FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has never been to Peyton Manning’s quarterback camp.
“I’d love to go at some point,” Ryan said Thursday.
But you could never tell that based on how Ryan has operated the Falcons’ no-huddle attack since the second game of his rookie season. The attack has grown in complexity as the team has added more plays and formations each season.
While the origin of the Falcons’ no-huddle has been traced to Boomer Esiason and Sam Wyche during their Cincinnati Bengals days of the late 1980s, Ryan acknowledges that he has copied some of Manning’s style and movements.
“Every quarterback watches him,” Ryan said. “I’ve certainly watched him a lot. As far as emulating him, you have to be your own player. But in terms of what they do at the line of scrimmage — what he’s done historically for a long time — we try to bring some of that into what we’ve done in the no-huddle.”
The Falcons do not rely as heavily on their no-huddle attack. It’s just a part of their offensive package. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter ran 11 of 54 plays (20.3 percent) plays out of the no-huddle against the Chiefs and used it on two drives. The first drive ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Julio Jones and the second stalled at Kansas City’s 3-yard line and Matt Bryant added a 21-yard field goal.
With Ryan and Manning on the field, Monday night’s nationally televised battle could turn into a duel between no-huddle offenses at the Georgia Dome.
“There is really nobody better at it,” Ryan said of Manning. “He is as good in the no-huddle really as anybody that’s ever played. It’s fun to watch. I think every quarterback, at one point or another, has turned on his tape and tried to pick up some of the things they are doing. He’s one of the best.”
Manning is making a comeback after being away from football for 20 months because of neck surgeries. After parting ways with the Indianapolis Colts, he signed with the Denver Broncos.
In the team’s season opener against Pittsburgh, he led the Broncos to a 31-19 victory. The Broncos scored 22 points while operating out of the no-huddle attack.
“I think he was drafted when I was — I don’t want to make him sound too old — I think in the seventh or eighth grade,” Ryan said. “At the time, I remember watching him at Tennessee. He was unbelievably talented and then when he got into the NFL he was carving people up and has been doing it for a long time.”
In addition to running the no-huddle, Ryan and Manning were coached by Bill Musgrave early in their careers. Musgrave is now Minnesota’s offensive coordinator.
Ryan relishes his first meeting against Manning, the NFL’s only four-time MVP.
“It’s fun to play against the very best,” Ryan said. “He’s obviously one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. He’ll present a big challenge for our defense.”
In addition to the no-huddle and Musgrave, there is another parallel between Ryan and Manning’s careers. Both have struggled early in the playoffs.
Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs. Manning didn’t win his first playoff game until his sixth season in the league, when the Colts routed the Broncos 41-10 in the wild-card round after the 2003 season.
“I think it’s one of those things that you have to use it as motivation in the right way,” Ryan said about his playoff woes. “That’s what I’ve tried to do. It’s certainly difficult, no question. But you put it behind you and start moving on.”
Ryan, who has a 44-19 record as a starter, will get to show the nation if he’s an elite quarterback. He started the season with a strong showing in Kansas City on Sunday, with three touchdowns passes and a 136.4 quarterback rating.
“We’ve been saying from the beginning that Matt is a top-tier NFL quarterback, and that’s how top-tier NFL quarterbacks play,” Koetter said. “We were able to protect him. Any quarterback is going to play better when he’s got time to throw it and also when you have good guys catching it. We threw it and caught it well against Kansas City.”
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