Matt Ryan is ready to make amends in playoffs

Matt Ryan: Hear me loud -- I'm ready for playoffs this time. (Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com)

Matt Ryan: Hear me loud -- I'm ready for playoffs this time. (Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH – If Matt Ryan speaks the truth, the television is off this week. If the radio is on, it’s tuned to therapeutic jazz, perhaps against the backdrop of rhythmic wind chimes and burning incense. Computer use: limited to email, golf tips and perhaps new meatloaf recipes.

This seems so much better than subjecting himself to a jackhammer against his cranium by media cretins (present company excluded, of course) who insist on bringing up the interception on his first career playoff pass at Arizona, or the fumble and ensuing touchdown return by Antrel Rolle that turned around that game, or the first interception last year against Green Bay that led to a 14-point swing, or the head-slapping, pick six by Tramon Williams just before halftime, which pretty much buried his team, or …

Hmmmmmm. Soft breeze. Golden sunset. Serenity. Opening up the chakras now. I’m sorry, did you say something?

Ryan is at peace. He should be. I mean, jeez, the guy has played two playoff games — albeit, two bad playoff games — and it’s as if he already has, “Can’t win the big one. Spontaneously combusts,” stamped on his forehead.

The Falcons’ quarterback now acknowledges he has let “outside stuff, the extracurricular things that go with the playoffs, the hype,” get to him in the past. So in the time between last Sunday’s regular-season-ending win over Tampa Bay and this Sunday’s playoff game against the New York Giants, he is trying to operate with blinders and earplugs.

“I think anybody who says they never see or hear any of that stuff to a certain degree is lying,” Ryan said. “But at this time of the year, it really takes a conscious effort of, ‘You know what? I’m not paying attention to that.’ Collectively as a football team, it’s one of the things we’ve learned.”

He cited last season’s three-turnover performance in a 48-21 loss to Green Bay. Ryan hardly was the only reason the Falcons, as a No. 1 seed and coming off a bye week, got shellacked at home. (Reason No. 1 was Aaron Rodgers: 31-for-36, 366 yards, three touchdowns.)

But Ryan made it too easy for the Packers. The bye week, which intersected with “Snowmageddon 2011,” created a lot of down time for the Falcons. That probably limited the Falcons’ needed tunnel vision. That’s not to suggest that’s why they lost, but it easily could have fed into the total collapse.

Ryan again: “You don’t think you’re affected by it. You feel you’re very well-prepared. But in hindsight, when you’re removed from the situation, you say, ‘OK, I think I can do this better, that better.’ That’s one of the things I can definitely do better.”

We’ve evolved (devolved?) into an instant-gratification society. So it’s not surprising that after so much regular-season success (43-19 as a starter) but two playoff losses, critics now wonder about Ryan’s ceiling.

A few reminders of just how premature that thinking is:

Eli Manning lost his first two playoff starts, then won a Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning lost his first two playoff starts and six out of nine, then won a Super Bowl in his ninth season.

John Elway lost his first two playoff starts, eight of 15 and had dropped three consecutive games before winning two Super Bowls … in the 15th and 16th seasons of his career.

But yes, Ryan has to be better. Three touchdowns and six turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles) in two playoff games won’t cut it.

“It’s still so early for him,” said Tony Gonzalez, who’s still looking for his first postseason win. “I would anticipate he’s going to be in the playoffs a lot in his career. But, yeah, eventually you have to start performing. You’ve got to play well in the playoffs. … One thing about Matt is he learns from his mistakes. He’ll play up to a level that hopefully he’s satisfied with. I have no doubt about it. He’s a strong-minded person.”

Ryan doesn’t need to project “Hall of Fame” credentials against the Giants. He just can’t kill drives and hopes with turnovers. The Giants generate a strong pass rush (48 sacks), but they give up a ton of yards (376.4, ranked 27th) and points (25, ranked 25th).

Ryan’s lesson from the two playoff games?

“It usually comes down to three or four plays,” he said. “Like the pick six against Green Bay. Be smart as a quarterback, make plays when they’re presented. Don’t try to go above and beyond.”

