EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – By the end of the day Sunday, the Giants will have faced a number of notable opponents on their quest for a Super Bowl: the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers and three guys named Ryan.
On Dec. 24, the Giants beat the Jets and their portly, outspoken coach, Rex Ryan, to win the unofficial city championship. Last Sunday, they defeated the Dallas Cowboys and their portly, outspoken defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, to clinch a playoff berth. So perhaps it is only fitting that they open the postseason Sunday against Atlanta and the steely, sure-armed Matt Ryan.
”Why not?” Giants offensive lineman Kevin Boothe said. ”Let’s go for three.”
That the Giants finished the regular season with consecutive games against the Ryan coaching twins was an N.F.L. scheduling quirk. That they would face an unrelated quarterback with the same last name and an entirely different demeanor in the playoffs is a funny coincidence.
In any event, the Falcons’ Ryan could not be more different from the two coaches with whom he shares a last name.
”Well, Rob has a great head of hair on him,” Boothe said of the differences between the three. ”Other than that, one’s playing and the other two are coaching. One is offense and two are defense, too.”
The Ryan brothers both predicted, at varying points before or during the season, that their teams would end up in the playoffs. So much for that. The Jets descended into chaos as they made an ignominious early retreat home for the winter. And the Cowboys were on the wrong end of a 31-14 loss to the Giants that kept them out of the playoffs.
Matt Ryan, in contrast, has a plain-spoken manner and a cool demeanor that earned him the nickname Matty Ice, though he has a total of four interceptions in his two career playoff games, both of which the Falcons lost.
He surely hopes that he differs from the other Ryans in another crucial regard: by being able to beat the Giants.
N.F.L. PLAYOFFS: WILD-CARD ROUND: ATLANTA at GIANTS: 1 p.m. Sunday TV: FoxnThis is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.
PHOTOS: COACH RYAN: For all of Rex’s brash talk, it was Tom Coughlin who prevailed in the showdown.; COORDINATOR RYAN: Rex’s twin, Rob, did no better a week later. His Dallas defense derailed.; QUARTERBACK RYAN: Not related to Rob or Rex. He’s half their age, maybe half their weight.(PHOTOGRAPHS BY, FROM LEFT, MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES; SHARON ELLMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS; CHRIS GRAYTHEN/GETTY IMAGES)