've been doing," Dixon said. "I don't want to let my teammates down. I just have to go in and do it."
This week's opponent is similar to last week's in that the focal point of the offense is the ground attack. The Falcons rank second in the league in rushing yardage behind All-Pro Michael Turner.
"They're a great running football team. A little bit different scheme (than the 49ers)," Laws said. "They have a big, powerful O-line. Turner's a little bowling ball, hard to tackle. He's coming in, getting tons of yardage. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
Laws is easily enjoying the best year of his career so far in 2010. At this time last year, he was struggling to crack the gameday lineup. Now, he's getting plenty of reps and making the most of them. He has seven tackles, two sacks and two pass knockdowns. Laws' pressure on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith forced the game-sealing interception by cornerback Trevard Lindley on Sunday.
It's that production from Laws and Dixon, who recorded a sack last week, that has the other starter at defensive tackle, Mike Patterson, confident.
"We feel real good still. I don't know what (the coaches are) going to do yet but I still feel confident that we still have players out there to do a good job," Patterson said. "These guys have been here already. They already know what to expect as far as what the coaches expect and want out of them."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 7:30 p.m., October 13