ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have embraced the no-huddle offense, and Matt Ryan thinks the master of the up-tempo attack will be on the other sideline tonight.
Ryan says he has tried to pick up lessons on how to work the no-huddle by watching tapes of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning through his years with the Colts.
“There’s really nobody better at it,” Ryan said. “He’s as good in the no-huddle really as anybody who has ever played. It’s fun to watch. I think any quarterback who has ever played has tried to turn on his tape and tried to pick up on some of the things that they’re doing. He’s one of the best.”
Ryan said he has watched the way Manning operates the no-huddle. He said that doesn’t mean he tries to copy Manning’s moves.
“I’ve certainly watched him a lot,” Ryan said. “As far as emulating him, I think you have to be your own player. But in terms of watching him at the line of scrimmage, what he’s done historically for a long time, you try to bring some of that into what we’ve done in the no-huddle. Certainly, I think everybody aspires to be where he is.”
Manning also had praise for Ryan.
“I think Matt is an excellent quarterback and I still go back to whether you huddle or you don’t huddle, it still comes down to if you have good players and they make plays,” Manning said. “And Matt has shown the ability to make plays throughout his career.”
Manning called Ryan a “big, strong quarterback with a big-time arm.”
Ryan set a Falcons record with 4,177 yards passing last season.
Ryan’s detractors point to his 0-3 postseason record, including a 24-2 wild-card loss to the New York Giants last season. But he can look across the field Monday night for proof those three losses don’t have to define his career.
Manning also lost his first three playoff games before he was voted MVP as the Colts won the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
“I think it’s one of those things you’ve got to use it as motivation in the right way,” Ryan said of his playoff losses. “That’s what I’ve tried to do. It’s certainly difficult, no question, but when you put it behind you and move on and start preparing for the next season, that’s the only way I’ve found you can approach it. You just have to get back to work and start working for the next goal.”
Some observers thought Atlanta should have committed to the no-huddle earlier in Ryan’s career. Under former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, the Falcons went without a huddle only as a change of pace to disrupt defenses.
Now, with first-year coordinator Dirk Koetter, the Falcons are leaning more on Ryan’s right arm and less on Michael Turner’s legs.
Ryan passed for three touchdowns and Turner had only 32 yards rushing in the Falcons’ 40-24 win at Kansas City last Sunday. Now Ryan and the Falcons get a prime-time test against Manning and the Broncos.
Ryan said he’s been watching Manning for a long time. How long?
“I think he was drafted when I was in — I don’t want to make him sound too old — I think seventh or eighth grade,” Ryan said. “I remember watching him at Tennessee. Unbelievably talented. Then when he got into the NFL, he was carving people up and has been doing it for a long time.
“It’s fun to play against the very best, and he’s obviously one of the best quarterbacks of all time and he’ll present a big challenge to our defense.”
Falcons center Todd McClure said he doesn’t expect Ryan will worry about statistical comparisons with Manning.
“To be honest, I don’t know if he really looks at it that way,” McClure said. “He’s such a focused guy. I don’t think he really looks at that matchup. He’s so focused on going out there and playing at a high level. He’s not too worried about the other quarterback and trying to outdo him. He’s just worried about himself and trying to score more points.”
Ryan laughed when asked how he would defend Manning.
“Not my job,” he said. “That’s the great part of playing quarterback. I don’t ever have to go on the field against him.”