Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer 24d

Matt Ryan, Sean McDermott continue 'good battle' in 14th meeting

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Last season, Matt Ryan completed 78.6 percent of his passes for 780 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 135.7 passer rating against a Carolina Panthers defense with Sean McDermott as its coordinator.

As McDermott prepares to face Ryan again Sunday, this time as the first-year coach of the Buffalo Bills, he was quick to point out Wednesday that his entire résumé against the Falcons quarterback is not so one-sided as 2016 suggested.

"Matt's had a lot of success over the course of his career," he said. "We've had some games where we've had the upper hand. If you go back and look at those, also, and we had some last year also where he had the upper hand.

"So I think it's been a good battle over the years. He is a highly competitive guy, as are we as a football team. We would expect the same. They had an impressive performance last year in all that they did as a team, and what they did in their Super Bowl run. Like I said before, we've got a big challenge in front of us. It is one we look forward to."

Over McDermott's six seasons (2011-16) as Panthers defensive coordinator, Ryan completed 68.6 percent of his passes and averaged 294.3 yards per game. He threw 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while compiling a 98.6 passer rating in 12 games. During that time, Ryan's Falcons went 7-5 against McDermott's Panthers. Ryan also went against a McDermott defense in his third season in 2010 when the Falcons faced the Eagles. Ryan had a 78.5 rating that day, throwing two touchdowns and one interception in a 31-17 loss.

So what made Ryan generally successful against McDermott's defense in Carolina? Bills fullback Patrick DiMarco had a first-hand look, having played the past four seasons for Atlanta.

"Generally we were running against an eight-man box," DiMarco said Thursday. "Generally they had a safety down in the box for the run game. One of the formulas was try to run the ball and at least keep them honest in the run game to where they have to have that [safety] down [in the box], so if you want to set up the pass, then the passing game will be there.

"So I'm sure it's stuff the [Falcons] will do [Sunday]. They'll try to run it, and if they don't have success running the ball, then they're going to toss the ball a little bit. I'm excited to watch our defense play against these boys."

The Falcons have a different offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, than their play-caller last season, Kyle Shanahan. However, DiMarco has watched some Falcons games this season and believes the new offense is similar to the previous system.

"The offense is built off first and second down," he said. "The run and play-action pass, and the keeper game. They've done a really good job the last three years of doing that, really establishing it and making teams step up and start to respect [the run]. They have speed at wideout. So they have playmakers, but we've got playmakers too on defense. And I wouldn't be surprised if we picked one off and took it to the house."

The Bills (2-1) enter Sunday's game allowing a league-low 12.3 points per game. Buffalo's defense has thus far vastly outplayed the Panthers' defense last season, which allowed 25.1 points per game (26th in the NFL) and 359.8 yards per game (21st in the NFL). That could make life tougher Sunday on Ryan than what he faced last year against Carolina.

"We fared really well on defense so far, so I like our odds," DiMarco said.

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