GAME DAY CENTRAL: Panthers vs. Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday

QB corner: Matt Ryan discusses the Panthers

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s 114 passer rating is the best in the NFL.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in San Diego Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game in San Diego Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

“It’s early, but it’s a good start,” said Ryan, who has a 46-19 record. “We need to continue to take care of our business. Prepare ourselves week-in and week-out and keep trying to play good football.”

Ryan has the Falcons off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2004.

“I think that comes down to playing winning football,” Ryan said. “The statistics, all those kind of things, if we play well, and I feel like, if I play well, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Here’s a brief Q&A involving Ryan and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Q: Where did that [Luke] Kuechly kid go to school at?

A: BC. It’s always good to see a fellow Boston College guy do well. I’m happy for him.

Q: Do you expect the Josh Norman kid to bounce back from his tough game against the New York Giants?

A: He’s talented. You can see on film. This guy physically has the skill set to get it done. Like for all rookies, there are ups and downs. I’m sure he’ll do a great job. He’ll do well when he comes down to the [Georgia] Dome on Sunday.

Q: What do you expect from defensive end Charles Johnson and Carolina’s defense?

A: They’ve got a lot of good players on defense. Charles Johnson is a tough guy that we’ve played against.[Greg] Hardy is a solid and physical player. … [Linebacker] Thomas Davis is back, and he’s an athletic guy.

The X-Factor: The team’s pyschologist

The Falcons, who are set to open play in the NFC South, are breezing along at 3-0.

The Panthers are trying to salvage pieces from the wreckage that was their 36-7 loss to the New York

Cam Newton on the bench against the Giants. (Getty Images)

Cam Newton on the bench against the Giants. (Getty Images)

Giants on Sept. 20.

This is a dangerous early-season matchup of two teams apparently heading in opposite directions. That’s why the Falcons’ team psychologist — they really don’t have one — is on the hot spot.

If the Falcons have a lapse against the well-rested Panthers, they could drop from the ranks of the unbeaten.

“It just seems like the Falcons are playing great, but so were the Niners, and the Vikings tripped them up,” Fox TV analyst John Lynch said. “So were the Patriots, and Arizona tripped them up. The Giants were beat [by Dallas] in Week 1. There’s just been too many examples. No one is unbeatable in this league.”

Last season, the Panthers jumped to a 23-7 halftime lead on the Falcons in Charlotte in Week 14, but couldn’t close the deal. The Falcons, with their playoff hopes on the line, scored 24 consecutive points to pull out a 31-23 victory.

By all accounts, Carolina appears to be in a bad place.

Quarterback Cam Newton is not showing signs of improvement from his rookie season.

The defense, with the return of several injured players, was expected to be improved. However, they have not started taking steps up the NFL’s defensive rankings yet.

And, second-year coach Ron Rivera has asked his squad to compete harder.

If the Falcons continue to play at the level that allowed them to beat Broncos and Chargers, they should handle the Panthers swiftly.

If they don’t, well, that would be mind-boggling and perhaps they will hire a sports psychologist.

“They are not going to lay down by any means,” left guard Justin Blalock said. “They are a good football team regardless of whatever their record may be. We’re expecting a hard-fought game.”

Stat corner: Falcons have scored touchdowns on all of their game-opening drives

Falcons fans, for some reason, have traditionally been late arriving into the Georgia Dome.

If they stay in the parking lot too long, getting in one more hot dog, they are going to miss some of the action.

OC Dirk Koetter is 3-for-3 opening the games with touchdowns.

OC Dirk Koetter is 3-for-3 opening the games with touchdowns.

In each game this season, the Falcons have scored touchdowns on their opening drive. They are the only team in the NFL to achieve that feat.

Conversely, the Panthers’ defense has allowed touchdowns on their first drives in each of their three games.

“We’ve emphasized starting fast around here ever since the beginning of camp,” Falcons left guard Justin Blalock said. “We run plays quickly, crisply and get off the field.”

Against Kansas City, the Falcons drove 80 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown.

Against Denver, it took them three plays to score from 1 yard out after safety William Moore’s interception of Peyton Manning.

Against San Diego, the offense drove 80 yards in 10 plays.

“I think we’ve had good execution coming out of the gate,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I think [offensive coordinator] Dirk [Koetter] has done a good job of calling the plays and getting us prepared for those situations. That’s one thing that we’ve done well.”

The Panthers have had trouble covering tight end and running backs in their opening drives. Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has sent some blitzes, but they mostly have exposed his linebackers in coverage.