He knows where that leads to.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

475 comments Add your comment

Joe Blow

January 5th, 2012
2:54 pm

You’re absolutely right Jeff,, Good meatloaf is a work of art.

PreyDawg

January 5th, 2012
2:54 pm

@Jeff- Yes for sure. I just am amazed at all the NFL QB’s for being able to do that. Under the pressure of a four or five second play making that right decision has to be the most difficult thing in Sports.

I guess my larger point was, Ryan could struggle in the playoffs again and still be a darn good quarterback. This thing these guys are having to do is just Darned hard!!

Giant Slayer....

January 5th, 2012
2:54 pm

What’s the spread?

Jeff Schultz

January 5th, 2012
2:55 pm

Giant Slayer — Actually I’m going to New Orleans for the BCS title game (which is next day). Leaving tomorrow. Mr. Bradley will be at Falcons game. … My pure guesses on injuries: Nicholas out; the others you referenced in.

PreyDawg

January 5th, 2012
2:55 pm

Still wish we would run out of the four wides set more. I keep saying it. But it would take some of the pass rush away. We only ran out of this set three times this year per NFL.com

PreyDawg

January 5th, 2012
2:56 pm

I’m jacked for this game by the way. I remember New Orleans. I remember Green Bay last year. But I can’t help myself. It is the playoffs and I am jacked. I am going to get fired if I don’t get off this blog too.

Jeff Schultz

January 5th, 2012
2:56 pm

Oldmike — I’ve been asked many times to ban “Choke” and my response is always the same. I ban people for all sorts of reasons but “obnoxiousness” is not one of them. Will say he often straddles the line though.

nastydog

January 5th, 2012
2:57 pm

How many times could we put a running back in the top 5? Go Falcons! Turner is having a fantastic year. He probably only has a couple years left. Biggest key to victory is Turner and 100+ yards.

Jeff Schultz

January 5th, 2012
2:57 pm

Giant Slayer — Mostly seen Giants by 3. That’s basically an even game since home team automatically gets 3 pts.

Giant Slayer....

January 5th, 2012
2:57 pm

Jeff, Have fun, but don’t get too close to those Bamards and swamp people if you know what I mean!

PreyDawg

January 5th, 2012
2:59 pm

Nasty, I agree. But can we block these guys? I don’t know that we can get any push against this front 7. That really worries me. That’s why I say run out of 4 wide set.

Joe Blow

January 5th, 2012
3:00 pm

Cant Ban Choke,, he’s too much fun :)

Giant Slayer....

January 5th, 2012
3:02 pm

Jeff, and by all means, keep away from Harvey Updyke! Heard he likes to poison things. What a Bamard.

Brian

January 5th, 2012
3:02 pm

@PreyDawg– I think most GM’s would take Romo over Ryan. Romo is inconsistent at times but so Ryan. Romo gets the edge because he’s got a bigger arm, throws for more yards, TD’s and less intercepstions, AND his his completion % is almost 5 points higher. I won’t get too deep into a Vick discussion but to say he can’t read a defense isn’t completely accurate IMO. His completion % is just a notch below Ryan but his playmaking ablility, arm strengh and legs make him a weapon at the QB position that scares defenses a lot more than Ryan.

Ivan

January 5th, 2012
3:02 pm

Jeff,

Then how about an ignore feature? Simple

JSS

January 5th, 2012
3:04 pm

I’ll take “obnoxious” over “nasty” any day of the week! See Geoff Dawg, that’s how you do it! Oops, he’s gone “bye-bye!” Well, ask Lenny Bruce, oops, he’s dust!

Ted

January 5th, 2012
3:04 pm

His radio may be offf but he likes calling them. He and Tony gonzales will be all over national radio as usual.
Dan Patrick, Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, etc.

nastydog

January 5th, 2012
3:05 pm

Got to do both PreyDawg. One can set up the other. Now that we can buy beer on Sunday we will win. Or at least not remember as much:)
Field goal wins!

Greg Mendel

January 5th, 2012
3:09 pm

Matt Ryan is the least of my concerns on Sunday. I’m more concerned about Weems watching punts roll to a stop on the 1-yard line, Roddy White’s hands and mouth, and pass coverage so soft Eli could catch his own passes. I figure we’ll win, though, even if Ryan has to block for — wait for it! — Turner up the middle.

