The Atlanta Falcons had quite the forgettable day when they were demolished by the New York Giants in last year's playoffs. Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense were especially bad, failing to score a single point in the 24-2 loss.
The Falcons will try and get some revenge this Sunday — but while Ryan says the playoff loss can certainly be used as motivation, a lot has changed since that game (via Falcons.com):
"It's one of the motivations that pushes you when you fall short in the playoffs, but we're a different football team than we were last year and they're a different football team than they were in the playoffs last year. I think it's important because of what's in front of us. We have an opportunity to do what we want to do in the regular season and it starts Sunday."
Atlanta has played well this season en route to an 11-2 record, but the team struggled big time in a stunning 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. The Giants present many challenges, and Ryan knows the Falcons must play a lot better if they want to pull out a win:
"We need to play well. Obviously, it's a very good defense. I think they're second in the League in takeaways. They do a good job of creating turnovers. I think it starts with their front four. They do a great job of rushing the passer. They do a great job in addition against screens and against the run game also. We've just got to find ways in terms of scheme and with our effort and with the way we play to negotiate their front four. Then, we have to win our one-on-one matchups when we have them on the outside."
One of the key matchups in the game will be the one between Ryan and his counterpart in Eli Manning. Due to their ability to come up big in the clutch, comparisons have naturally been made between Ryan and Manning, which flatters the Falcons' quarterback:
"That's a great comparison. It's nice to be compared to him obviously. He's a guy who brings the very best out of himself in certain situations. Especially at the end of the games and he's clutch. He's just a gutsy competitor and I've always been impressed by that."
Considering how closely matched these teams are, it would not be surprising to see the game decided by whichever quarterback comes up bigger in crunch time.