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

74 comments Add your comment

Elvis is Alive

September 28th, 2012
2:49 pm

ParanoidAndroid

September 28th, 2012
2:49 pm

Julio has a bounce back game on Sunday. Defense continues their confidence.

dirtybirdj

September 28th, 2012
2:49 pm

dirtybirdj

September 28th, 2012
2:50 pm

3rd…dame thought i had it this time

Elvis is Alive

September 28th, 2012
2:51 pm

Let’s not make too much out of the weeks game. Falcons the “Angry Birds” will win. Rise Up Atlanta

tay

September 28th, 2012
2:52 pm

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
4:17 pm

If we relax we are going to have some mental lapses and make some penalties (those refs have to earn that new pay package). We all know what a drive killer a penalty can be. If we go and score on the first drive I’d say that is a good sign we are focused on the job at hand.

Falcons Chic

September 28th, 2012
4:30 pm

I will play psychologist: “Really? Really? Do you want to lose to the Panties? Think of the squawkers, bleating in the media, that they knew the ATL wasn’t a top echelon team. Do you not want to ride hard over the rest of the division?”

Esquire

September 28th, 2012
4:31 pm

5-6-7-8
Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!
MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS, MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS !!
OHH AHH OHH YEEAHH

Michael M.

September 28th, 2012
9:42 pm

All I have to comment is two lines today………………………………………………..

Falcons – 38 ……….. Panthers – 16

explosive secondary

September 28th, 2012
11:46 pm

JosephDaKoolest a.k.a No Answer For Julio

September 29th, 2012
2:21 am

Since Matt Ryan has been our quaterback the Falcons are 6 and 2 against the Panthers. 2 and 0 Since Cam Newton has been there. Have scored 31 points in the last 4 meetings against Carolina. You tell me if you think we are going to have a let down Sun. 4 and 0 Lets Go Falcons The Real A Town Got Your Back!!!!!!

The Real Rick

September 29th, 2012
7:04 am

Elite teams win these kind of games….should be a good test. Falcons 32. Panthers 24

itmeagain

September 29th, 2012
9:13 am

Will be a very good, nail biting, nerve breaking, hard fought battle…Atlanta 38 Carolina 10

Jethro

September 29th, 2012
9:41 am

The Falcons will have 10 easy wins just be beating the division rivals twice and finishing off the Raiders. This team, I predict will have a 14-2 record and go to the super-bowl, There are two losses out there somewhere, maybe Philly and the NYG. I think that they have finally put together a system that is going to be a factor in the next few years.

Answer this

September 29th, 2012
9:59 am

I think this will be another tougb test because the Panthers are angry and Cam is also angry. Look for a tough first half but look for Turner yes Turner to be the factor!

PapaK

September 29th, 2012
11:03 am

Whenever there is controversy around the quarterback, the team struggles. This is the case with Carolina. Atlanta wins 45 – 18.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
11:45 am

Saturday…………………well, we gettin closer to the big dance……………

Hey , check this out trolls……..lol………………..

Atlanta 4 – 0
and ???
Caints 0 – 4

everytime, I think about………..I just have a great big laugh !

Michael M is a LOOSAH

September 29th, 2012
11:58 am

Where’s the FAILCANTS SB ring, loosah? How many playoff games you won in the last 3 years? How many points you scored in that playoff game against GB? Right….until you win a SB, STFU redneck and kiss the “caints, Aints and Saints” SB ring, you loser….lmao…the FAILCANTS talking smack on 3 wins…what a joke…

Michael M is a LOOSAH

September 29th, 2012
11:59 am

Hey, michael m…where y’at redneck? Where’s your Lombardi? Lmao…ya got nothing….

Michael M is a LOOSAH

September 29th, 2012
12:01 pm

FAILCANTS are 3-0…yep…3 playoff games…ZERO victories….what a franchise….no SB ring…..lmao…

Sincerely,
The caints, Aints and Saints SB44 Champs

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:02 pm

You can’t make me mad…………………..the 4 – 0 Falcons after tomorrow just make me smile…………………………………roll that up tight and smoke on it ……………………

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:06 pm

before I forget………….lets see……………100 million dollars for a quarterback that can’t win ……………………………….now that is unbelievable………………………………………..

