Matt Ryan got the nickname Matty Ice for playing well under pressure.
It is starting to take on a different meaning in some corners, however. Matty Ice as in Matt Ryan goes ice cold in the playoffs and the Falcons lose their opening game of the postseason. It has happened three times in Ryan’s first four seasons, a losing streak that has kept the Falcons from taking the next step in the progression that started when Mike Smith brought the franchise the first back-to-back winning seasons in its history.
Ryan hasn’t been the only culprit in the losses, but, as the quarterback, he’s at the top of the list. He told Ashley Fox of ESPN.com what he learned from the humiliating 24-2 loss to the Giants in January that saw Ryan average under five yards per pass play.
“The thing I learned from that game is you have to finish,” Ryan told me. “You have to finish drives. You have to finish series and quarters and games. That specific game, the third-down opportunities on the plus side of the 50 and the two four-down situations in the red zone, we didn’t convert. Those kinds of plays we have to convert.”
In order to get better at finishing, Ryan has spent a little more time on physical fitness this offseason in hopes of keeping him fresher when the postseason rolls around. He’s also picked the brain of new teammate Asante Samuel, who played Ryan four times in Philly, to find out a defender’s opinion on his weak spots as a quarterback. Finally, Ryan’s been watching tape of the likes of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers to pick up other things that might help him on the field.
The biggest thing Ryan and the Falcons could learn from those quarterbacks is consistency. That was the biggest problem in 2011 as the Falcons did well against lesser teams and consistently stubbed their toes against playoff-caliber opposition. The loss to the Giants was one-sided, but it wasn’t all that surprising given the evidence the Falcons provided during the regular season.
Until the Falcons and Ryan find a way to keep their game at the highest level week in and week out, they’ll keep answering questions about early flameouts.