Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have put their past playoff woes out of their minds as they head into New York this weekend to take on the Giants. Ryan is 0-2 in his two playoff appearances but hopes to change that this weekend.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan says he’s “a lot more mature” than in his first two NFL playoff appearances.
Ryan is bringing the best passing numbers of his career into the Falcons’ wild-card playoff game at the New York Giants on Sunday. He said Wednesday he’s also bringing his best focus and wouldn’t be deterred by outside distractions.
“I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned in my two appearances in the playoffs is to not let all the outside things that come along with it affect your preparation and affect your approach to playing on Sunday,” Ryan said. “I think I’m a lot better served. I’m a lot more mature than I was a couple years ago and even last year. I think that’s going to help out.”
Right on cue, Ryan was asked about comments from Giants defensive end Justin Tuck that were the hot topic in the Falcons’ locker room. Tuck, referring to the style of play of Atlanta’s offensive line, on Monday said “Most people, you would call them dirt bags.”
WHO: Falcons (10-6) at Giants (9-7).
WHAT: First round of NFL playoffs.
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday.
LINE: Giants by 3 points.
NFL PLAYOFF GLANCE/ODDS: Page 2B.
Asked about the comment, Ryan just grinned and said “That’s not something I worry about too much.”
Offensive tackle Will Svitek also laughed at Tuck’s comment but defended the unit’s cut-blocking as within the rules.
“There’s a way that we’re coached, and that’s playing hard, playing physical and playing to the whistle,” Svitek said. “We do what we do, and we don’t let what people say concern us.”
Ryan said he’s keeping his focus on his game. He’s entering the playoffs on a roll.
He has 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last four games. He set the Falcons’ record with 4,177 yards passing this season and set another personal high with his 29 touchdown passes.
Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who played with Ryan at Boston College, said the fourth-year quarterback is “fearless.”
“You can’t assume because you’re in tight coverage that he won’t try to squeeze the ball in there,” Kiwanuka said. “He’s a prototypical quarterback. He has the confidence and ability to get it in there. He is going to make our job tough.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning also set a team record, throwing for 4,933 yards. Manning threw 29 touchdown passes with 16 interceptions.
Manning, like Ryan, lost the first two playoff games of his career. Manning won the Super Bowl in his third chance after the 2007 season.
“I think when you compare them physically, they’re very similar in height and stature,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith. “I think you can see they have a very good understanding of the game. I think there are a lot of similarities to the two.”
The Falcons are making their third playoff appearance in four years.
“I think it helps,” Ryan said. “I think anytime you’ve been in the position before, the things you learn from it, they’re invaluable. I think we have a much more experienced football team coming in this year, and I think that bodes well for us.”
As a rookie in 2008, Ryan and the Falcons lost a first-round game at Arizona. The Falcons had a first-round bye last year before a blowout loss at home to Green Bay. Ryan threw two interceptions in each loss.
Ryan said his 0-2 playoff record is “not that much” of a burden.
He said talk of the past playoff games is another distraction he has learned to ignore.
“I think the past doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “We had opportunities, and we really didn’t take advantage of those. What matters is we put ourselves in this position again, and we have an opportunity to move forward.
“I don’t worry about it too much. I kind of just focus on trying to prepare and do well this week and doing everything we can to take advantage of the opportunity we have.”
Receiver Roddy White said Ryan isn’t the only Falcons player looking for a first playoff win.
“There are a lot of guys who didn’t win a playoff game until late in their career, but Matt’s been doing a good job of getting us there and getting us an opportunity,” White said. “I mean, we all want to win. That’s going to validate everyone in this locker room if we get a playoff win. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
Notes: Smith continued his practice of resting some of his veteran players on Wednesday. Players held out with injuries were WR Harry Douglas, groin; CB Brent Grimes, knee; safety William Moore, groin; LB Stephen Nicholas, toe; tight end Michael Palmer, knee; and LB Sean Weatherspoon, head. Smith said he expected Weatherspoon and most of the other injured players to practice today.