Quinn chats with Ryan about Falcons QB's playoff record

Matt Ryan and the Falcons finished. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Matt Ryan and the Falcons finished. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Matt Ryan obviously is not solely responsible for the success or failure of the Falcons. But he’s the quarterback, the most-scrutinized (and highest-paid) player on the roster, and looming in the background of Ryan’s MVP-caliber season is his 1-4 mark in the postseason.

It doesn’t matter if it’s appropriate or fair to attach a record to any quarterback's name. Never mind that Ryan has never really been able to lean on a great defense. Forget those shaky offensive lines he's sometimes had to work behind.

The quarterback takes the heat. That's just the way it is. And if the Falcons have another one-and-done playoff appearance, that postseason stigma will stick to Ryan and overshadow whatever he does until he takes them to the Super Bowl.

Ryan and the Falcons play the Seahawks on Saturday in their first playoff game since the 2012 season. Coach Dan Quinn wasn’t with the Falcons back then, but he said he decided to bring the topic of Ryan's playoffs record out of the shadows and address it directly with his quarterback

“You can’t truly be relentless until you have been right close to it and you didn’t get it,” Quinn said. “From my experience, you learn so much from a loss. What I can tell you is Matt is a far different quarterback today than he was a few years ago.”

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Last week Ryan was named to the Associated Press All-Pro team for the first time in his nine-year career. This season he completed 69.9 percent of his passes for a franchise-record 4,944 yards, with 38 TDs and seven interceptions. The Falcons set a franchise record for points and earned the NFC’s No. 2 seed with Ryan at the controls.

Those are reasons why Ryan is among the top candidates for the league MVP award.

“I’m playing better than I ever have,” Ryan said.

That's true. Yet Ryan's season would be diminished by another one-and-done playoff appearance for the Falcons.

The Falcons lost their opening playoff games in 2008, 2010 and 2011. In those games Ryan completed 63.6 percent of his passes for an average of 194.6 yards with three TDs and four interceptions. The Falcons’ offense famously didn’t score a point in a loss at the Giants in the 2011 playoffs.

Before rallying the Falcons to victory against the Seahawks in the 2012 playoffs, Ryan threw a pick that set up Seattle with good field position to score a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter. Against the 49ers the next week, Ryan moved the Falcons 70 yards to San Francisco’s 10-yard line before three straight incomplete passes ended the threat.

Ryan said his playoff record is part of what he calls the “noise” surrounding the Falcons and that he’s figured out how to block it out.

“I don’t worry about it too much,” Ryan said. “One thing I’ve learned throughout my career is if you spend time worrying about that you are not spending time worrying about the things that are going to make a difference on (game day). So I focus on getting myself prepared mentally and physically, making sure I’m on top of the plan and making sure that I am ready to go play the best I can on Saturday.”

Now Ryan finally gets another chance to change the narrative that he's not a good postseason quarterback. Quinn said he told his QB to focus on that opportunity.

“It’s all about now,” Quinn said. “Things that are from a while back ago, you definitely learn from it. You take those lessons and now you apply them and you are better for it. You get harder, you get tougher, you get more resilient from going through some of those difficult times. I know in his case, he’s learned from them, just like I have.”