Arthur Smith, Matt Ryan hold healthy respect for Tom Brady

Ryan also discusses his playing future, saying he'd like to keep quarterbacking a long time

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan #2 shakes hands with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady #12 after the game on December 20, 2020.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Arthur Smith was asked during his Wednesday press conference how to best slow Tom Brady down.

The Falcons head coach didn't need a beat to ponder the question. He knew right away he wasn't going to take the bait.

"It's a hard question to answer," Smith said. "1.: I'm not going to sit here and talk about our scheme this week, and, 2.: It's kind of a loaded question. I'm not going to fall for the trap."

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There's a good reason why Smith wasn't stepping into metal jaws regarding the Tampa Bay quarterback, universally identified by a goat emoji.

"There's a graveyard of guys who have popped off with arrogance about Tom Brady," Smith said. "Nobody has done it better than him. We give him all the respect in the world. There's a reason why he has won seven Super Bowls. If you make mistakes, he's going to make you pay. We have to be better and we have one heck of a challenge at 4 o'clock on Sunday."

That's when the Falcons play their NFC South rival at Raymond James Stadium. It's a tough challenge made far harder by the man under center, a 44-year old who remains elite even at advanced football age.

We've all seen him find unique ways to win games with great and relatively small stakes. Smith pinpointed exactly what makes him so difficult each time out, one trait Brady has you might not think about.

"One thing I do know about Tom Brady is that history is probably going to say he's the best, or one of the best at situational football," Smith said. "Make a mistake and he's going to expose you. Make errors with substitution, he's going to expose you. That's why to me, it's one of the many reasons that make tom Brady who he is. He plays the situations just as good or better than anybody I've seen. We know it's a challenge. There's a reason why they won the Super Bowl."

Brady won the last Super Bowl in his first year with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is pretty stacked on offense and defense, and it will take everything going well for the Falcons to claim a Week 2 win. Brady, obviously, can be a problem.

Esteemed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hasn't beat Brady in five attempts, though we shouldn't forget that quarterbacks don't play each other. They play the opposing defense, though there is a way that dueling a top passer has an impact on Ryan's day. That will be the case again with Ryan and Brady metaphorically face off.

"I've played a lot of great quarterbacks in my career, and you know they're going to get their team an opportunity on the other side no matter how the game shakes out," Ryan said. "Going against [former New Orleans quarterback] Drew Bees in the division, you know that's how it's going to be. Tom's the same kind of player. He's mentally tough, does a great job of staying in the present and playing at a high level. You have to play at the same level on your side, but it comes down to their defense. That unit creates issues for us and we have to find ways to attack it.

"You can't worry about what he's doing. You have to worry about what you're doing and how you're executing the way that we're capable."

Ryan has been impressed by Brady's longevity. Brady's in his mid-40s and still playing excellent football, something the Falcons passer would be interested in if all goes well.

Ryan's frequently asked about his playing future, and he made it clear again Wednesday he has no interest slowing down. Yeah, maybe even at Brady's age.

"As healthy as he is and as good as he is playing right now, I think that's great motivation for all of us," Ryan said. "I've said it before. I'd like to play as long as I can if I feel good but you never know what's in front of you. You never know how things can change. Right now, I feel really good."

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