GAMEDAY CENTRAL: Falcons (9-1) at Buccaneers (6-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday

QB corner: Matt Ryan discusses the Bucs

Over the past two weeks, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has had a career-high in passing yards and interceptions.

tlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes from the pocket in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

tlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes from the pocket in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

He passed for 411 yards against New Orleans and followed that performance by throwing five interceptions against Arizona.

“You have to be able to put them behind you in the right way and not let them take away from what you want to do as you move forward,” Ryan said of the five picks.

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

Q: What do you make of Tampa Bay’s defense that is first against the run and last against the pass?

A: I think statistics like that sometimes jump out at you, but they’ve played with a lead in a lot of different games, and teams have been forced to throw the ball against them. I think that’s part of it. They are very good against the run. They are very stout.

Q: How does Ronde Barber look at free safety?

A: He looks solid. Ronde is an extremely smart player. He probably knows his defense as well as anybody in the NFL. He’s done a great job. He’s a very good pattern reader. He’s very good at reading quarterback’s eyes and anticipating things coming from the offense. I think he’s been a good fit for them.

Q: How are their young linebackers, Lavonte David and Mason Foster, looking?

A: Their linebackers do a great job in the run game. They blitz hard. They are good, solid tacklers, and they shed blocks very well when they are pass rushing.

The X-factor: Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs for a 67-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Martin, a rookie who was born in Oakland, rushed for a franchise-record 251 yards and four touchdowns. / AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs for a 67-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. Martin, a rookie who was born in Oakland, rushed for a franchise-record 251 yards and four touchdowns. / AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

With the next to last pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Doug Martin.

Cleveland took running back Trent Richardson with the third pick in the draft. Martin, who went 31st overall, was the second running back selected, and the Bucs have been happy with the pick.

Martin, who played at Boise State, rushed for 138 yards and had four catches for 23 yards in Tampa Bay’s 27-21 overtime win at Carolina on Sunday. He will be the X-factor when the Falcons face the Bucs at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

He is rushing at a rookie-record pace.

Martin has 1,019 yards from scrimmage over his past six games and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,066) and Edgerrin James (1,045) as the only rookies in NFL history to gain at least 1,000 yards in a six-game span.

“He’s running it extremely well,” Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “He’s a very good back. He reminds me a lot of (Ray) Rice at Baltimore. He’s very comparable.”

At 5-foot-9, 223 pounds, Martin is a squatty back with speed. He also has been effective catching passes.

“He does a great job out of the backfield (catching passes) and does a great job in the backfield (running the football),” Nolan said. “He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s sturdy. He’s strong. He’s tough. He runs hard. He’s a very good back. We’re all very impressed with him.”

Martin has scored seven rushing touchdowns.

“It’s two backs that they base out of, but he comes out of the backfield and catches some check downs as well,” Nolan said. “He has 27 catches on the season. When he gets out in space, he’s a very good runner. He’s got really good speed. He outruns a lot of people.”

On the hot seat: Falcons run defense

The Falcons’ run defense will be on the hot seat against Tampa Bay’s rushing attack.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) fumbles the ball, stripped by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56). (Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) fumbles the ball, stripped by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56). (Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com

In eight of 10 games, they have given up a run of at least 29 yards. Overall, they have given up six runs of 40 yards or more, most in the NFL.

Last week, Arizona’s LaRod Stephens-Howling broke loose for runs of 40 and 52 yards through a maze of missed alignments and missed tackles.

When runs get to the second level, the safeties are not finishing off the play. Thomas DeCoud had missed tackles on Chris Ivory in the New Orleans game and on Stephens-Howling.

“Everybody gives up 5-yard and 10-yard gains,” Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “But when you’re missing two and three tackles at 10 yards, then they keep going. That’s a concern.”

The coaches are growing tired of seeing the same mistakes.

“It’s just something that we’ll continue to work on,” Nolan said. “It’s midseason, and it hasn’t gone away yet. We just have to keep going.”

