1. QUINN’S PLAN FOR SUCCESS: The fact that Falcons coach Dan Quinn has been to two Super Bowls as Seattle’s defensive coordinator helps his message in the locker room.
“I think that talk of keeping it normal, keeping the routine normal and based on what we’ve done up until this point, I think that’s really true,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said on his radio show on 680 the Fan. “Dan talks all the time about the way that we prepare, the way that we practice, the way that we compete, makes everything seem real normal when we get in the games. I think that’s true. I think guys have done that.
“I think the approach and knowing that Dan knows how to get it done, he’s been there and has gone through that process before makes a difference. He understands what it takes, guys believe in that and trust in his process.”
2. RYAN PLAYOFF RECORD: Ryan doesn’t feel there’s any added playoff pressure on him after a three-year hiatus.
The NFC South champion Falcons (11-5) will face the highest seed to advance from the NFC wild-card round at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Georgia Dome.
Ryan, who was drafted in 2008, took Falcons to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons in the league. The team has missed the playoffs for the past three seasons before earning the No. 2 seed this season.
Ryan has a 1-4 record in the playoffs as the Falcons were knocked out each time by the team that went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Green Bay and the New York Giants went on to win Super Bowl titles, while Arizona and San Francisco lost in the Super Bowl.
“I don’t think so,” Ryan said when asked about any added pressure on his show on 680 The Fan on Tuesday. “We’ve won in the playoffs before. I don’t really worry about that too much. For me, it’s about how do we get the one win next week, whoever it’s going to be against. I think putting any more pressure on yourself, other than that, is a waste of time.”
3. A QUICK LOOK BACK: The Falcons reached the NFC championship game after the 2012 season. Ryan and the slightly-favored Falcons were knocked out of the wild-card round after the 2008 season by Arizona.
After missing the playoffs in 2009, the Falcons were the No. 1 seed after the 2010 season, but were upset by Green Bay 48-21 at the Georgia Dome. Green Bay went on to beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
After the 2011 season, the Giants called out the Falcons offensive linemen as “dirt bags” and then led them to a 24-2 win as they shut down Ryan and the offense. The Giants went on to beat New England in the Super Bowl.
After the 2012 season, the Falcons defeated Seattle in the divisional round after blowing a 10-point lead. In the championship game, the Falcons’ blew a 17-point lead and lost to the 49ers, 28-24.
“I think that’s one of the things that I’ve learned,” Ryan said. “All of the extra-curricular pressure, the outside noise that people talk about, doesn’t make a difference. What makes a difference is how well we play. In order to play well, we need to practice well.”
4. DOME PATH: Ryan noted that the Falcons could win the Super Bowl without playing a down outdoors.
“I think any quarterback would be lying to you if they said they didn’t like playing a dome where you are going to have good conditions to throw the ball, Ryan said. “I think that’s a good thing for us. We are ready to play where ever, but obviously, playing indoors as a quarterback is always pretty nice.”
5. SHULA COACH OF THE YEAR NOMINEE: Tucker High School coach Bryan Lamar is the Atlanta Falcons nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.
