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Falcons’ Ryan handles blitzing pressure well


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Falcons’ Ryan handles blitzing pressure well

By D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Flowery Branch — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is proving that he’s a pretty cool customer when facing a blitz.

Ryan had just one real shaky — rookie-like — performance. That game came in Week Two against Tampa Bay.

He was sacked twice against Philadelphia and did have two interceptions in the Eagles’ bizarre blitzing packages in Week Eight.

Since those games, Ryan has clearly learned what to do when passing the ball under NFL pressure.

“I think it’s the process that he’s been going through and learning about the league and how people are going to try to attack them,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. “I think he’s done a very good job in the blitz situations.”

Through 12 games, teams might want to reconsider blitzing the Ryan.

He has been blitzed 91 times this season and has completed 56 passes (61.5 percent) for 729 yards, three touchdowns, according to Stats Pass. He has thrown three interceptions and been sacked twice. His passer rating while under blitzes is 84.0.

He’s completing 61 percent passes overall (203 of 333) so he’s actually a .500 better (percentage-wise) when he’s blitzed.

“I think you’ve got to understand protections first and foremost,” Ryan said. “You have to understand if the ball needs to come out or if you’re going to be protected.”

Veteran center Todd McClure makes the protection calls up front that help Ryan.

“Once he knows who we have picked up he can feel comfortable that those guys are going to be picked up,” McClure said. “He just has to look for the unblocked guys and know where his hot (routes) are.”

Ryan also has to trust that his backs and/or tight ends will pick up blitzers when they are in pass protection.

“You’ve got to understand that you’ve got some time,” Ryan said. “When you’ve got guys in protection, you have to trust them. Our guys are going to make the block and execute the protection scheme. Our guys have done a great job of that all year.”

On the Falcons second play from scrimmage last week, San Diego blitzed Ryan. Running back Michael Turner picked up his blitzer and Ryan stood tall in the pocket and completed a 19-yard pass to Roddy White.

On two other blitzes, Ryan was able to throw passes away for harmless incompletions.

San Diego presented special problems because they run a 3-4 defensive scheme. Teams can blitz from an assortment of areas in that alignment.

“After having played them, we’ve seen about everything you’re going to see,” Ryan said. “It’s about recognition at this point. You’ve got to recognize things as fast as you can.”

After the Falcons offensive line gave up 47 sacks last season, they knew protecting Ryan would be a major goal. Ryan has been sacked just 13 times this season.

“You have to go into the game, thinking as a defensive coach what is going to give you the best opportunity to win,” Smith said. “Some people have really come after our quarterback and others have played coverage.”

When teams do blitz Ryan, he has to know where his open receivers are or where he has man-to-man coverage.

“If there are less guys in underneath coverage or there are less guys in deep coverage when teams blitz,” Ryan said. “There are avenues to throw the football.”

McClure has noticed that teams have stopped blitzing as much against the Falcons.

“We saw that earlier when teams tried to come after him,” McClure said. “Then they realized that they were going to pay for when it did happen. So you haven’t seen it as much.”

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This goes back to college. Teams that blitzed Ryan at BC, like Tenuta's GTEch team, got absolutely torched. Ryan wouldn't admit it, but he loves getting blitzed because he's always ahead of the defense.

The way to beat Ryan is to use his aggressiveness against him in coverage schemes. That doesn't really work, either, but Ryan WILL take chances so it's a better bet than getting picked apart.

With another year under his belt, defensive coordinators won't know what to do with him. It's like playing poker with a guy who already knows your hand.

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McClure has noticed that teams have stopped blitzing as much against the Falcons.

“We saw that earlier when teams tried to come after him,” McClure said. “Then they realized that they were going to pay for when it did happen. So you haven’t seen it as much.”

Impressive stuff considering we have a QB with only 12 games under his belt

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