Also, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been out, and the Falcons have used Akeem Dent, who’s essentially a rookie.

“He’s continually gotten better and is doing a nice job,” Nolan said. “That’s really the key. You don’t want to see a guy drop off, which he has not.”

The Falcons would like to see better tackling and may get a boost from the return of Weatherspoon.

“They don’t always come through clean all of the time,” Nolan said. “Sometimes we miss some plays in the backfield, and that’s concerning. But then when they get on the second level, part of the secondary guy’s job is, he’s got to be a good tackler.”

Connections: Koenen, Bryant in trading places

The Falcons and the Bucs basically switched kicking specialists a few years back.

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant makes a field goal in the final seconds of the game for a 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant makes a field goal in the final seconds of the game for a 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The Falcons signed kicker Matt Bryant, a former Buc, and punter Michael Koenen left the Falcons to sign a lucrative free-agent contract with the Bucs.

Bryant played for the Bucs from 2005-08. Koenen spent six seasons with the Falcons from 2005-10.

Other connections include:

  • Falcons coach Mike Smith was the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville when Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was an offensive assistant in 2003.
  • Bucs wide receivers coach coach P.J. Fleck was a receiver for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 when Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was the team’s head coach. Fleck also played with RB Michael Turner at Northern Illinois in 2003.
  • Falcons defensive line coach Ray Hamilton held the same position with the Bucs in 1991.
  • Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez played for Bucs senior offensive assistant Jimmy Raye when he was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 1997-2000.
  • Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and offensive lineman Mike Johnson won a BCS championship with Bucs safety Mark Barron at Alabama.
  • Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan played with Bucs tackle Jeremy Trueblood at Boston College.
  • Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent played with Bucs defensive tackle Corvey Irvin at Georgia.
  • Falcons wide receiver Drew Davis played with Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount at Oregon.

Stat corner:  Falcons pass offense vs. Bucs pass defense

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20) scoops up a pass for an interception beside Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster (22) before running it back for a 78-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber (20) scoops up a pass for an interception beside Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster (22) before running it back for a 78-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

While Tampa Bay ranks No. 1 in the NFL against the run (81.8 yards per game), the Bucs rank 32nd (last) against the pass.

Their defense gives up 312.6 passing yards per game.

The Falcons’ offense ranks in the top 10 in points (27, sixth), total offense (382.1 yards per game, seventh), passing yards (292.9 per game, third) and possession average (31:50 per game, fifth).

“With their pass defense, stats can be deceiving,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Your stats can sometimes make you look better than you actually are. Sometimes worse than you are.”

The Bucs have juggled their personnel. They traded Aqib Talib, formerly their top cornerback, to New England.

“They had to rotate a lot of different guys through their secondary,” Koetter said. “They definitely have been playing their best football the last three weeks.”

The mainstay in the secondary has been the great Ronde Barber, who shifted from cornerback to free safety.

“He’s made a nice transition,” Koetter said. “He’s still a playmaker, whether he’s playing at the free safety or when they move him down to the dime spot. He’s still a good blitzer. He’s still a good tackler. He still has a nose for the ball. He’s their Tony Gonzalez. He’s an ageless guy that always plays at a high level.”

The Bucs have 15 interceptions, which ranks third in the league. Barber and Leonard Johnson lead the team with three each.

