Matt Ryan spoke to the media on Wednesday about the current state of the Falcons, his recent performances against Arizona, the Thanksgiving holiday, and more.
Arizona has been Matt Ryan's kryptonite in these teams' last two meetings. Ryan's nine interceptions over the course of the last two games against the Cardinals was mentioned, and Ryan's good humor was on display. "I appreciate you bringing that back up," Ryan said, laughing. Ryan did acknowledge that he hasn't played his best games against Arizona, but that there's a lot the team can gain from those experiences. "There's a lot to learn against this defense--they've played very well against us the last couple of years," Ryan said.
But despite throwing five picks against the Cardinals in 2012, the Falcons came away with a win. "We're 1-1 in the last two years and I think that probably the biggest thing-you have to be patient. You have to understand that they're going to make some plays. They're going to get you off schedule at certain times, but you've got to continue to take what's there," Ryan said, "and I've got to do a better job than I've done the previous two times against them."
Ryan had a lot of praise for Arizona's defense. "They are obviously, as a football team, they've got the best record in the NFL. They're playing with a lot of confidence, playing at a high level. Defensively, they're really good at all three levels," Ryan said. Arizona has a formidable front seven, and Ryan is well aware. "The defensive line is rock solid-very talented. The linebacker corps has two guys that are in playing now that are playing really well. Larry Foote is a guy who has played a long time with the Steelers and it's a very similar system," Ryan said.
The Cardinals' defensive backs provide solid coverage that helps allow the front seven to do their jobs, so they're also a big factor. "There's just a lot of talent in the secondary. Two corners that have played at a high level their entire careers, and a safety coming back in, in Tyrann Mathieu, that is opportunistic and has great ball skills," Ryan said.
When asked how Arizona's defense is so good despite losing some key guys to injury, Ryan said, "They've done a great job of playing to their system and regardless of who's been in there, because that's one of the things-I mean, you're right, they're missing some of the guys that have been really productive for them in the past, but the guys that have filled in have played well within the scheme. And they put pressure on you with the scheme."
Ryan also said that the offensive line will need to be at their best on Sunday, because the Cardinals will bring pressure. "They give you a lot of different looks week to week in that front seven-make sure that your communication from the run game and pass protection standpoint have to be on point because they give you so many different looks and so many different pressures," Ryan said, "and I think that allows their guys in the back end to play confident and be opportunistic, because they trust those guys up front to get pressure."
As far as the state of the Falcons, the team is certainly aware of their current position in the division, but their primary focus is getting a win on Sunday. "You can't help but understand where you're at. Moving forward, we've got everything we want right in front of us. Obviously we can't change the previous eleven games and what we've done up until this point. I just hope we can control what we do moving forward," Ryan said. "We need to play the football that we're capable of playing across the board for four quarters, and if we do that, I still like the football team and the locker room that we have. I still think we can get it done."
Ryan also said that the adversity the team has faced so far this season has strengthened the team. "I think it's a tight-knit group. I think you learn a lot about people and what they're all about when you go through some tough times, and I think our guys have continued to battle, have continued to prepare the way that you need to work every week, and that only gives you a chance," Ryan said. "It doesn't guarantee you anything on Sunday, but if you don't do it, it guarantees that you won't play well. And I think our guys have bought into the idea that preparation is key, and we need to continue to do that moving forward and then when we get our chances on Sunday to make plays, we've got to make plays."
As far as that whole 1-0 thing, the team didn't scrap it after Sunday's loss to the Browns. "It hasn't changed," Ryan said. "The objective is the same this week. It's to somehow, some way find a way to get a win on Sunday. And I think guys continue to buy into that."
Ryan also wasn't too concerned about the fact that the entire NFC South is struggling this season. "It doesn't matter. It is what it is at this point," Ryan said. "Each year, the league shakes out differently, and our division in the past has been as tough as there is, and this year the records are what they are. But we can't worry about all that. We've got our focus on trying to play our best on Sunday, trying to get a win and trying to stay in the driver's seat in our division."
You might be wondering how Matt Ryan celebrates Thanksgiving. Thursday is a really important day in the flow of game preparation, so Ryan and his teammates will be on the practice fields early in the day. "It's quiet at the Ryan household this year. We've had family in for games this past weekend and they're coming in this weekend, so the actual Thanksgiving Day will be quiet around the Ryan household," Ryan said. "We've got some work to do, but I'll enjoy it with my wife."
Much like the rest of us, Ryan's looking forward to Thursday's NFL games. "I'll click on the games when I get a chance and sit on the couch and relax a little bit and watch them," Ryan said. "There are some good slates for Thursday, so I'll watch just like everybody else."
What is Matt Ryan thankful for this holiday season? Well, fans, he's thankful for you. "Happy Thanksgiving to everybody-all the Falcons fans out there, we appreciate and we're thankful for you guys and the support that you give us all year," Ryan said. "So enjoy your holiday, be safe, and enjoy spending time with your family."