Giant Slayer....

January 5th, 2012
3:09 pm

Besides us beating Giants of course…Would like to see Detroit beat N.O. for obvious reasons, plus that would put them (not us) against GB in next weeks game. Even with SF defense, I believe Falcons would have better shot against SF than GB. Than hopefully, any given Sunday……..

Giant Slayer....

January 5th, 2012
3:13 pm

Offensive line and our entire defense is key to this game….but what’s new, right?

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:18 pm

A MUST WIN FOR MATT RYAN AND COACH CLEAN SHOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MR BLANK, HAVE THAT SHORT LIST READY…

extremus

January 5th, 2012
3:21 pm

I personally think Matt Ryan will get that first playoff win, whether against the Giants Sunday or sometime further down the road. He is a smart quarterback who’s demonstrated a considerable amount of toughness (example: returning in the Detroit game after twisting his ankle in a way that screamed “Done for the season”), and his humble, soft-spoken personality makes him easy to root for.

My biggest concern is whether the Falcons will ever get much further with the current OC and DC they have; they’re good for beating lesser teams but often find themselves badly outclassed by established elite teams. A lot of the inconsistency on offense this year hasn’t been solely Matt Ryan’s fault; there have been a maddening number of dropped passes by his receivers, and I think most here would agree that the offense’s inconsistency seems tied to going in and out of the no-huddle to a large degree.

Unfortunately even a win against the Giants won’t sate the criticisms of folks who are determined to hate Ryan as our QB. About the only way that might change would be for the Falcons to win the Superbowl, and that will take a LOT more pieces working in concert than just Matt Ryan.

For certain folks here who endlessly spew negativity and root against Ryan simply because he isn’t Michael Vick (yes, after all this time), please let it go. Either root for the Falcons or have the courtesy not coming on a fan-dedicated forum to bash them. Ryan threw for more yards than any Falcons QB in history this past year and it went largely unnoticed despite names like Steve Bartkowski being on that list; I find it telling that one name wasn’t mentioned on that list: Michael Vick. And unlike Vick, Ryan and his team are in the playoffs this year (and beat Vick and his team to boot). That’s not to bash Vick, who is indeed an electrifying athlete when healthy; it’s to say that we have a pretty darn good quarterback right now and some folks just don’t want to acknowledge it.

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:22 pm

Eli scares more than Ryan..

Giants O-line will dominate the Falcons D-line.. Game, set, and match…

That is all…

Great Falconi

January 5th, 2012
3:28 pm

Vick’s last game as a Falcon was just over five years ago. Time flies.

mark

January 5th, 2012
3:29 pm

Matt Choke Ryan why the hate? All Ryan has done is turned a franchise around and lead it to 3 out of 4 years to the playoffs. The kid is tough and makes all the throws. Trent Dilfer, Brand Johnson, Rich Gannon, Jeff Hostetler Mark Rypien and Tony Eason all either played in or won the Super Bowl. Dan Marino never one the big one but is in the Hall of Fame. Football is a team game but if not for Matt Ryan we would be the same old Falcons.

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:30 pm

Ryan may win a playoff game but he’ll never get to a SB unless holding a clip board..

Maybe someday soon he’ll have a Pittsburgh type defense and that may allow him to knock on the door?

Supes

January 5th, 2012
3:31 pm

Anyone who thinks they can come up with 10 QBs in the NFL currently better than Matt Ryan (when you consider all aspects of the game, not just certain stats that may skew an argument in your favor) needs to turn in their “I know football card” before they enter this or any FALCONS blog.

You have Brady, Rogers and Brees…

Then you have your 2nd “tier” with Eli, Big Ben (who have been on superbowl winning teams)

Matt Ryan is in the next group of QB’s…anywhere from 6 to 10 (order is debatable)

Anyone who disputes this is a kidding themselves.

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:34 pm

2-4 against the winners does not reinforce confidence amongst some who are paying attention….