LATEST NEWS

Struggling Falcons survive turnovers, Cardinals in 23-19 victory

Falcons coach Mike Smith admits to challenge flag blunder

Abraham, Babineaux make heads up play to score much-needed touchdown

Falcons quoteboard after 23-19 win over the Cardinals

Matt Ryan discusses his five interceptions
OTHER LATEST NEWS

Video: Falcons will try to regroup against the Cardinals, who have loss 5 in a row

Julio Jones held out of practice with an ankle injury

LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk weigh-in on Falcons’ sub-par run game

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter on struggling run game: ‘Mike Turner . . . had no chance’

COACHES ALL 22 FILM REVIEW: 6 key plays in the 31-27 loss to the Saints
Falcons pull out 19-13 victory over Cowboys to improve to 8-0

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

33 comments Add your comment

LOL at The Aints

November 24th, 2012
2:29 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

lowdownjj

November 24th, 2012
2:55 pm

The Muscle Hampster is gonna be a good running back for years to come. Would love to have him playing for the Coons. Since Matt Ryan is not willing to give any bulletine board material and always talks in coach speak, I will say what he was unwilling to. Bucs pass D stinks and I wouldn’t be suprised to see 45+ passing attempts by Ryan.

dean

November 24th, 2012
3:48 pm

Starship 1

November 24th, 2012
6:53 pm

Falcons run the table: win all of their remaining games.

Falcon James

November 24th, 2012
9:37 pm

Pretty safe to say that the Buc won’t have to worry about being knocked out of first place in the Run Defense. But that secondary is in trouble. Ryan is going to eat them alive. If it was possible for the Buc to fall to 33rd place in Pass Defense, they would own it after tomorrow. I hope our Defense doesn;t let them run Buc wild on them. Looking forward to another Falcon win. Would like to see a blow out, but don’t think it will happen. This game will probably come down to a field goal and luckily we have Bryant and they don’t.

Red Rum

November 25th, 2012
4:19 am

ATL’s secondary will get stretched to the limits by the receivers from the NFL’s currently most explosive offense. Then Doug Martin will slice through the guts of their interior D. Bucs 38, Failcants 27.

Big Daddy

November 25th, 2012
7:06 am

I can’t remember the last time I have heard such a lack of positive talk around the league about a 9-1 team. That said, the Falcons can shut a lot of people up with a convincing win over the Bucs. If they can put pressure on Josh Freeman and get at least 90 yards on the ground, they should win this game. We really need to have our linemen make the bulk of the tackles on the running backs but when they don’t the secondary has shown they can come up and make stops without the backs making significant yards.

Hopefully, the coach staff has come up with some quick hit plays that puts the receivers in the areas vacated by what I expect to be a lot of blitzing safeties and corners. We can win this game and if the coaching staff is as embarrassed by last week’s game as I think they are, they will be prepared with some great run blocking schemes that will put Turner and Rogers in their secondary with the possibilities of some long runs. GO FALCONS!!!

Esquire

November 25th, 2012
7:29 am

WE ARE THE MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS

Esquire

November 25th, 2012
7:49 am

The win may come down to a Matt Bryant field goal…………….!!

Matt Bryant kicked a 62 yard winning field goal for the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium against the Eagles October 22, 2006 as time expired.

Esquire

November 25th, 2012
8:24 am

All passing lanes are open!! It’s going to be a beautiful day for a Falcons WIN:

Raymond James Stadium, Florida Weather Forecast

Currently 49° Hi 71° Kickoff 68° 28% Humidity

…Sunny. Highs in the mid 60s near the coast and in the lower 70s inland. Northeast winds around 5 mph – gusts 8 mph, becoming northwest along the coast in the afternoon.

Rick Patel

November 25th, 2012
8:39 am

Flaccid Falcons will fall to tough, tenacious Tampa Bay Bucs. Bet on it.

Elvis is Alive

November 25th, 2012
9:49 am

Another gorgeous day in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Times is convinced the Bucs will win this game. Me, a native Atlantan is not so sure. MR2 is a top-shelf QB when he has the time to throw. Our offensive (funny-If only they were OFFENSIVE as in Nasty) line has to stop the rush. Two tight ends and Mike Cox in the backfield. Quizz and Douglas as quick outs to suppress the bull rush.
Turner (if he shows up mentally) could be a major factor.
Trickery will win this game. A reverse-halfback pass-end around and an uptempo game for the win.
To play a team who has nothing to lose and everything to win makes the Bucs dangerous.The Bucs are amped up.
The Falcons must excell at run defense and special teams. And MR2 must not get happy feet or rush his throws.
My pick ANGRY BIRDS 28- BUCS 17
Congrats to the Dawgs..woof woof

Eric C.