|2016 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Nominees|
|NOMINATING TEAM||SCHOOL NAME||COACH|
|Arizona Cardinals||Perry High School||Preston Jones|
|Atlanta Falcons||Tucker High School||Bryan Lamar|
|Baltimore Ravens||Walkersville High School||Joe Polce|
|Buffalo Bills||Dunkirk High School||Mike Sarratori|
|Carolina Panthers||Hilton Head School||Russel ‘BJ’ Payne|
|Chicago Bears||Peoria High School||Tim Thorton|
|Cincinnati Bengals||St. Xavier High School||Steve Specht|
|Cleveland Browns||Lorain High School||Dave McFarland|
|Dallas Cowboys||Highland Park High School||Randy Allen|
|Denver Broncos||Strasburg High School||Jeff Giger|
|Detroit Lions||Benton Harbor High School||Elliot Uzelac|
|Green Bay Packers||Kimberly High School||Steve Jones|
|Houston Texans||Ebbert L. Furr High School||Matthew Valmore|
|Indianapolis Colts||Westfield High School||Jake Gilbert|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Ponte Vedra High School||Matthew Toblin|
|Kansas City Chiefs*||Grain Valley High School
Blue Valley High School
|Los Angeles Rams||Narbonne High School||Manuel Douglas|
|Miami Dolphins||Carol City High School||Aubrey Hill|
|Minnesota Vikings||Minneapolis North High School||Charles Adams|
|New England Patriots||Mills High School||Dana Olson|
|New Orleans Saints||Edna Karr High School||Brice Brown|
|New York Giants||Cardinal Hayes High School||CJ O’Neill|
|New York Jets||Curtis High School||Peter Gambardella|
|Oakland Raiders||California School for the Deaf||Warren Keller|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Perkiomen Valley High School||Rob Heist|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Thomas Jefferson High School||Bill Cherpak|
|San Diego Chargers||Madison High School||Rick Jackson|
|San Francisco 49ers||Saint Francis High School||Greg Calcagno|
|Seattle Seahawks||Tumwater High School||Sid Otton|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Petersburg High School||Joe Fabrizio|
|Tennessee Titans||Whitehaven High School||Rodney Saulsberry|
|Washington Redskins||Quantico Middle/High School||Paul Roy|
*Indicates team has more than one nominee
6. THE SHANAHAN WATCH: Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is set to interview with with four teams, according to multiple reports. The best fits appear to be in Denver or Los Angeles. Former Falcons head coach Mike Smith will likely emerge as the front-runner in Jacksonville and San Francisco is a total re-build. So, if Shanahan doesn’t get Denver or Los Angeles, he could return to the Falcons and wait until a better opportunity comes open next season.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn knows this process well and how to manage it. Shanahan will go do his interviews in Atlanta and return to work on Monday to get ready for the divisional playoff round game.
“I’m not worried about that one bit,” Quinn said. “Any preparation that you do, that was a discussion we’ve had well before this week. Anything that was done would have been done well before our season started.”
If Shanahan leaves, the Falcons will likely go outside the franchise for his replacement.
7. REVIEW OF SEATTLE GAME: The Seahawks defeated the Falcons 26-24 on Oct. 16 in Seattle.
The Falcons could not close the deal.
Holding precariously to a one-point lead, the Falcons had a costly turnover in the final minutes that set up Seattle’s game-winning field goal in a hard-fought, 26-24 loss before 69,071 boisterous fans at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
The Seahawks improved to 4-1, and the Falcons dropped to 4-2.
8. REVIEW OF GREEN BAY GAME: The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32 on Oct. 30.
Matty Ice is back.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who’d uncharacteristically tossed two late-game interceptions in two previous losses, returned to old game-winning form.
Ryan tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left to lift the Falcons to a 33-32 victory over the Green Bay Packers before 70,165 jubilant fans on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
9. DEPTH CHART: Here’s the Falcons’ depth chart entering the playoffs.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 16 Justin Hardy, 15 Nick Williams, 14 Eric Weems
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 76 Tom Compton
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 63 Ben Garland
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 65 Chris Chester, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Tom Compton
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 19 Aldrick Robinson
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward
FB 42 Patrick DiMarco
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 93 Dwight Freeney
DT 95 Jonathan Babineaux
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw
DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman
LB 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 41 Philip Wheeler
LB 45 Deion Jones, 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 LaRoy Reynolds
LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 52 Josh Keyes
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 38 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 32 Jalen Collins, 34 Brian Poole, 30 Deji Olatoye
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman
S 22 Keanu Neal, 38 Dashon Goldson
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Eric Weems, 16 Justin Hardy
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher
The Falcons secured a first-round playoff bye after defeating the Saints 38-32 on Sunday. The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.
GAME 16: Falcons 38, Saints 32
GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16
GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13
GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24