As a native of Exton, Penn., Matt Ryan grew up cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sunday's contest will be his fourth trip to Lincoln Financial Field as an NFL quarterback, and while it won't feel like his rookie debut in The City of Brotherly Love, the three-time Pro Bowler is excited to play near his hometown.
"It's not as crazy as the first time, but we'll be ready to go," Ryan said. "It'll be nice to have some family and friends up there. But once we start playing, it'll be like any other week. You just get into it; you try to play your best."
Ryan is 1-2 at The Linc, but his last matchup there, in 2012, was one of the most efficient performances of his career. On that day, he completed 22 of 29 throws for 262 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, leading the Falcons to a 30-17 win and 7-0 record.
It wouldn't be surprising if the Falcons put up 30 points again this week. After all, they've already reached that plateau six times in 2016 and are averaging a league-high 33.9 points per game. Ryan, who is No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns, has been the driving force behind that success.
"There's ups and downs as you go through your career. For me, yeah, it's nice," he said. "Obviously, very nice to receive accolades or awards or whatever. But the good part is, when you do that, that means you're playing well, and your team's playing well, and at the end of the day, that's what's important. So nine games into it, I'm happy with where we're at. I think we can still improve a lot and can get a lot better. But we've done some good things so far."
As a kid, Ryan admired Philly stars such as Donovan McNabb, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Allen Iverson, and now an NFL vet, he has admirers of his own in the NFL — including the franchise quarterback of his childhood team, Carson Wentz. As the rookie signal-caller told the Atlanta media on Wednesday, he has been "a fan of (Ryan's) game for a while."
"It's nice. It's still kind of funny, because I don't feel that — I don't feel that way at all," Ryan said about being viewed in that light by a fellow pro. "I still feel like I'm learning so much and still look up to so many other guys and how they approach it. But it is nice. It speaks to longevity, and I've been able to do it for almost nine years now. So that's pretty cool. It's nice for him to say that."