When Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan takes the field on Sunday in New Orleans, he won't be going up against the future Hall of Fame quarterback he's used to seeing twice a year in Drew Brees. Ryan and Brees have been battling against one another for the last decade and with the news of Brees' ribs/lung injury, it appears it won't happen this around.
Ryan was watching the Saints' game on Sunday against the 49ers when Brees suffered the injury while taking a hit right before halftime.
"I'm hoping he can get healthy; I know he's going through a rough patch right now," Ryan said. "I'll miss competing against him. If you win against them and he's playing, you know you've done a good job and earned the victory because he's been so productive and great throughout his career."
Saints coach Sean Peyton has yet to announce who will start in place of Brees this week, but he has two reliable options in Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill at his disposal. The Falcons will have to be prepared for both.
Playing the long game
With Brees' injury news taking the NFL by storm this week, Ryan was asked about how he's been able to stay as durable as he has over the years. Ryan has only missed three games in his 13-year career and attributes that to taking good care of his body and luck.
"I work hard to try and take care of my body," Ryan said. "I have a good idea of what works for me at this point in my career. I feel like it's always important to understand pass protection, get the ball out and know where your outlets are. I think you also have to be lucky; I don't discredit that. I think I've been fortunate in my career to avoid some hits that could have gone differently. I really do feel fortunate. "
Preparing for tough test against Saints' defense
New Orleans has one of the best defenses in the NFL this season, specifically against the run. They've also been one of the league's best in sacking quarterbacks. For the last few years, the Saints have been building on the defensive side of the ball and this year they've put it all together at every level.
Ryan believes this is one of New Orleans' better defensive units and reiterated the importance of staying ahead of the chains on offense.
"Their playing well for sure … they were pretty good in 2009 and had it rolling back then," Ryan said. "It's certainly up there though. Their front-seven is playing extremely well and they add Kwon Alexander at the linebacker position the last couple of weeks who we know from being in the division, he's incredibly athletic. I think they're playing great right now; I think they're doing a good job of being disruptive right now on first down, knocking people off schedule. I think we have to do a good job of being efficient on first down."