Ryan represents defense's tallest task

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is among the league leaders when it comes to pass attempts. Heading into Week 4, Ryan is tied for 10th with 119 attempts, but is tied for sixth with 81 completions for a completion rate (68.1) that ranks fourth in the league.

It's evident the former Boston College Eagle likes to throw the football.

“He’s just smart. He’s a smart quarterback,” Patriots defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich said Friday. “He knows when to get the ball out of his hand. He doesn’t take too many sacks. You can get some pressure on him, but you’ve got to make sure you’re quick in your movements.”

New England’s defense has allowed 188.3 passing yards per game this season, the sixth-lowest mark in the NFL, but has faced three second-tier quarterbacks. Ryan is by far the best signal caller it will have faced.

“They love throwing the ball. For me, I just fill up the gas tank because it’s going to be a night where you gotta have a lot of high-energy rushes,” Ninkovich said. “They’re going with an up-tempo offense, so the D-line has to do a good job of doing their assignment.”

Atlanta is also consistent with its play-action despite an injury to Steven Jackson, so New England needs to respect that as well.

“You’ve just got to do the best to stop the run. Set up some long situations where you know they wouldn’t really want to run the ball if they’re backed up, or in a longer yardage situation. Just have good coverage and a good rush, and it all works together,” Ninkovich said.

Said New England defensive lineman Tommy Kelly: “He’s a great quarterback and he runs the whole show. The whole offense is run through him, and with the game on the line he’s going to have the ball in his hand. We’ve got to try to get him off the spot and make some hurried decisions.”

Ryan has been sacked just five times this season, but the Patriots hope to increase that number on Sunday.

“Our glory comes from sacking the quarterback, so you if can’t get up for a chance to play a quarterback who throws the ball a lot, you’re pretty much in the wrong league,” Kelly said.