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Rookie Ryan says he'll learn from first NFL loss

POSTED: September 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan kneels on the field after getting hit by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the Falcons 24-9 loss Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

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FLOWERY BRANCH —  Matt Ryan didn’t need much time in the film room to assess his first NFL loss.

When he woke up Monday, the rookie quarterback’s body ached from the pounding he absorbed in Atlanta’s 24-9 loss at Tampa Bay.

Ryan, the NFL’s No. 3 overall draft pick, hit the ground several times in 33 pass attempts. The Buccaneers hit him 14 times in passing situations and defensive ends Gaines Adams and Greg White combined for 3.5 sacks.

Ryan also was tackled four times in rushing situations.

"That’s the way it goes," he said Monday. "It’s a big boys’ game. You have to go out there and play as hard as you possibly can. Everybody takes those kinds of shots whether it be a quarterback, a lineman, a linebacker. It doesn’t make a difference. You have to bounce up and you’ve got to keep playing."

Watching film of the defeat also reminded Ryan of the inconsistent decisions he made against a Tampa Bay defense that’s averaged the NFL’s fewest yards allowed since 2002.

He completed just 13 passes for 158 yards, two interceptions and a 29.6 rating. Despite leading the Falcons to the 20-yard line three times, Ryan managed no touchdown drives, and Atlanta finished 0-for-2 in goal-to-go efficiency.

"Monte Kiffin is a great defensive coordinator," Ryan said of the renowned 26th-year NFL assistant. "There’s no doubt about it. They put together some packages that worked really well, but it really comes down to execution. I’ve got to make better decisions down there and be a little quicker with the ball because things happen faster in the red zone and you have to get the ball into tighter spots."

A week after an impressive debut in the Falcons’ season-opening win over Detroit, Ryan threw two interceptions and seven incompletions before finally connecting with Roddy White for a nine-yard gain on the Falcons’ sixth possession.

Losing rookie Sam Baker didn’t help. The starting left tackle, whom Atlanta drafted late in the first round, never returned after suffering a concussion in the first half.

Falcons running back Michael Turner suffered a mild ankle sprain, an injury that contributed to Atlanta’s major drop-off in production on the ground. Tampa Bay gave up only 105 yards, just one week after the Falcons gained 318 against Detroit.

"I made some mistakes earlier on in the game and obviously you can learn from them when you’re young," Ryan said. "I just made some decisions that weren’t very good and especially when you’re on the road, you can’t do those things when you’re the quarterback."

When Atlanta (1-1) returns to practice Wednesday and begins preparing for Kansas City (0-2) to visit the Georgia Dome this week, coach Mike Smith wants the team to remember the value of starting fast offensively.

Not that he expects a 21-0 first-quarter lead similar to what the Falcons managed in Week 1, but Smith hopes to avoid putting Ryan in so many difficult scenarios.

"Matt understands the difficulties of playing quarterback in the National Football League," Smith said. "I don’t think there’s any doubt. He knows that there’s ebbs and flows in a game and ebbs and flows in a season. I think he’ll handle it well."

Notes:

Smith believes defensive tackle Grady Jackson will be ready to face Kansas City after missing the Bucs game with a knee injury. According to Smith, Jackson called from his hotel room in Tampa at 3 a.m. and told the team’s medical staff that his knee was swollen and needed to be drained. Jason Jefferson, who started in Jackson’s place, finished with three tackles and a fumble recovery. ... Todd Weiner replaced Baker and likely would start if the rookie can’t play against the Chiefs.



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