FLOWERY BRANCH — When Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan takes the field these days, he does so with certain calmness and clarity.
“You never see him get rattled,” center Todd McClure said. “He never changes.”
In his fifth season, Ryan, 27, is showing experience beyond his years or his 72 NFL starts as he’s guided the Falcons to a 7-0 record for the first time in franchise history.
Ryan will try to make it 8-0 when the Falcons play the Dallas Cowboys (3-4) at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Ryan, a native of Exton, Pa., is coming off a stellar showing against the Eagles, where he had his third-highest passer rating of his career, 137.4.
Ryan acknowledges that he’s dealing with less clutter and noise this season.
“I’ve been playing quarterback in this league for a number of years now, and I think you become more comfortable with everything. You know what’s important and want’s not,” Ryan said. “What you need to stress about and what you don’t need to stress about. I think all of those things help you play better and prepare better.”
Ryan has the support of his teammates and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but when he has to bounce something off someone, he usually chats with Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, a former Falcon.
“We kind of grew up in the same area, and he’s another guy that I think handles things the right way,” Ryan said. “He works hard, is always prepared and has been playing great for a number of years.”
Schaub has admired Ryan’s work this season from afar.
“He’s playing great,” Schaub said. “When you look at them, they’re not a big running team, they’re not very successful running the football right now and they ask him to do a lot at the line of scrimmage, he’s got a lot of weapons.”
Ryan is the consummate professional. He was embarrassed when told that his “get the (expletive) off our field” comment went viral over the Internet after the heart-stopping 30-28 victory over Carolina on Sept. 30.
That was the 17th time he guided the Falcons to a victory in the fourth quarter or overtime. The following weeks at Washington and against Oakland he notched the 18th and 19th such victory.
After the bye week, there would be no such drama needed against the Eagles.
“It’s his fifth year, and he’s had the experience,” McClure said. “The more experience you get, the better you are. … You can go out there and let your talent show. He’s just been playing unbelievably well. We know if we can keep him clean, the sky is the limit for this team.”
Ryan has completed 182 of 265 passes for 2,018 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions for a passer rating of 103, which trails only Denver’s Peyton Manning (109) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (107.9).
He’s done a masterful job of spreading the ball around to receivers Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Last week, his first two touchdown passes were to backups Drew Davis and Jason Snelling.
“For a quarterback, it’s all about touchdowns and turnovers,” Ryan said. “Those kinds of things are ultimately the most important. So far, we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.”
Ryan’s drive to improve has fueled his climb in the league. He even had some issues with the Philadelphia game.
“Far from perfect,” Ryan said. “You’re never going to be completely perfect, but you’re always trying to work towards that.”
They’ve come close a couple of times this season.
Against the Eagles, Ryan directed the offense to scores on their first six possessions. In the season opener against Kansas City, he guided the offense to scores on their first eight possessions.
Still, he was not pleased because they were not all touchdowns.
“I think red-zone touchdown percentage is huge,” Ryan said. “Last week, we scored on the first six drives, but we had opportunities on those last three that if we execute better you can put up touchdowns.”
Ryan has an edge to him that he rarely shows in public. But McClure said, don’t let Ryan’s calmness and boyish smile fool you.
“There’s been a few times where he’s gotten on some guys in some situations where we maybe got a penalty here and there,” McClure said.
Ryan’s teammates recognize him making the trek toward being one of the game’s better quarterbacks.
“This is nothing new to us,” running back Michael Turner said. “We have been seeing the improvement year in and year out. He’s ready to take it to the next level.”
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