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Ryan maintains poise under fire
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan scrambles out of the pocket as Packers pursue during the fourth quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. - photo by MATT LUDTKE

FLOWERY BRANCH - Don't expect much emotion from Matt Ryan.

The Atlanta Falcons' rookie quarterback will celebrate a touchdown or another big play, but he isn't likely to strut.

What is more important for first-year coach Mike Smith, however, is that Ryan keeps his composure after he makes a mistake.

"Matt's a very calm, cool and collected guy throughout the game, and he does it in practice as well," Smith said Monday. "Whether Matt makes a good play or a bad play, you really can't tell a difference."

Ryan's end zone interception, thrown directly at Tramon Williams early in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's 27-24 victory at Green Bay, showed his unflappable mindset.

A frantic response might have sapped Ryan of the concentration needed on the next two drives, which resulted in Jason Elam's 41-yard field goal and Michael Turner's 2-yard touchdown run.

"As a quarterback, you've got to understand that you're going to make mistakes," Ryan said. "You've got to bounce back from them and come back and make some plays."

Smith likes how the entire team has excelled when starting a game quickly, outscoring opponents 45-0 in the first quarter of its three victories.

In the first quarter of two losses, Atlanta managed just one field goal while Tampa Bay and Carolina each scored a touchdown. Ryan finished the defeats having completed a combined 49.5 percent of 74 passes for 316 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, one fumble and six sacks for minus-37 yards.

Smith has yet to hear a complaint from Ryan or to see him lose his temper after an incompletion, a three-and-out or a sack.

"That's Matt's mindset, and the mindset we're trying to establish with our team," Smith said.
"It's always about the next play. Once we finish a play, it's on to the next play, good, bad or indifferent. If you can take that attitude, I think you're going to have a chance to be efficient."

Not surprisingly, when asked about winning his first road game at a legendary NFL venue like Lambeau Field, Ryan stayed true to his tendency: Avoid using hyperbole when talking to reporters.

"I don't think you can think about it that way as you go through it," Ryan said. "I think for our team this is an important step in regards to this season because we haven't won on the road up to this point and that's a difficult thing to do, but now we have that experience to build on."

As the Falcons (3-2) prepare this week to host Chicago (3-2) on Sunday, Smith will want the offense to remember the importance of converting third downs. Atlanta went 6-for-12 at Green Bay and would have had two more if not for dropped passes.

The offense also converted two of three chances in the red zone after going a combined 0-for-5 at Carolina and Tampa Bay.

Atlanta has two of the league's better playmakers in running back Michael Turner, who leads NFL rushing categories in net yards (543), average yards per game (108.6) and touchdowns (six). Wideout Roddy White ranks third in yards receiving (454) and fifth in average yards per game (90.8).

Ryan insists that no Atlanta player is surprised after the Falcons' offense struggled so badly last season, entering Week 17 with the NFL's lowest-scoring unit.

"I don't know what people are thinking," Ryan said. "That's not for us to kind of think about at this point. We've been positive and upbeat since the beginning of training camp, focused on trying to be the best team we can be."

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