FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Matt Ryan is in uncharted territory.
In 74 previous NFL games, he had never thrown more than three interceptions, and that happened only twice.
So, rebounding from his five-interception game against Arizona on Sunday will be a first-time NFL experience for the fifth-year quarterback.
“You can't worry about it,” Ryan said. “Part of playing this position in this league is knowing that there will be times when you make mistakes and fall flat on your face. You just have to get up and keep playing and keep throwing.”
As the Falcons (9-1) have transitioned to a pass-first offense, Ryan doesn't appear to have a viable alternative to slinging passes around the field when the Falcons face upstart Tampa Bay (5-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
“We've got to move on,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “We know that Matt is going to bounce back from that. He just has to forget about it and move on to the next one.” But, Ryan will have to be more selective and try not to get so many of his passes tipped.
“The batted balls, there were some poor decisions, there were balls going off of receivers hands,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It was just one of those games where the ball wasn't going to bounce our way, and it didn't bounce our way. We were able to overcome that.” With the interceptions, Ryan finished with the second-lowest passer rating (40.5) of his career. His passer rating dropped from 102.6 to 94.8 after the Arizona game.
In a way, the performance was impressive.
“They still found a way to beat Arizona,” said former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, a SiriusXM NFL Radio analyst. “They came back. The one thing you know about Matt Ryan is he always finds a way to come back. That's something, if you're Atlanta, you can hang your hat on.” Ryan's first pass of the game was intercepted when wide receiver Roddy White bobbled a pass that was slightly behind him. On Ryan's third interception, his arm was hit, and a pass intended for Tony Gonzalez sailed into the arms of Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes.
On the fourth, linebacker Daryl Washington undercut White's route and made a play. The Washington interception was the one that Ryan was most furious about.
The fifth interception came when Ryan's pass bounced high into the air off of Arizona tackle Dan Williams' helmet.
Ryan just tried to battle through the tough day.
While Ryan nearly blew a gasket after the fourth interception, several players maintained that he remained composed.
“There are a lot of hats you wear as quarterback,” Ryan said. “Part of it is player, and part of it is keeping everybody on the same page and being relaxed.” The win went against several long-standing notions about turnovers and losing. Smith had the research staff up late trying to figure out how the Falcons won with so many turnovers.
“You can't turn the ball over six times (the Falcons also had a fumble) in a football game and win,” Smith said. “Statistically, the chances of that happening are two or three percent. In fact, since 2003 there's been 61 games (with a) five-or-more turnover advantage to one team, and only two times did the team win that was on the wrong side of that ratio” Ryan, who has a 2-2 record in games at Tampa Bay, doesn't want a repeat performance.
“I'm just glad that we still won,” Ryan said. “As a quarterback you don't ever want to have those kinds of games, but they happen. It's just about how you respond to that and what you keep doing.” Note: To help buttress the offensive line, the Falcons signed guard Harland Gunn off the New Orleans Saints' practice squad Tuesday. The team was concerned about their depth after center/guard Joe Hawley was suspended for four games by the league Monday.
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