Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons won the first playoff game in their previous four tries last week. A blown 20-point lead against the Seattle Seahawks didn't do much to silence critics who claim that Atlanta is destined to crumble in the postseason, however. Despite leading the league in fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives this year, Ryan still bears the "choker" label to some based on his poor playoff record.
In an interview with Michael Irvin on NFL.com, Ryan said that the criticism can be both helpful and harmful.
"In a way, it motivates you," Ryan said. "You want to prove everybody who doubts you wrong. But at the same time you can't let it affect the way you feel about yourself."
The quarterback knows that he has an uphill battle ahead of him against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Ryan praised the physicality of the Niners' defense, both in the front seven and in the secondary. That said, he knows his team will be confident if the game is tight near the end of regulation, based on how they responded against the Seahawks.
"The one thing that didn't change was the fact that everyone kept their head down, kept playing," Ryans said. "Harry Douglas came down made a huge catch. After that point, I think everybody realized 'hey, we're going to get this done.'"