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Alexander comes up big in win
FALCONS 5 col bw
Atlanta Falcons offensive guard P.J. Alexander, foreground right, is shown during a play against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, in Cincinnati. - photo by Special/Atlanta Falcons
    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Two week ago, P.J. Alexander was home in Denver, working out daily on his own but unsure if he’d ever have another chance to play.
    The answer came Sunday. Alexander, signed by Atlanta on Oct. 18, made his first NFL start and played every snap at left guard as the Falcons enjoyed one of their best offensive games of the season in a 29-27 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
    ‘‘That was the most football I’ve played in a long, long time,’’ Alexander said Monday, still grinning as he reflected on his whirlwind two weeks.
    The Falcons gained 420 yards, an impressive statistic considering the team’s right guard, Tyson Clabo, made his first NFL start the previous week against Pittsburgh. The two newcomers helped provide pass-blocking protection as Michael Vick was sacked only twice while throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
    Alexander, 27, was not drafted out of Syracuse but spent the 2002 and 2003 seasons on the New Orleans and Denver practice squads. He appeared in five games for Denver in 2004 before missing the 2005 season with a knee injury.
    After being waived by the Broncos on Aug. 29, Alexander kept working out in Denver while hoping for another chance.
    ‘‘This has been a real rocky road,’’ Alexander said. ‘‘There have been a lot of up and downs but that’s the way this business is. Luckily I was able to come in and get a shot. That’s all you really need in this business, is a chance.’’
    Alexander was signed by Atlanta one day after starter Matt Lehr was suspended for four games for violating the NFL steroids policy. Then Kynan Forney aggravated a shoulder injury in the Oct. 22 win over Pittsburgh.
    Alexander’s start was a surprise to even close observers of the team. There had been expectations that rookie Quinn Ojinnaka would move into Forney’s guard spot if needed.
    Alexander’s edge was the similarity of the blocking schemes in Denver and Atlanta.
    ‘‘I think this year was the year I got the best handle on the system out there, knowing it and understanding it all this preseason,’’ he said. ‘‘Coming here, it’s pretty much the same schemes and movements, just different terminology.’’
    Falcons coach Jim Mora called the play of the rebuilt line ‘‘pretty remarkable.’’ Mora credited the Falcons scouting department and offensive line coaches Tom Cable and Chris Dalman for finding Alexander and then having the fourth-year pro ready to play so quickly.
    ‘‘I tell you what, the guards have done a nice job the last couple of weeks,’’ Mora said Monday.
    ‘‘All I know is (Alexander) came in and he is kind of like Tyson, they have a confidence level that is pretty impressive, not cocky, but just like they can do it. They are big guys and are smart.’’
    Alexander (6-4, 297) said his personal workouts kept him in condition for the sudden call to duty from the Falcons.
    ‘‘I was working out at home pretty hard,’’ he said. ‘‘I live right down the street from the gym, and I was working out and I would go to the high school field and run. I was doing everything I could even though I didn’t know if I would get another chance.
    ‘‘I didn’t know if I was working to go to a camp next year or working to go to (NFL) Europe, but I knew I had to be in shape if anyone called.’’
    Alexander said center Todd McClure and left tackle Wayne Gandy were his on-field tutors.
    ‘‘Todd is so good at what he does and knowing everything about the offense, he got me in the right position every time,’’ Alexander said. ‘‘But everybody did a good job of calming me down and keeping me focused.
    ‘‘Wayne, I knew him a little bit from New Orleans, and he helped me out there, but McClure was unbelievable inside.’’
    Forney’s status for next Sunday’s game at Detroit is not known.
    ‘‘If I need to be a backup, that’s what I’ll do,’’ Alexander said. ‘‘I have no expectations. I’m just happy to be here and happy to help out.’’