FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons will face the Denver Broncos this week on Monday Night Football at the Georgia Dome with both teams coming off impressive Week 1 wins.
Both team’s quarterbacks marched the ball down the field in their respective games. In his first game in over a year, Peyton Manning looked like the Manning of old as he completed 19 of his 26 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
In the first game of his fifth year starting for the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 23 of his 31 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns and also had a rushing touchdown.
It might not seem like it, but Manning and Ryan share a lot of the same qualities. Manning is known for his accuracy and his smarts. Last week, Manning completed 73.1 percent of his passes. Ryan completed 74.2 percent of his.
“Well, physically, they’re almost the same guy, in terms of size” said head coach Mike Smith.
Manning’s ability to control the game, especially in the no huddle is well known. But, maybe Ryan’s ability to do the same will land him in the conversation of elite quarterbacks with Manning soon.
While Ryan still has room to grow, he could be on the same path as Manning, who is easily one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
“I think, of course, when you talk about Peyton Manning, you’re talking about one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game,” said Smith. “But when you watch Matt at his stage, in his career where he is, I think he’s very comparable to Peyton Manning.”
Ryan has been allowed to run the no huddle offense much more as he matures, and may even get more than the usual opportunities to do so in 2012.. Ryan’s understanding of the game and ability to exploit weaknesses in a defense led to one of the best performances of his career last week against Kansas City. Ryan finished the game with the fifth highest quarterback rating of his career at 136.4.
“He has a very good understanding of how to defeat defenses,” said Smith.
“He knows where to go with the football, he’s very accurate. Believe it or not, Peyton is sneaky, especially in his younger days, when he tried to escape and run. I think Matt is the same type of guy. He can make some plays with his feet if the opportunity arises.”
Considering all of the Falcons’ weapons, their offense aims to take what the defense gives them. With Ryan’s maturation and Michael Turner‘s ability to run the football, Atlanta is able to attack defenses through the air and on the ground.
“You’ve got to take what they give you and we did a nice job of doing that last week,” said Smith.
“You want to try to attack them how they’re going to be defending us. If they’re going to try to take away the pass, then we’re going to have to be able to run the football. If they’re going to get guys close to the line of scrimmage then we’re going to have to be able to throw the football.”
Sunday’s win against Kansas City was nice for Ryan and the Falcons but winning a showdown on Monday Night Football against a legend like Manning could legitimately launch Ryan into the MVP conversation.
With Manning’s expertise, Ryan’s growth, and both side’s ability to run the no huddle offense effectively, Monday night is set to be a memorable night in Atlanta.
It could very well be Ryan’s coming out party.