Quarterback Matt Ryan is in the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 seasons and still searching for the ultimate prize.
Last year’s meltdown in the Super Bowl has been well documented with the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead and losing to New England Oakland Raiders Jerseys Womens , but Ryan has his team back in the postseason despite a big drop-off in points and yards.
At 10-6, they’ve gone from the No. 2 seed to the sixth, but they’re the only NFC team to return to the playoffs. Ryan hasn’t enjoyed the kind of seamless production that made him the league MVP last season, yet he likes the team’s chances even though the offense has scored just two touchdowns over the last two weeks.
”We do a very good job throughout the week of getting ourselves prepared and ready to play,” Ryan said Tuesday. ”That provides confidence, so I think guys just need to focus on doing the best that they can with where their feet are at that time of the day.
”If we do that and we’re locked in for practice and walkthroughs, that’s going to give us the best chance to be successful.”
Atlanta has won three of four and six of its last eight heading into Saturday’s wild-card game at the Los Angeles Rams (11-5). The defense is better than a year ago, moving into the top 10 in scoring and total yards for the first time at the end of the regular season the 1998 Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl.
But the offense has been unable to match last year’s productivity, dropping from first to 15th in scoring as opponents have held five-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones to just three touchdowns. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are still a tough tandem to defend, but both have missed time with concussions. The offensive line hasn’t been as stout despite another Pro Bowl season from center Alex Mack.
Regardless of what’s happening around him, Ryan said his best course of action during the week is to stay focused on the game plan. He doesn’t want to get caught up in discussions about his legacy and whether he has what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
”That’s not something I worry about or think about too much,” he said. ”I try to focus or worry or lend my brain space to trying to win games. I’m lucky to have a lot of good friends around this league. I certainly have a lot of respect for the guys I play against week in and week out and I imagine they feel the same way.”
Ryan has won 95 of 158 career starts in the regular season, but he’s 3-5 in the playoffs and 0-2 on the road. That kind of discrepancy is why he said he puts little stock in whether last season’s easy victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum could help the Falcons this week.
The Rams’ defense has flourished in a new scheme devised by 70-year-old coordinator Wade Phillips and it has found success with a trio of dual-threat linebackers in Alec Ogletree, the former Georgia star, Robert Quinn and Mark Barron.
Atlanta also must keep tabs throughout the game on defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has 11 sacks.
”He’s one of the better players against the run at the position they play him at, but he’s also one of the better interior pass rushers in the league,” Ryan said. ”That creates some problems, but we’ll have a plan to account for where he’s at, and we certainly trust our guys up front to play well.”
Notes: WR Julio Jones was held out of practice with ankle and rib injuries. Jones was hit hard on the opening drive last week by Carolina safety Mike Adams, but he missed only a couple of snaps. He was limited in practice last week with ankle and thumb injuries. Jones has yet to miss a game despite being on the injury report this season with a hip flexor Philadelphia Eagles Jerseys Womens , back and knee injuries, too. … Freeman was held out of practice with a knee injury. … Listed as limited Tuesday were Mack (calf), receiver Taylor Gabriel (hamstring), tight end Levine Toilolo (knee) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (calf). … LG Andy Levitre (triceps) was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Ben Garland will start in his place.
When surging Texas goes for a three-game sweep of the visiting Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, Cole Hamels, the pitcher the Rangers expected to be their bell cow in this season of rebuilding, will be on the mound.
It remains to be seen how much longer Hamels (4-6, with a 3.61 ERA) stays in that position. He could, instead, be a huge piece to the puzzle in a trade that would net more prospects for a team in dire need of them.
The White Sox will send right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (3-5, 3.73 ERA) to the mound in the series finale.
The Rangers beat Chicago 13-4 on Saturday behind five solid innings from the ageless Bartolo Colon, a three-run double from Robinson Chirinos, a home run from Joey Gallo and a seven-run eighth inning.
Texas was without designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo on Saturday as he battles right quad soreness and was given the night off.
Choo said his upper quad has been bothering him over the past 10 days, but he’s played through it well enough to extend his streak of reaching base to 41 straight games, tops in the Major Leagues this season. It’s also tied with Toby Harrah (1985) for the third-longest single-season streak in club history.
“I felt like it was an opportunity to get him off his legs, give him a day,” manager Jeff Banister told mlb.com about Choo’s absence from the starting lineup. “He’s played through it for a while.”
Choo underwent an MRI at his own request on Saturday and said afterward he does not believe the injury is serious.
“I know I have the streak going on, but my body and staying healthy is more important,” Choo said. “And winning games is more important than records. I don’t want to make it worse. I don’t think it’s serious.”
Chicago is another team building from the ground up but already has its second baseman of the future, Yoan Moncada Pittsburgh Steelers Jerseys Womens , on the field as an everyday player. Moncada, who was acquired from Boston as part of the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Red Sox, has struggled through the first half of the season, hitting just .225 after batting .231 in 54 games last season.
He also has a team-high 13 errors at second base.
“I did not expect to have as many tough, difficult moments as I’ve been having,” Moncada told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve learned that this is a process, it’s something young guys have to get used to. You can’t get frustrated at any point. If you keep your faith in what you do, you’re going to be good.”
Lopez will make his 17th start of the season, 10th on the road and second against the Rangers this season when he takes the hill on Sunday. He is 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA over his past three road starts. His last time out, on June 26, Lopez earned the win versus Minnesota, allowing four runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings in an 8-4 Chi-Sox victory.
Lopez is receiving a 3.45 run support average this season, the ninth-lowest in the AL. He will be making his third career start against the Rangers and second at Globe Life Park.
Lopez garnered the win in his last start against Texas on May 20 in Chicago, pitching eight scoreless innings.
Hamels will also make his 17th start of the season and leads all Texas starters in ERA (3.61), starts (16), innings (97 1/3), and strikeouts (97). He has gone 3-2 with a 3.28 ERA in his nine starts since May 5 to lower his ERA from 4.08 to 3.61.
Hamels will be working on five days’ rest and last worked and took a no-decision in the Rangers’ 7-4 win on Monday at home against San Diego. He allowed a season-high nine hits in that game, exiting after trailing 4-1 in the sixth, ending a streak of eight straight starts six-plus or more innings pitched.
Hamels has gone 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox, recording quality starts in three of those four outings.