Thursday October 8th, 2015 12:20PM

Falcons' Ryan: Still confident after interceptions

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hopes he never has to endure another five-interception game.

It might sound too simple, but Ryan considers last week's narrow victory over Arizona as a learning experience that could have ended much worse.

"I've got good players around me - that's the biggest part," Ryan said on Wednesday. "I thought our defense played awesome last week. They kept us in it, and that's what it's all about. It's about winning games, but as a quarterback you need to do your part, too."

Despite his career-high five picks, Ryan still helped the Falcons (9-1) squeak past the Cardinals to maintain a three-game lead over second-place Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

It wasn't easy to watch on film, particularly considering how many times Arizona tipped his passes and how often he threw to the wrong spot. Leaky protections hardly gave him much time to set his feet against blitzes up the middle.

"I've just got to find better passing lanes, and that's on me," Ryan said. "I've done a good job of that in the past. I just didn't do a good job of that last week."

Tampa Bay (6-4) has won four straight and five of its last six games, a streak that Ryan credits to the Bucs' ability to stuff the run and make an offense one-dimensional.

When the Falcons visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, their ground attack must overcome its ugly tendency to stall early in games and break down repeatedly in short-yardage and red-zone situations.

Against Arizona, Michael Turner's longest run was 10 yards, and Jacquizz Rodgers' longest was six. If the Falcons can reverse that trend this week, they must do so against the NFL's No. 1 run defense.

Atlanta averaged a paltry 2.6 yards per carry over the last two weeks in a loss at New Orleans, which has the league's worst run defense, and in a home win over Arizona, which ranks 21st.

Tampa Bay has two rookies, linebacker Lavonte David and strong safety Mark Barron, playing at a high level for a defense that leads the league with 87 negative plays, 59 negative runs and ranks sixth with 20 takeaways.

Falcons coach Mike Smith dismisses the poor numbers put up by the Bucs' pass defense - they rank last in the league - because opponents have been trailing Tampa Bay recently and have had to pass to try and catch up.

"They've been a very aggressive team in terms of stopping the run, and they're scoring a lot of points," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "The other thing shows up is that they're very good in the turnover ratio, but when they do create those turnovers, the offense is turning them into points. They're No. 1 in the league in terms of scoring touchdowns off turnovers."

One reason the Bucs are tough up front: Their ends, Michael Bennett and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, and tackles, Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller, are adept at confusing an offensive line just before the snap. They disguise looks by shifting to a different front after an opponent's center makes pass protection and run-blocking calls.

"It's our job to anticipate the shift and to know your job before the shift happens so you don't get stuck in no-man's land and not be sure if you're supposed to go left or right," Falcons right tackle Tyson Clabo said. "That's just part of our preparation this week and what we're going to have to overcome. On the road, it can be difficult to communicate."

After Ryan's poor performance last week, the fifth-year veteran became the first NFL quarterback to throw five interceptions and no touchdowns in a victory since Green Bay's Bart Starr in 1967.

"If any quarterback has the right mentality for that, it's Matt," Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "His experience and the fact that it was very unusual. There were some unusual bounces. You've got to have a short memory. It's like the corner who gives up a touchdown."

Smith credits Ryan's balanced approach - he doesn't get too fired up when the Falcons do something well and doesn't get too down when they struggle - with helping him stay focused.

"If it's a good play, you put it in the compartment and you move on to the next one," Smith said. "If it's a bad play, it's the same thing. I think it just speaks volumes to be able to put things behind him and be very resilient. I think we've shown that as a football team a number of times this year."

Ryan just wants to avoid making mistakes.

"You have to learn from things, but you have to be able to put them behind you, in the right way, and not let them take away as you move forward," he said. "I think that I myself have done a good job of that, and I think our team has, too.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Williams, Horford pace Hawks past Indiana
Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and the Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight, 109-100 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
10:19PM ( 2 years ago )
Gwinnett wallops Greenville, 6-2
Five different Gladiators racked up multiple points, as Gwinnett dominated the Greenville Road Warriors 6-2 Saturday night at the BI-LO Center to move into a tie atop the South Division with Greenville.
10:05PM ( 2 years ago )
Teague leads Hawks past Cavaliers, 102-94
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 27 points and the Atlanta Hawks scored the game's final nine points to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 on Friday night.
10:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
Surprising Tigers looking to take early lead in 7-AAA
Sid Maxwell admitted he wasn’t sure what he was getting into when he decided to take the Dawson County job back in the spring.
5:02PM ( 4 hours from now )
Falcons downplay White's complaints about lack of passes
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White skipped practice Wednesday for an undisclosed personal matter, while the team addressed concerns that he's not happy with a diminished role in the offense.
By The Associated Press
8:42AM ( 3 hours ago )
VIDEO: Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith tame the 'Monster Mile'
If there's one thing the NASCAR world should know by now, it's that Kevin Harvick is hard to beat when he's in a must win situation.
8:00AM ( 4 hours ago )
Tennessee dismisses WR Pig Howard ahead of facing UGA
Tennessee wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard has been dismissed from the team for a violation of unspecified team rules.
By The Associated Press
5:48AM ( 6 hours ago )
Cross country: Johnson boys, North Hall girls claim Hall County titles
Johnson’s boys took first place individually and as a team, while North Hall’s girls did the same on Wednesday at the Hall County Cross County Championships at Chestatee High in Gainesville.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:12AM ( 12 hours ago )