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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who grew up an Eagles fan, leads the Falcons today when they play a playoff game in Philadelphia.

Saturday, January 13, 2018 1:00 am

NFL playoffs

Ryan confident in homecoming

Falcons' QB has not always played well in Philadelphia

ROB MAADDI | Associated Press


Who: Atlanta at Philadelphia

What: Divisional playoff

When: 4:35 p.m. today

Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia


PHILADELPHIA – Quarterback Matt Ryan has another shot at a happy homecoming.

A berth in the NFC championship game is at stake when Ryan leads the Atlanta Falcons (11-6) against the Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) in a divisional playoff today. Ryan, who grew up rooting for the Eagles and went to Philadelphia's William Penn Charter School, is 1-3 at the Linc.

“I'm used to it now,” Ryan said about returning home. “Playing as long as I have, I understand regardless of where we play you have to be at your best every week. The one nice part is there will be a lot of familiar faces, friendly faces after the game, which is always nice.”

Ryan had his worst game of his MVP season in Atlanta's 24-15 loss in Philly on Nov. 13, 2016. He was 18 of 33 for 267 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“Obviously, there will be some scheme from that game that we'll take, what went well and what didn't go well and try to improve on that,” Ryan said. “We're a different team than we were last year when we played them and they're a different team. It will be some carry over, but it will be a little bit different.”

Here are some things to watch for when the teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since Philadelphia's win over Michael Vick's Falcons in the 2005 NFC championship game:

Nick's up

Nick Foles makes his fourth start since replacing Carson Wentz after the MVP candidate tore his ACL in Week 14.

Foles played well in his first five quarters and struggled in the next five.

He's certainly a drop-off from Wentz, but he's also capable of spectacular performances.

Foles once tossed seven TDs in a game in 2013. He had four TDs in his first start in Week 15.

Comfort zone

After leading the league in scoring in 2016, the Falcons finished the regular season 15th with first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

Atlanta averaged 22.1 points per game, down from 33.8 last season.

Ryan says he has become more comfortable with Sarkisian, especially the last two weeks in wins over Carolina and the Rams.

Stopping Julio

The Eagles had some success against Julio Jones in their win last year, keeping him out of the end zone but allowing 10 catches for 135 yards.

Jalen Mills held him to four catches for 48 yards when he was matched up against Jones. The second-year pro is confident he can contain Jones again. Ronald Darby will have to cover Jones when he's on his side.

“You have to think the ball is coming to him each and every play,” Mills said.

Multiple backs

Both teams have options in the backfield.

The Falcons are led by Devonta Freeman, who had 865 yards rushing and seven TDs. Tevin Coleman had 628 yards rushing and five TDs.

LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing and scored two TDs. Jay Ajayi had 873 yards rushing and one TD combined with the Dolphins and Eagles. He ran for 130 yards against Atlanta in Miami's win Oct. 15.