That simplistic recap ignores lots of other problems the Falcons had in those losses. RB Michael Turner averaged 2.7 yards a carry in last year's 24-2 loss at the Giants. Two years ago, the defense looked helpless as Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers was 31 of 36 for 366 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-21, Packers win.
Still, with the top-seeded Falcons preparing to host Seattle on Sunday, the 27-year-old Ryan faces immense pressure to finally lead his team to a playoff win. If he doesn't, his franchise-record 4,719 passing yards and 32 TD passes this season won't mean much.
Ryan said he's learned “tons” from playoff losses following the 2008, 2010 and 2011 seasons.
“You learn a lot about your preparation going into them,” he said Wednesday. “For me, my preparation even during the regular season has been different this year than it has been the last four. I'll be consistent with what I've done this year this week.
"At the same time, I think you learn you have to be on top of opportunities that present (themselves) during the game. Each game comes down to four or five different plays, and it comes down to who makes those plays. Hopefully, we'll be able to go out there and make the plays when we need to.”
Ryan says he's not worried about public perception or expectations.
“I don't think about it,” he said. “My focus is for this locker room and for the guys and the coaching staff that we're all together. We want to play our best football. And really that's the only thing I'm worried about, trying to do whatever we can do to play our best football Sunday.”
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Ryan has thrived under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who gave Ryan more responsibility. Koetter's more aggressive approach let Ryan exploit an array of weapons including wideouts Roddy White (92 catches, 1,351 receiving yards) and Julio Jones (1,198 receiving yards, 10 TDs), tight end Tony Gonzalez (93 catches, eight TDs) and running back Jacquizz Rodgers (53 catches).
“Matt's going to do fine,” Koetter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Matt's going to play just like he played all year, there's no reason to think otherwise. Matt is one of the most prepared guys, if not the most prepared guy on our team. If you're prepared, and you do your homework and you go out there and play and you trust your players, there's no reason you wouldn't expect him to go out and play well.”
Archie Manning, father of two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, told USA Today that Ryan is getting stuck with unfair labels.
"Peyton went through it at Tennessee because they didn't beat Florida, and (Ryan is) going through it now with his playoff record," he said. "But this is not Tom vs. Peyton, or Aaron vs. Matt. It isn't tennis. It isn't golf. Ninety to 95 percent of the time, it's the best team wins, not the best quarterback. You get to the point of labeling people chokers or losers, and that's not fair. It's one of the worst things in sports."
The red-hot Seahawks bring the NFL's top overall defense (15.3 points) and sixth-ranked pass defense (203.1) into the Georgia Dome. But they just lost top pass rusher Chris Clemons to a torn ACL.
Ryan's teams are 56-22 in the regular season, the best record for a quarterback in his first five seasons. But again, no one will be talking about that if Atlanta loses Sunday.
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