Now if it were the flip side of that record: 4-2 now your talking…..

joe white

January 5th, 2012
3:35 pm

Falcons by land slide we blowing the roof off the giants

kreedham

January 5th, 2012
3:36 pm

Herschel Talker….we play Green Bay 2nd game unless the Lions upset the Saints. If they do then we go to SF.

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:40 pm

Eli will have plenty of time just like Drew had and he’ll pick apart that secondary..He has the vision and arm.. This guy throws the deep ball with the best of em… A Thing of Beauty…..

panic fan

January 5th, 2012
3:44 pm

I agree that our off playcalls at times kills ryans ability to keep drives alive, no huddle we seem to put drives and scores together at will.This game tells all for this 4yr process its all cards on the table time just hope our coaches play to win NOT THE TIME TO BE CONSERVATIVE OR PLAY NOT TO LOSE.

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
3:45 pm

The Saints only rushed with four and were getting penetration causing Ryan to have happy feet in the pocket.Results in only 1 TD .Now thats D-line dominance….

Giants will do the same….

PMC

January 5th, 2012
3:46 pm

If you get there soon enough Jeff you can have Beingets and coffee with Ms. Andrews and Todd Mcshay.

It’s Crawfish season too.

Brian

January 5th, 2012
3:48 pm

@extremus

It’s ironic that so many people want to defend Ryan and criticize his “haters”. I agree that some Vick fans hate Ryan because he isn’t Vick, but there were FAR more vocal critics during the Vick era that made racist and biggoted comments just because he was black. And you know what–rarely did anyone condemn said coments. It’s so ironic that now people want to call “Vick haters” racists but when people were calling Vick names (thug, ghetto, monkey) no one came to his defense. And these were comments made well before the bottle or middle finger incident. You should see all the racist comments made about black players after a UGA loss, and no one ever complains, and these are kids.

JSS

January 5th, 2012
3:53 pm

All that griping and then you folks bringing up Vick… You cannot make people love Matt Ryan… It has nothing to do with Michael Vick… It all has to do with Ryan and what he has done on the road, in playoffs, and what his competition has down directly against him. Now there are those on here who are going to open their usual floodgates of name calling and accusations; but be noted who and and when started on that Vick kicking… You folks are always telling folks to let it go, you can’t go a single blog without inference and recriminations….

This blog has been about Ryan and his view of his performance, why don’t you so-called “fans” stick to that? Maybe it is because you never like what that is staring back at each about that team… Red Herings are not going to change that point… Call other people trolls, but the issues of this team and the posters are deep set elsewhere…

heartofdarkness

January 5th, 2012
3:56 pm

Matt, train your focus on those plays designed to counter the pass rush on third down. Those plays will probably make the difference in the game, one way or another. Good luck.

Tumbledown

January 5th, 2012
3:58 pm

Atlanta pro teams in the recent past, especially the Braves and Falcons, seem to specialize in choking or underperforming in the playoffs. At least the Hawks have won playoff series in their last couple of visits. Meanwhile, the Falcons have not won a playoff game in the Smith/Ryan era, and the Braves last won a playoff series in 2001. This has got to change. I hope change starts on Sunday.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 5th, 2012
3:59 pm

@Jeff

Stop appeasing to the nuts.

Either I am in violation of your rules or not.

Stop pacifying the babies who hate facts. :)

hey sec east champ

January 5th, 2012
4:01 pm

Matt is fine,not every team gets a HOF QB..he has playmakers but much like AM at GA he needs Beef..O Line -D. He is good. Not great.But lets just blame the coaches.

Indeed -luv JJonesbut I wonder if big good linemen w draft may have been a better idea.

panic fan

January 5th, 2012
4:02 pm

Defensive Comparison Total Yards Per Game Allowed 333.6 376.4Passing Yards Per Game Allowed 236.6 255.1Rush Yards Per Game Allowed 97.0 121.2Points Per Game Allowed 21.9 25.0Third Down Conversion % Allowed 44.1 38.2 Falcons Giants

panic fan

January 5th, 2012
4:08 pm

Offensive Comparison Total Yards Per Game 376.6 385.1Passing Yards Per Game 262.0 295.9Rush Yards Per Game 114.6 89.2Points Per Game 25.1 24.6Third Down Conversion % 44.2 37.4Time of Possession 1938.0 1769.0 Falcons Giants

