PHILADELPHIA — Matt Ryan needed a ticket broker more than a playbook this week.
Ryan will be coming home when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Philadelphia Eagles today. The third-year quarterback grew up in nearby Exton, and went to Penn Charter High School in Philly before heading to Boston College and then the NFL.
So, there will be a larger-than-normal group rooting for the visitors in the usually hostile Linc. That’s assuming the Ryan contingent gets their hands on tickets.
“They put a sheet up in the locker room sometimes and they have available nosebleed seats and that’s what you usually get on the road,” Ryan said. “I think my dad and some family members have connections up there with friends and relatives that have season tickets, so everybody is working pretty hard in the Ryan family to get some tickets.”
How many does Ryan need?
“Quite a few,” he said.
This won’t be Ryan’s first homecoming. He returned to Philadelphia as a rookie starter after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Ryan threw a pair of interceptions in Atlanta’s 27-14 loss to the Eagles in Week 8, but he went on to lead the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth that year.
“It’s two different teams going up there playing now than two years ago,” Ryan said. “The experience having gone back to the town I grew up in and having played kind of makes this time a little different, makes it just another road game and I have to approach it as a business trip.”
It’s a business trip where he can stop off for a home-cooked meal before heading to work.
“I don’t think it will be any different for Matt,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I think you’re always excited about playing in front of old friends and family, but Matt’s a pretty levelheaded guy and I don’t anticipate there being any issue.”
On the other side, there’s a quarterback who’s eager to play against his former team. Michael Vick’s status is iffy because of a rib cartilage injury that forced him to miss Philadelphia’s win at San Francisco last Sunday. He was making progress with his injury and hoped to get a chance to start.
Vick spent six seasons with the Falcons, went to three Pro Bowls and led them to an NFC championship game — a loss in Philadelphia in January 2005. He was a superstar in Atlanta, but his career was halted following his arrest on dogfighting charges.
Vick returned to the NFL with the Eagles after a two-year absence and scored his first touchdown against Atlanta last December.
“It’s no extra motivation because it’s Atlanta,” Vick said. “We are past that; we got over that last year. It’s just another football game against a tough football team.”
The NFC South-leading Falcons (4-1) have won four straight since an overtime loss to Pittsburgh in the opener. They’ve done it with a strong defense mixed in with some unusual big plays.
“You have to look at them as a top NFC team right now by the way they’re playing. Not just by their record, but by their production,” Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said.
The Eagles are a strange 3-2. They’re winless at home and unbeaten on the road after five weeks. Kevin Kolb will make his fifth career start if Vick can’t go.
Kolb was drafted a year before Ryan, but sat behind Donovan McNabb and then lost his job to Vick after sustaining a concussion in Week 1. He looks at Ryan’s success as motivation.
“He’s done a great job, and not only on the field, but off the field,” Kolb said. “Everything that he does, he does it like a pro. One of the things I really like about him is, I’ve seen some film where the first couple quarters they’re not really grooving yet, and then like against San Francisco, boom, he came back on those last two drives, took them right down the field and won the game. So that’s the way it’s going to be sometimes, and he’s always a fighter, always a battler and finds a way to win.”
The Eagles have won the last three meetings between the teams and seven of the last eight, including a pair of playoff victories. Though Atlanta has a better record at this point, this game is a measuring stick for the Falcons.
“Historically, we know that the Philadelphia Eagles are a team that’s been very, very successful and they’ve had sustainability basically throughout the 12 years that coach Reid and his staff have been there,” Smith said. “We aspire to be a team that’s always in the conversation, a team that’s relevant at the end of the season. That is how we’ve tried to approach this.”