Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan knows what the Arizona Cardinals have in store for him: pressure, lots and lots of pressure. Despite being sacked 19 times in 2012, Matt Ryan might be uniquely equipped to handle it.
Cardinals Top 10 Defense
Despite their 4-5 record, the Arizona Cardinals boast one of the top defenses in the league. Their pass defense averages one interception and three sacks per game. They can be disruptive, with talented players like LB Daryl Washington, who has eight sacks on the season. However, the Cardinals also scheme for pressure.
As 92.9 The Games' Mitch Evans pointed out Thursday morning, the Cardinals blitz almost 40 percent of time. By putting an extra man in a quarterback's face, they can force poor throws and even poorer decisions. With a nicked-up Julio Jones, the Arizona defense might be licking their chops.
Ryan Is Ready
Ryan has shown nothing but respect for the visiting Cardinals. On the Atlanta Falcons website, Ryan was frank about Sunday's game:
“I think Arizona is one of the better defenses in the league…I’ve been impressed. They've got talented players. They’re relentless. Their effort’s really, really good. They’re going to be very fresh coming off the bye week. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Ryan is a student of the game so an enthusiastic Cardinals defense will not catch him by surprise.
An all-out blitz package might not be the idea for Arizona. Matt Ryan's skill set is uniquely adept against blitzing defenses. In 2012, Ryan has been efficient at both short and deep passes, Ryan's short game is still one of the best in the league. He will find the open man, even if it is an eligible lineman. The more rushers there are, the more weapons open up for Ryan.
And there is a reason Matt Ryan is 30-4 in the Georgia Dome. Ryan is at his best when in the no-huddle. The friendly confines of the Georgia Dome makes him even more efficient. Being able to communicate clearly, Ryan often takes advantage of overzealous defenses and audibles.
Arizona's Best Bet
Arizona will have to lean on the defense if they hope to win Sunday. If they try their blitz-heavy approach, they might get a couple of sacks and a turnover—but not a win.
If they copy what the New Orleans Saints did last week, the Cardinals have a strong chance of keeping the game close.
But whether or not they blitz, Arizona will have to try and stop a highly-skilled, highly-motivated offense.
If Matt Ryan has anything to say about it, then that task may be too tall to tackle.