|The return of Matty Heisman||09.23.09 at 5:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Matt Ryan is all business. Whether it’s directing his team on the field or speaking for the Atlanta Falcons off of the gridiron, the Boston College product is all about winning.
That includes his return trip to New England this weekend as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL for a 2-0 Falcons squad that is tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South.
Ryan, of course, first gained national recognition in his senior year in 2007 at the Heights, where he was given the nickname “Matty Heisman.” Ryan’s name is all over the BC record books — he has the all-time mark for touchdown passes in a season (31 in 2007) and attempts (654 in 2007), and he is third behind Doug Flutie and Glenn Foley in career passing yards with 9,313.
“It’ll be great to get back there,” Ryan said during his conference call on Wednesday. “It’s a part of the country that I love and a special spot in my heart up there from my days at BC. I’ll be excited to get back and I know there will be some people at the game that it’ll be good to see.
“But with that said, we’re going up there to play this football game and to try and win this football game. There will be chances during the off-season to get back and enjoy the Boston area. Right now, we’re going up there to try and take care of our business.”
The only player Ryan expects to be reunited with is defensive lineman Ron Brace, who left BC after last season.
“The only guy on the team that I’m really familiar with is Ron Brace,” Ryan said. “I played with him at BC. That’s pretty much it. I never really ran into any of those guys while I was up there.”
Ryan, the No 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, was awarded the 2007 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually in the United States to the most outstanding college football senior quarterback. In addition, he was selected to play in the 2008 Senior Bowl. He also won the 2007 Manning Award awarded to the nation’s top quarterback, beating out eventual Heisman winner Tim Tebow and eight other finalists.
But Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t need his biography to know how dangerous Ryan is. He has more than enough evidence on film.
“Ryan is good,” Belichick said on Wednesday. “He is very accurate, makes good decisions, knows where to go with the ball and can put it on the money. And he has a lot of downfield throws, too. It’s not like he’s making a lot of screen passes and check-downs and stuff like that. He can get it down the field and he puts it right on the money.
“Very accurate. Very good technique player and good throwing mechanics and good ball-handling,” Belichick added. “[He has] good ball location and placement and accuracy. He knows when to fire it and when to put touch on it. He does a good job of looking the defense off. He’s impressive.”
In other words, Belichick talks about Ryan in much the same way he described his own quarterback in the same media gathering on Wednesday.
“Tom’s got good throwing mechanics,” Belichick said of Brady, who has been struggling with finding his rhythm with his mechanics in the first two games. “Yeah, he’s got good throwing mechanics. He’s worked hard on that and continues to work hard on it, all through the course of his career. I think, fundamentally, he’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen mechanically. Technique-wise, you could put him right up there with anybody.”
And so far, in the first two games of the season anyway, it’s Ryan who has been downright spectacular. He is 43-of-63 in passing attempts for 449 yards, five touchdown passes and just one interception. His rating for the season is 108.5, third behind Drew Brees [132.9] and Brett Favre [110.2].
Many observers expect Tony Gonzalez to be a key figure on Sunday. So far, Gonzalez has 12 catches for 144 yards in the two games, and two touchdowns.
“He’s really helped us out a bunch,” Ryan said of the perennial Pro Bowl tight end. “I think anytime you add a great player to your team, it’s obviously going to help. And not only is he really good on Sundays, he’s great during the week. He knows how to prepare and he works really hard and I think that permeates down through the locker room and other guys see what it takes to be at that level and try to do what he’s done. He’s really helped out a bunch.”
As Brady realized quickly in New England, a quarterback’s performance isn’t measured by yards but rather by wins and wins in big games. And while Ryan did the improbable in 2008 by leading his team to a playoff berth in his rookie season, he has bigger goals in mind.
And to reach those bigger goals, Ryan knows he going to have to have a power game behind him. And he has that in running backs Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood, three backs who combined for 71 yards on 14 carries, an average 5.1 yards per carry.
“Our mentality is that we’re a run-first football team,” Ryan said. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to try and pound the ball and ride what our offensive line can do. Fortunately we’ve got a couple guys in the backfield that can make some plays: Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, even Jason Snelling had a great game last weekend. So those guys really get us going. They move the chains on third and short situations, and that’s a big advantage for us.”
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