Falcon James

September 29th, 2012
12:08 pm

What I would like to see is Dunta get out of the dog house. The whole team is cranked it up a notch and Dunta is still playing loose. He did have one good hit last week but unfortunatly it was our guy he hit. I think Micheal M is spot on with his prediction. I would love to see some Paper Bags on the highlight reel from the Saint game.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:10 pm

Whats so funny Green Bay and the Caints both struggling………………… ” How Sweet it is “…………………..hehehehe

Falcon James

September 29th, 2012
12:16 pm

I hear the Saint are rolling out a new theme song this week. Here is the Chorus:

Soy un perdedor
I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:20 pm

lol………….another thing they may be rolling out up in Green Bay this weekend………………….a stretcher to carry Drew Sleeze off to the hospital on………………I am glad the Falcons are not up there this weekend……….those boys going to be highly pissed off after being robbed Monday night…………………………..and I am just laughing about it…………………………………………..

Falcon James

September 29th, 2012
12:24 pm

Green Bay is licking they chops this week and are going to sink they teeth in the Saint butt. The Saint will be lucky to get a field goal. I feel sorry for any team who face the Packer this week. They going to be out for blood. Too bad it has to be the Saint, but oh well, they getting used to loosing anyway.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:26 pm

Just 1 field goal ?………………………… ha ! ha ! ha !

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:35 pm

All I ever hear out of those loser Caint trolls on here is about that soup bowl ring they got…………………………..U better cherish it…………….it will be the only one you ever will see !

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:38 pm

You sure wont get another going south……………………..0 – 4 south that is ……lmao……………………

Falcon James

September 29th, 2012
12:38 pm

They dam sure won’t get one this season. The best the Saint will get this year is a #1 draft pick.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
12:45 pm

They getting back everything they deserved for all the bad in the past………………….

TechNut

September 29th, 2012
1:29 pm

Don’t feed the trolls

TechNut

September 29th, 2012
1:31 pm

yep, 31 points 4 games straight? And that was with Mularkey. Expect 40 while they get maybe 24 on us.

terrell

September 29th, 2012
3:23 pm

This league is about WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY. Who cares about a SB ring 5 years ago? lol. You think Belichek and Brady are still talking about the 3 rings they won YEARS ago? lol.

terrell

September 29th, 2012
3:29 pm

Matt Ryan loses his playcaller and gets better. Brees loses his playcaller, and looks lost. Hmmm??

Saints are #1

September 29th, 2012
4:38 pm

I bet ya’ll won’t be laughing when we own you in the Dome. Maybe we will take a couple more pictures on your logo! Keep on laughing baby, its still early in the season and we are just getting warmed up.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
7:02 pm

I think I will laugh again………………..hehehehe………….and the only pictures they going to be taking of your boys is in the x-ray room at a local Green Bay Hospital to see whats broken………………………………………..

ken

September 29th, 2012
7:46 pm

The Aints are just getting warmed up??? You better hury up 0-16 is coming up soon! Back to the paper bags?

Just Sayin

September 29th, 2012
8:23 pm

Last 2 playoff games 72-23…..

Just sayin…..

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
9:04 pm

yeah.they really going to be warmed up…………………with icy hot rub and cold patches on all those lumps. knots and bruises the Packers gonna inflict on them ………………………………………………..

Mike Franklin

September 29th, 2012
9:16 pm

The upside is that the NFL is about wins and losses whereas college ball is about ESPN and SI tanking the teams based on style points. So, we can prolly expect a very potent effort by the Panthers but a close game that is won… is still a win.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2012
9:22 pm

About the only thing close in the game at the Dome is when the beginning of the first quarter starts……………….afterwords………………..it aint gonna be pretty………………Cam isn’t going to win this one

Blake

September 29th, 2012
11:00 pm

@Michael M…..Your the Man…..These trolls are reaching for straws now….give em’ hell buddy…..

Blake

September 29th, 2012
11:03 pm

Saints had there time and It was great for that city…. but It’s our time now…we look like a powerhouse right now….I can’t predict the future but I have a real good feeling about this group and these coaches….

Barry

September 29th, 2012
11:08 pm

HEY Y’ALL :

THUMP!!! CAN YOU HEAR IT!!?? THUMP!! IT’S GETTING LOUDER!!!!! THUMP! THUMP! …..! YOU’RE IN OUR HOUSE!!!

GO FALCONS! !!!!!

……. ……”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!….

Falcon James

September 30th, 2012
5:14 am

Watched NFL channel yesterday. They are finally showing the Falcon some love. Hard to believe they are at the top or near the top of so many stats. Can’t wait to see what they do to Cam and the rest Panthers.

Falcon James

September 30th, 2012
5:16 am

Here kitty kitty kitty……….. SMASH!!!!