With the Falcons up next on the schedule, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and Head Coach Mike Smith took some time to talk with Baltimore media.
Discussing everything from Ryan's need to know where Ed Reed is at all times to Smith's Super Bowl memories when he was a Ravens linebackers coach from 1999-2002.
Here are some highlights:
Quarterback Matt Ryan
How has running back Michael Turner affected games this year?
MR:"He's certainly been effective for us this season, as he has the past couple of years. And I think Mike worked really hard this offseason to be durable for the year. And he's done a great job throughout the season, too, of just trying to stay on top of things and making sure his body is healthy. Because when he is [healthy], in my opinion he's one of the premier guys in this league. And he's a really physical running back. [He] definitely helps our offense go."
Have you been able to study the defense through the entire year, or is it only two games with Ed Reed back?
MR: "You definitely have to look at the entire year and what they've done, because other guys were out there that are going to be out there Thursday night. But, anytime you have a great player like Ed Reed, he certainly changes things in the secondary for them. And we've got to be aware of where he's at. He can make some plays. He's really a ball-hawking guy. [He's] made some special plays in the past, and this year has a couple of interceptions as well, [having] really only played in a couple of games. So, I think he definitely helps their defense when he's in there."
How has the Falcons offensive line gotten better at protecting him?
MR: "We try and get better every week. We try and improve on some things, pick out a couple of things each week and try to do them better the following week. And I think we've protected pretty well the last two weeks.It's something that I think comes down to communication and identification of fronts.And our offensive line has done a great job with that."
Do you think you are similar to Joe Flacco?
MR: "Tough to say. He certainly has a skill set that's probably a little bit different than mine. But at the same time, I think at the end of the day [we're] more similar than different. [We're] just two bigger guys that throw well from the pocket. Both of us have been able to get outside the pocket and make plays, too. We're probably more similar than different."
How difficult is it for opponents to play at the Georgia Dome?
MR: "We've been tough at home, and that's been an advantage for us. I think our record the past three years kind of has proven that. I think our fans have really done a great job this year, especially when we're on defense. The dome's been loud. It's been a great environment. And hopefully we can keep that going."
Head Coach Mike Smith
What memories stand out from your time coaching in Baltimore?
MS: "Well, I was very fortunate to be on that Super Bowl staff and remember that team – of course it was a long time ago – but you never forget that season, because it was an outstanding season with a group of men that enjoyed playing the game, and I know there are still a couple of guys on the team that were a part of that team. But when I think about the Baltimore Ravens, I think about a team that each and every year is one of the top teams in the league.And that's what we're trying to do here in Atlanta, is be a team that year-in-and-year-out is relevant, and be able to sustain what the Ravens have been able to sustain through the years with [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and the entire organization up there."
How is the Ravens offense different than what you remember?
MS: "The offense is, I think, very hard to defend. It starts with the quarterback, and I believe this is a quarterback-driven league. And then I think at all levels – the wide receiver, tight end and running back position – when I say three different levels, that's the areas that I think they're very strong in. The two wideouts, Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, create a number of issues. Mason is a very experienced player; I think he's a great route runner. And of course Anquan Boldin's size creates issues because he is a very strong wide receiver. Of course you've got the Pro Bowl tight end in Todd Heap, and then Ray Rice is certainly one of the top running backs in the league. He's short, but he's big. He's a guy that you've got to tackle. You can't let him get going, not only in the run game, but in the pass game as well. He does a very good job of catching balls out of the backfield."
Is playing at home during a short week an advantage?
MS: "I think everybody in this league – if they had their druthers – would prefer to play at home. I think each team sets out when the season starts about making sure that they win the majority of their games or control their home field. But if you look at it statistically, it's not a big difference.I think that home-field advantage is not as big as you think. The only difference is that we're going to drive down to the hotel and they're going to fly down. We're out here in Flowery Branch, which is about an hour drive into downtown, so we're going to be making a little trip as well."
Why has Matt Ryan had so much success at home?
MS: "From the very beginning when we set the plan for success,the first thing that we talked about was that you want to make sure that you take care of home, and our guys have done a pretty good job for the most part, I think, through the three years that we've been here. Matt and our whole entire team has taken to that and played well."
Is it fair to compare Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco?
MS:"I think they'll be hooked together their entire career. When that great class of 1984, all those great quarterbacks… They always talk about those guys that came in together. I think when you come in at the same time, especially at the quarterback position – which is probably the most scrutinized position in all of sports – I think they will be.They'll always be compared to one another, and both of them have played very effective football through these first two-and-a-half seasons."