ATLANTA - When the Falcons came up short on a few key plays in their Week 1 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, it reminded quarterback Matt Ryan of a quote he heard growing up about preparing for big moments.
"I think the mentality was right, I think it just comes down to execution," Ryan said of the Falcons' mindset heading into their season opener. "It's all 11 guys, on the same page, doing what their responsibility is for that given play in critical situations. And I really think that's what it comes down to. I think, I always heard this quote when I was younger that in critical situations, you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your preparation, and I think that's it.
"We've got to be extremely well-prepared so that no matter what comes up throughout the course of the game, we're just doing what we've prepared ourselves to do."
Moving forward, executing on key plays will be a focus for the Falcons' offense, Ryan said, beginning Sunday at the Cowboys.
"I think the biggest thing is finishing up plays, the details of plays, and then nailing our chances when we get opportunities in the red (zone) and on third downs to extend drives," Ryan said. "I think if we do those things better, I think it takes care of a lot of some of the issues that we had the other day, but again, when I watched (film), there are a lot of positives to take from it and a lot of really good things that we did. It's going to be important for us to build on that and continue to build on that as the year progresses."
The Falcons were able to pass against the Seahawks, with Ryan passing for 450 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-25 loss (he went 37 for 54, not the most efficient stat line). But they often struggled to capitalize and were 0 for 4 on fourth-down plays, which included an unsuccessful fake punt and a sack on Ryan when the Falcons went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Seahawks' 11-yard line, trailing by 16 points with a little more than a minute to go in the third quarter (they went scoreless in the third and entered the fourth quarter down 28-12).
Fourth-down play hurt them on defense, too, when the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Falcons' 38-yard line, which resulted in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf for a 21-12 lead in the second quarter. Seattle went 1-for-1 on fourth down. The Falcons also did themselves no favors by committing two turnovers (one interception, one fumble).
Ryan can't pick one particular play that he would like to have back, but a handful of those close calls added up.
"I don't know if it's necessarily one, I've always thought in this league, it comes down to about five or six different ones throughout the game, that you either make them or you don't, and they usually determine the outcome of the game," Ryan said. "I think you talk about three of those fourth-down opportunities for us, on the offensive side of the ball, in addition to a third-and-short that we had that caused a fourth down, so I think those four plays, if any of those go a little differently, I think the game shakes out probably a little bit different.
"But as a player, it's your job to execute in those situations. When the play-call comes in, the play is called and it's time to go, it's about making it work, and we just didn't do a good enough job."
Despite the loss to start the season and the misfires on fourth down, Ryan thinks the Falcons will be confident heading into Week 2.
"I've played for a long time," Ryan said. "I do think there's a lot of positives to take away from that game and a lot for us to build on, and the confidence I think is going to be there."
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