November 25th, 2012
9:53 am

@Elvis is alive, I hope you are right. I would not say the Bucs have nothing to lose. They are in one of the playoff spots now.

Does anyone updates on Weatherspoon and other injuries?

lowdownjj

November 25th, 2012
10:21 am

@Eric C. Spoon is playing and Jones will prob start from what I am hearing from multible sources. Havnt heard about P Jerry and A Samuel

Answer This

November 25th, 2012
10:25 am

Checking in Nation! Time to RISE UP! Big game today and we can continue to make believers out of the non-believers!

4BsihTneeS

November 25th, 2012
11:28 am

Bucks 24 – fal can’ts 20.

Michael M.

November 25th, 2012
12:36 pm

Falcons need to do a slobberknocker over the Bucs and turn em back into the Mucs. Yep, they have a winning streak going but I think it will end shortly after the Falcons get through with them……………………………..yeah, we need to win this game today because we have to play the nasty and pesky Caints again……………………oh wait, make that a win today Atlanta 34 – Mucs 20 and a win coming in the Dome over the Caints !
10 – 1 today and 11- 1 over the after the Caints game ! Yup, Atlanta will get the Caints after that 1 point loss fiasco…………………………………

Starship 1

November 25th, 2012
2:09 pm

Good stop by the defense. Look: Atlanta needs to stop being so predictable on first down. The Falcons are playing “not to lose”, but will lose if they aren’t more creative with their offense. The Falcons offensive line is abyismal. They cannot move an inch. Why do they keep running M. Turner up the middle? Why not run Turner in advantagious situations like the last play before the two minute warning? The screen play previous before that play netted a good amount of yardage. The Falcons can’t expect to have games handed to them just because of their record.

Starship 1

November 25th, 2012
2:21 pm

What is the heck wrong with the Falcons? They were 3rd and goal with 4 seconds remaining. Why not go for the TD? No. They decide to kick a field goal and missed. pathetic.

Weneed6intheredzonenot3or0MattBryant

November 25th, 2012
2:22 pm

Matt Bryant……wt#* was that

Weneed6intheredzonenot3or0MB

November 25th, 2012
2:23 pm

WTH was that!

Weneed6intheredzone

November 25th, 2012
2:24 pm

Come on MattB!!!!!!!!!

Weneed6intheredzone

November 25th, 2012
2:25 pm

Why can’t we score in the Redzone?!?

Weneed6intheredzone

November 25th, 2012
2:27 pm

Why run time off the clock, when we needed that time to try and score…come on Mike Smith!

mark

November 25th, 2012
2:48 pm

Txpeach

November 25th, 2012
3:16 pm

Every time Matt checks off to MT we lose yards!!!!!!!

Txpeach

November 25th, 2012
3:55 pm

Whew!! That was tooooooooop close!!!!

Txpeach

November 25th, 2012
3:58 pm

@Starship I totally agree with you! Stop running MT up the middle on 1st downs! OL can’t move jack!

Falcons 10-1 : The Latest Fuzz

November 25th, 2012
4:01 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Michael M.

November 25th, 2012
4:30 pm

10 – 1 baby…………..Caints will fall Thursday night !

old man

November 25th, 2012
5:39 pm

MR2 can wear a glove from now on.

old man

November 25th, 2012
5:44 pm

Jacquizz can run the stretch play–go off tackle, let your pulling guard, TE, and WRs take their blocks where they want to go, and then plant a foot and hit the open hole, wherever it happens to be.

MT can’t do that. 4.9 ypc versus 1.3? It’s not hard to do that math.

Next week, we need 25 rushes:

15 Jacquizz
5 MT
5 Antone Smith