JSS

January 5th, 2012
4:17 pm

Top 8 QBs… (There are only 8 so a Top 10 list is silly)
1. Rodgers
1A. Brees
3. Brady
4. Peyton Manning (Even disabled)
5. Eli Manning (I have to give him his due)
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Phillip Rivers
8. Matt Schuab

The rest…
Matthew Stafford (I never thought he’d make through a whole season alive, he could move into the top 6 next year.)
Tony Romo (Too inconsistent when it counts, but cannot poo-poo the rest of his resume)
Jay Cutler (I cannot put into words how much I detest this man as a QB, but before he broke his thumb, he was playing the best team ball of his career).

No. 12 down
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco… Flacco and Ryan are tied the hip like Bryan Sipe and Stabler were before Kenny finally took that step… Flacco has stronger arm no doubt, but his last season and half keeps him from breaking away for person who has won 4 playoff games on the road.
The Ryan albatross can grow to epic level (Gary Collins level) unless he finally wins a playoff game.

Everyone else including Vick must step up their games next year in order to clear their doubters. Cam Newton will have the weight of expectations, it will fun to see how it goes… They must fix their defense or he’ll be struggling like Freeman from trying to do too much…

Hate and name call away…

All I'm Saying Is....

January 5th, 2012
4:19 pm

Jeff: Enjoy your trip to N’Awlins and do spend some quality time at Pat O’Brien’s enjoying a Hurricane libation or two…

Falcons must play smart (everybody), engage in excellent play-calling (talking to you Mularkey and Van Gorder), limit turnovers (protect the ball Ryan, Turner, White, Jones, and Gonzalez), and commit to the run game so we can be what we are and do what we do which is run first, play-action pass on offense no matter how difficult it may be. And for goodness sakes, dial-up the blitz and put Eli on his bottom!

LET’S GO FALCONS!

THE TEABAG Party..

January 5th, 2012
4:19 pm

@Brian!!!! You are the man! Say it..

Georgia: The land full of Hypocrites

Rickster

January 5th, 2012
4:27 pm

Like I vented in the sports vent: “Matt Ryan needs to at least win a postseason game before he earns the nickname “Matty Ice.” After all, Reggie Jackson wasn’t called “Mr. October” for playing well in August.”

CGD..

January 5th, 2012
4:31 pm

AN AZZ WHUPPIN IS COMING..DONT BE SURPRISED…

Treeofwoe

January 5th, 2012
4:43 pm

We won’t be surprised CGD. The Giants have one coming on Sunday. Everyone is glossing over the Falcons chances like it’s a given NY will win. We’re better overall on Defense and we’re better at running the ball. Statistically Eli and Ryan are about dead even this year with Eli having more turnovers. The Giants have a great pass rush but are mediocre against the run and suck against the pass. They can’t run the ball. NY can be had and will be on Sunday.

ueeediot

January 5th, 2012
4:44 pm

Your QB assessment is quite interesting.

Ben Roethlisberger is easily in the top 5. Resilient, unbreakable (to date), owns 2 rings and has the second best winning percentage of all starting QB’s (minus rookies, of course).

1. Tom Brady. When you talk best active QBs, your career resume counts. 3 Rings, MVPs, records, and THE BEST winning percentage in the NFL at an amazing 77% Put Brady on ANY team and they are immediate championship contenders.

the remainder of your list is arguable. But seeing as though you put Eli in front of Ben (i guess because Eli got a lucky catch in the SB?) and seeing as how you have Schaub and Rivers ahead of Stafford and Sanchez (remember the guy that took the jets to two championship games and has more playoff wins than Schaub, Ryan, and Rivers combined?) makes me think youre only watching highlights and not actual performance.

Cant argue that Matt Ryan is not a winner when his winning percentage is .700 (3rd in the NFL of QBs with at least 2 years of service)

And yeah, Flacco must not be as good as Cutler, Schaub, Rivers, or Romo as he has only won the AFC north crown, like what, 3 times now?