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Thursday November 23rd, 2017 8:12AM

Cool Ryan has Falcons' offense set for test against Panthers

By The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH (AP) — If ever there was a setting for a Matty Ice meltdown, it was in last week's game at the Jets.

Four fumbled snaps on a miserably wet field would test any quarterback's composure, and even the usually cool Matt Ryan had to vent.

The outbursts were sharp, but brief, according to Falcons coach Dan Quinn.

"We got to do the expletives first," Quinn said on Wednesday, adding with a smile "That part of the temper comes out, for sure, much like mine does."

Then it was back to business for Ryan. There could be no prolonged tantrum in front of his teammates.

"If there was, I didn't see it," said tight end Austin Hooper. "Matt remained Matt the whole time. That's why he is who he is."

Led by Ryan's two touchdown passes, the Falcons snapped their three-game losing streak with the 25-20 win over the Jets. The Falcons are looking to continue their recovery in Sunday's NFC South game at Carolina.

Ryan's leadership helped the Falcons (4-3) revive their season. He said maintaining poise "is part of playing this position."

"There's going to be times in games where you make some big plays and there's going to be some times where you make some mistakes," he said after Wednesday's practice. "Part of being a leader is to just keep instilling confidence in the people around you that you're going to go out there and we're going to make plays as a unit and that's what I've always tried to do."

Quinn said Ryan quickly turned his focus to "how are we going to fix the issue?"

"That's one of the reasons I respect him so much," Quinn said. "When the adversity is there, he's ready to answer the challenge. ... These are the adversities, let's go deal with it."

There have been other struggles for Ryan and the Atlanta offense this season, but the Falcons' record through seven games is the same as in last year's Super Bowl season.

The Panthers will provide another test for an Atlanta offense which has seen a dramatic decline in scoring. The Falcons rank in the middle of the NFL with their 21.6 points per game, a drop of about 12 points from their league-leading average last season.

The Falcons were held below 20 points in their three straight losses before Ryan threw two scoring passes without an interception last week.

Carolina (5-3) ranks second in the NFL in total defense and fifth against the run. The Panthers lean heavily on their blitzes.

Atlanta's running game may not be at full strength. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta's leading rusher, was limited in Wednesday's practice with a shoulder and neck injury.

Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for 30 catches out of the backfield. Ryan may need to make quick passes to the running backs to offset the blitz.

"Our crew on the offensive side of the ball helps for sure," said Ryan when asked about Carolina's blitz. "We've got a lot of good players at different positions which puts stress on a defense. We're able to get the ball out quickly to some of those guys. We've got good playmakers in space and that's something defenses have to account for."

NOTES: LB Duke Riley (knee) was the only player held out of practice. In addition to Freeman, other players listed as limited: DT Grady Jarrett (ankle), LB Deion Jones (ankle), DE Takk McKinley (shoulder), CB Brian Poole (neck), DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle) and WR Taylor Gabriel (tooth).

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