Ryan, Streaking Falcons Protect NFC’s Best Record

ATLANTA. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons plan to enjoy January in the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons (9-2) are motivated to protect the NFC’s best record — they want home-field advantage in the playoffs.

They aren’t getting ahead of themselves, though, not with three straight regular season road games in December, including this week’s visit to Tampa Bay.

Ryan’s hot hand gives the streaking Falcons hope they can extend their five-game winning streak. His only incompletion in the second half of the 20-17 win Sunday over the was a throwaway before Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal.

Ryan has no interceptions in the last four games, helping the Falcons post their first four-game stretch with no turnovers in franchise history.

Ryan completed a career-best 86 percent of his passes — 24 of 28 — for 198 yards with a touchdown against Green Bay.

“He’s just not making any mistakes,” said Falcons receiver Roddy White of the third-year quarterback.

The Falcons are 19-1 when Ryan starts at the Georgia Dome the last three years and 19-3 overall at home under coach Mike Smith.

“It is an emphasis for us, knowing we have to win at home because it’s difficult to go on the road,” Smith said Monday.

The Falcons’ five straight wins includes only one by more than 7 points. It’s their longest winning streak since their 1998 season.

The Falcons know the best path back to the Super Bowl is with as many home playoff games as possible. That’s why beating Green Bay was especially important.

“It was a big win because they’re a good football team,” said Ryan of the Packers. “We know if we continue to take care of our business we’re going to play more teams like that down the road.”

Atlanta is one game ahead of New Orleans and two games ahead of Tampa Bay in the NFC South. The Falcons visit the Buccaneers this week.

The Falcons didn’t panic after the Packers tied the game with a 16-play drive that ended with only 56 seconds remaining. Overtime was not in Atlanta’s plan.

“We’ve been in those situations quite a bit this year and we’ve been successful in those situations,” Ryan said.

Ryan has led the Falcons to a game-winning score in the fourth quarter or overtime in five games this season.

“We’re used to it,” White said. “We were calm, cool and collected on the sideline.”

No nerves?

“No, we got Matty Ice,” White said. “Ice cold. He just keeps moving the sticks.”

Ryan has thrown seven touchdown passes in the streak of four straight games without a turnover.

His passer rating has been over 100 in three straight games. He said he didn’t realize he was close to perfect in the second half.

“I didn’t even realize I hadn’t thrown an incompletion until the end of the game,” Ryan said. “I was just going out there trying to make good decisions and be accurate with the ball.”

Michael Turner also is on a roll. He had 23 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay. It was his fourth 100-yard performance in the last five games.

After the game, Turner shook his head when asked if the players were motivated to post their third straight winning season for the first time in franchise history. Before the current run, the Falcons never managed back-to-back winning seasons.

“We’re not the Falcons of old,” Turner said.

Turner signed as a free agent from San Diego before the 2008 season. Turner, Ryan and Smith are in their third seasons in Atlanta.

“Once we got together, we started winning,” Turner said. “We’re building a new tradition. Three winning seasons in a row, we’re not even blinking right now. We’ve got our eyes set on something bigger.”

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