FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith likes to call quarterback Matt Ryan “one tough Irishman.”
Ryan sidesteps the praise, saying he’s “just another football player.”
But the quarterback is still playing at a high level despite absorbing more hits through seven games this year than he did in each September and October of his first three seasons.
Thankfully, he and the Falcons are coming off a bye week and the season’s first winning streak.
“Quarterbacks get a lot of notoriety,” Ryan said Wednesday. “People’s eyes are always on you, and they kind of see those things a little more so than other positions, but that’s par for the course in our locker room. We’ve got a lot of guys who, week in and week out, grind through a lot of different things and show up on the field. So I’m just trying to do like everybody else.”
When the Falcons (4-3) visit Indianapolis (0-8) on Sunday, Ryan hopes to stay upright for an entire game. He’s been sacked 18 times this season, a considerable departure from the steady protection he had in his first three seasons.
Ryan is getting sacked once every 15 passing attempts. From 2008-10, he was sacked once every 25.7 attempts.
In a victory two weeks ago at Detroit, the Falcons unintentionally inflicted some pain on their franchise star when left tackle Will Svitek stepped on Ryan’s right foot in the pocket. Ryan crumbled to the turf and lay writhing for a couple of minutes on his back before walking to the sideline under his own power.
He wasn’t clear if Ndamukong Suh or other Detroit defenders were making fun of his condition, as Falcons center Todd McClure said after the game, but Ryan doesn’t seem to care.
“I can only speak for what I heard, and when I was on the ground I was probably yelling some things that shouldn’t have been yelled, too, at myself,” Ryan said with a smile. “I didn’t really hear anything over the top of it, but you’ll have to ask the other guys.”
He missed only two snaps, jogging briskly onto the field in the next possession and converting a third-and-8 with a 49-yard pass over the middle to Harry Douglas. The drive ended with a field goal that gave the Falcons a 20-9 lead in the third quarter.
Smith loves Ryan’s resolve.
“It kind of sent a message,” Smith said. “Matt’s a tough guy, a very competitive guy. It says a lot about Matt, but it’s also a positive and a great reinforcement for the rest of the guys on the team.”