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Preparation Takes Pressure Off Ryan

Posted Jan 9, 2013

There's plenty of pressure this week on the Falcons, who will be trying to win their first playoff game under head coach Mike Smith. But perhaps the one player who would be feeling it the most — quarterback Matt Ryan — isn't.

Since quarterback Matt Ryan entered the league in the 2008 NFL Draft, he’s played in three postseason games in four years with the Atlanta Falcons. He hasn’t won one yet.

The entire planet knows Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs and everyone imagines the pressure is akin to a powder keg. Is the Falcons' signal-caller beside himself, worried about getting that elusive first postseason victory?

Not one bit.

Ryan said this team has worked incredibly hard — both during the season, but more importantly in the offseason, at OTAs and through training camp — to have the opportunity to play in the postseason, but for him it’s more about executing great football, not pressuring himself for a playoff win.

“I don’t worry about it. I don’t think about it,” Ryan said Wednesday before practice. “My focus is for this locker room and for the guys and the coaching staff that we're all together. We want to play our best football. And really that's the only thing I'm worried about, trying to do whatever we can do to play our best football Sunday.”

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It’s not lost on anyone within the Falcons organization that this team is now in what head coach Mike Smith calls “the second season.” The playoffs. A loss now means everyone goes home for the offseason. It means no more football until a new batch of rookies is drafted.

But the sense around the locker room isn’t one of impending doom. There’s no feeling of a one-and-done mentality. It’s very workman-like with the players, business as usual.

"The biggest thing is to get settled into your routine,” said Ryan “Whatever it is during the course of the week, prepare the way you normally prepare. Everybody's going to be excited and everybody is going to have a lot of energy. But when we get out there and we start playing, it comes down to execution. When you're focused and concentrating, I think we execute the best.”

Ryan has set an example in his years with the Falcons about preparation. Players have tried to get into the weight room before him, or stay longer. They can’t. The coaching staff marvels at his film-room prowess, his intelligence and work ethic in the week leading up to the game.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has been with the Falcons for just one season, but he’s already clued in on just how hard Ryan works, and exactly what’s he’s going to have to do this week to get ready for the Seattle Seahawks.

“Matt's going to do fine,” said Koetter. “Matt's going to play just like he played all year, there's no reason to think otherwise. Matt is one of the most prepared guys, if not the most prepared guy on our team. If you're prepared, and you do your homework and you go out there and play and you trust your players, there's no reason you wouldn't expect him to go out and play well.”

Ryan said he’s learned “tons” from the three playoff losses he’s endured. He’s also grown as a passer and as a leader this season under Koetter. He believes wins and losses come down to about four to five plays every game. And this Falcons offense is ready to take advantage of in-game opportunities as they are presented to him.

With an extra year of playing with wide receiver Julio Jones, and an offseason of work to boot, with another year with wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan feels that the offense can capitalize on the opportunities Sunday when arise.

But it’s all about preparation and execution. And there’s no one better than Ryan in that regard.


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