IS MATT RYAN IN A SLUMP? He has just 2 TD passes and 6 INTs over the last three games. He completed only 54.5 percent (season low) of his passes against the Saints in his last outing and threw for a season-low 165 yards. The Ice Man worked on his strength conditioning in the offseason in order to be stronger down the stretch. Perhaps, the Falcons do need to sit him and get him some rest if they wrap up the No. 1 seed early.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Quarterback Matt Ryan will try to bounce back from arguably his worst performance of the season when the Falcons face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Against the Saints on Thursday, Ryan completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and threw for 165 yards, both season-lows.
With Ryan misfiring, the offense converted only one of 11 third-down attempts and needed five interceptions from the defense to help secure the 23-13 victory and put them in position to clinch the NFC South title.
“I don’t worry too much about the statistics or those types of things,” Ryan said Wednesday. “We have to do a better job on third down. If we can convert third downs better, we’ll have a better chance.”
Ryan had completed at least 60.9 percent of his passes in every game this season. He also completed more than 70 percent of his passes in four games, including 81.3 percent against Tampa Bay on Nov. 25.
There were some dropped passes against the Saints, but the passing game was just a bit out of sync, according to coach Mike Smith.
Ryan doesn’t believe there is cause for alarm.
“We just missed on a couple of opportunities,” Ryan said. “We had some third downs that we fell short by a yard or two on a handful of those. It’s just the little things like that that get you into a rhythm.
“We weren’t able to get that first first down in a drive that gets you going. We have to do a better job of executing. We weren’t at our best in terms of execution last week.”
Ryan believes that revving up the offense is an ongoing process.
“You’re trying to find ways to be better,” Ryan said. “I think we have target areas where we need to be more productive. I think our red-zone touchdown percentage can be better than what it is. That’s an area that we’ve been striving to get better at.”
Ryan has completed 312 of 462 passes for 3,590 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 94.9 and is on pace to attempt a career-high 616 passes this season. His previous high was 571 attempts in 2010.
With the Falcons going to a pass-first offense, Ryan spent part of the offseason working on his strength conditioning.
Ryan will try to rebound against a feisty Carolina defense that has played the Falcons tough. Their past two games have been decided by one score.
Ryan led the Falcons to a 30-28 victory in Week 4 with some late-game heroics and was seen by a TV camera telling the Panthers to “Get the (expletive) off our field.” Several Panthers told the Charlotte media that they remember those comments and want some revenge against Ryan and the Falcons.
One player, defensive end Greg Hardy, went so far as to say that the 3-9 Panthers are better than the 11-1 Falcons.
Ryan wasn’t asked about the comments during his media session Wednesday, but he acknowledged that the Panthers have been rather pesky.
“It’s pretty much always a tough matchup with them,” Ryan said. “They played us defensively really well. We know going into it, they’re a physical bunch and the front four, they do great job of rushing the passer. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
The Panthers sacked Ryan seven times.
“They had a lot of success getting after us in the past game,” left guard Justin Blalock said. “We have to scout ourselves and figure out what we did wrong and what we can do better. Maybe there are adjustments as well. Top to bottom, we just need to play better, and everyone knows that.”
But the Falcons didn’t seem too worried.
“We just need a little tune-up,” right tackle Tyson Clabo said. “Just because you have a bad day, doesn’t mean you can’t fix it.”
But the Panthers, unlike the Falcons, have not figured out how to close games.
“Experience has a lot to do with it,” Ryan said. “When you have guys that have played and been in all kinds of situations, you learn that it’s going to be like that week-in and week-out, and you have to find ways to get it done. The reasons we’ve had a lot of success this year is we’ve found different ways to get it done.”
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