QB Corner: Ryan trying to take Falcons to sixth playoff trip during his tenure

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t have to spell things out for the fans, but his message was the same: R-E-L-A-X.

With a sixth career playoff berth on the line for Ryan, the Falcons (9-6) just need to kick back and play some ball against Carolina (11-4) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“A lot of hard work has gone into getting us into this position,” Ryan said Wednesday. “Now, it’s about relaxing, having fun and being detailed with our work.”

A victory over the Panthers would secure the sixth seed for the NFC playoffs.

Ryan guided the Falcons to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons. He took them to NFC Championship game after the 2012 season.

After a three-year hiatus, the Falcons returned to the playoffs last season and made it to Super Bowl LI as the NFC champions.

This season, the Falcons raced to a 3-0 start, but then lost three consecutive. They were 4-4 at the halfway point before winning three in a row and five of seven.

“We are not worried too much about what has happened before up until this point, but this week, there is a real emphasis and focus on relaxing, going out there and when we get our chances, making the plays that we are capable of making,” Ryan said.

The Falcons went into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed last season.

“We’ve put ourselves into a position where we have an opportunity to play our way in,” Ryan said. “At the beginning of the year, that what you always want is to be in the mix. We are excited about that.”

The Panthers defeated the Falcons 20-17 on Nov. 5 in Charlotte. Ryan had a bad interception that led to a field goal, and wide receiver Julio Jones dropped an apparent touchdown in the end zone in the one-score loss.

“We have to win one game,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to worry about the opponent that we are going against and have the best week of preparation that we can. Not trying to do anything out of the ordinary. Do what we do, the best that we can do it. That’s usually the best recipe for success.”

The Falcons’ offense is not producing at the same rate as last season, when the Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons scored 33.8 points per game.

This season, the Falcons are averaging 22.1 points per game, which ranks 15th in the league.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes the Falcons are still dangerous. He contends that they are getting everyone’s best shot as defending NFC champions.

“I think, we’ve certainly played some good football teams this year, throughout the year,” Ryan said. “We’ve had a lot of games against playoff teams. I think that’s made us tougher. We certainly haven’t played our best at all times. But at certain times we have.

“I think it comes down to us going out there and making plays.”

Ryan knows the Falcons had some opportunities to win the previous matchup with the Panthers.

“We had some chances the last time that we played them up there, but that’s the way it’s always going to be in these division games,” Ryan said. “They are going to be tight and it comes down to a handful of plays throughout the game and who’s going to make them.”

Ryan senses that the teams is aware of its playoff plight.

“We must have the focus out here at practice like we did (Wednesday) and execute at a high clip,” Ryan said. “Making sure that we are top of all of the details that we’ve got to be on top of. Then just going in and playing the way that we are capable of.”

The Falcons want to eliminate some of the mistakes -- turnovers and penalties -- that have marred some of their offensive efforts this season.

“There have certainly been some opportunities through the season that we haven’t connected on and some that we have or something has gotten us off schedule, whether it is a penalty or whatever it may be, a turnover,” Ryan said. “We’ve had some things that have set us back.

“All of that, doesn’t mean much this week. We are in the position that we’re in, we believe and know that we’re capable of playing our best football. Now, we just have to go out and do it.”