Bucs defensive back Ronde Barber believes the key to beating the Falcons will be getting off the field on third downs
On the NFC South being the most competitive, toughest conference:
"I guess you could make that argument. The end of the season will tell that out, and we'll see which teams make the playoffs and what not. I know that my feeling is that the two teams that I have to play in my division to get through and get to the postseason is the toughest we're going to play for the rest of the year. In my opinion, yes, but that's up for interpretation. The two teams I think nobody wants to play right now is Atlanta, and the defending Super Bowl champions (New Orleans). That is definitely the way I'm seeing it."
On slowing down the Falcons' offense:
"It's pretty easy. Not saying that it's easy to stop them, but I'm saying it's easy what you have to do to beat them. You have to get off on third down. They are dominating the league in first- and third-down conversions. I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day. He watched the Atlanta game last week and they basically controlled the clock the entire game with their seven-to-eight-minute drives, converting third downs. Whether they score or not, they are always pressing the ball down the field, changing field position and eating up your time. That's an efficient offense. You have to give a lot of credit to them. We have to find a way to get off on third down."
On the progression of Roddy White:
"I think when Roddy got Matt Ryan in there throwing the football, all of his past issues went away. I think a lot of people would have said he was unreliable back in the day. We knew he was talented back then. When he got somebody comfortable getting him the ball, he just exploded. He's been a great player for two or three years now and I don't think it's any coincidence that it's when Matt Ryan showed up and started feeding him the ball. He's a heck of player. He gets as much respect form us as any receiver we face. You put your best guy on him. That's why Aqib (Talib) follows him around the field. Hopefully, we can find a way to neutralize him."
On the growth of Matt Ryan:
"I wish this was the second game of his career. The guy is so efficient with the football. I remember making a comment when I first saw him that this was going to be one of the elite guys in the league. It hasn't taken long for that to really come to fruition. He's great with understanding with where he wants to put the football. It doesn't hurt that he has some great targets like Tony (Gonzalez), and Roddy (White) and (Michael Jenkins), but his maturation process is so accelerated. I hate to watch it because I have to play against him twice a year, but you have to be impressed with his understanding of the offense and what defenses are trying to do to him. Besides that, he's a great underneath thrower and he's tough to deal with."
On encouraging his team to contend for a playoff spot:
"My role has been the same that it's always been. I'm a leader by example. We don't have many rah-rah sessions or any guys that need to get up in front of this team, even though it's young, and explain to them what to do. We have a coach (Raheem Morris) that does that really doggone well. My role is really as a mentor, to guide guys through when there are issues. I'm not actively seeking out guys I need to pick here and there. There are times when I've had to do that, but for the most part they just look up to me and I've embraced that role. Whenever there is a problem, or a situation, or something they need to understand and they need somebody to go to, they know that that's me. I'm the only one with any kind of tenure around here and that's my role by default almost."
On the importance of the upcoming matchup:
"It's the most important game because it's our next game. Without question it's our rivalry in the South. Not only that, we're playing against the best team in the NFL. Their record says that, their play says that. If we're not geared up to play this game, we're not geared up to play anybody. This is the one that has to count for us. You get into December and you have to start peaking. If you can't peak against the best team in the NFL, then we have other issues to worry about other than getting to the playoffs. I don't think that will be a problem with us. I think we're all geared up. We had a tough loss last week against Baltimore and I think we're going to come out on Sunday pretty hungry and that's what we have to expect."