As intimidating a foe as the Seahawks might be, the Falcons’ biggest challenge this week will be playing against their own history.
They’ve rolled up big win totals in the regular season (56 the last five seasons, only the Patriots with 60 have more), but haven’t won a playoff game since Matt Ryan joined the team in 2008. And that reality has hung over the team like a cloud all year.
But if there’s pressure on Ryan, it’s not showing.
“He’s doing an excellent job,” wide receiver Roddy White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “He’s been mentally prepared throughout the whole season for this stretch run. He knows that we have to win a playoff game.
“Everybody kind of knows that. Not to put any extra pressure on him, but I just think that at this point in the season, everybody knows that they have to play their best football right now.”
Ryan’s put up the best regular season stats of his career, but that won’t matter to many until he delivers in the postseason. In three playoff losses, he has yet to throw for 200 yards in any of them, or post a passer rating better than 72.8.
“You learn from those four or five plays that changed the outcome of those games,” Ryan said. “The intensity is probably a little bit [greater]. The quicker that you can settle yourself down and start trying to execute, the better.”
White has been around Ryan since his first day on the job, and can see a difference over time that he believes will make a difference on the field.
“With the team that we have now, and all of the guys that have been around each other, with him leading us a group, and knowing that everybody is on the same page, it’s going to be a different outcome,” White said.
Because of the playoff failures, Ryan might be one of the most overlooked great players in the league. And to be fair, his 0-for-postseason track mirrors perfectly another guy who used to put up big fantasy football numbers in the regular season, a guy named Peyton Manning (who still carries a sub-.500 playoff record, 9-10).
But until he does as Manning did in his fourth postseason, and wins a game, none of the stats or comparisons are going to matter. And spoken or unspoken, they know that.