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Know the enemy: Saints on Matt Ryan

METAIRIE, La. – Lost in the ridicule of the NFC South division this year is the fact that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is having one of the best seasons of his career.

New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton, who teamed with Ryan in Atlanta for four years after they both entered the NFL in 2008, said, “I think he’s playing better than I’ve seen him play ever.”

Ryan could potentially surpass his career highs of 4,719 yards and 32 touchdown passes. And he has certainly been on a tear lately, averaging 349 passing yards over the past three games with a total of eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Ryan also set a franchise record with 448 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints in Week 1.

Dating back to 2010, Ryan has thrown 15 touchdowns against the Saints with only three picks (though his career record against New Orleans is 4-8).

Here’s what the Saints had to say about Ryan this week:

LB Curtis Lofton: “The thing about Matt, I’m gonna put him in, he’s one of the elite quarterbacks in this league. You just can’t line up and expect to have success. You have to disguise your blitzes and disguise your coverages, and you’ve gotta get pressure on him and make him uncomfortable. Because if he’s sitting back there and has plenty of time, he’s definitely gonna dissect you. … He throws it quick. And his scrambling ability has really increased this year, I think moreso than he has in the past.”

S Kenny Vaccaro: “I’m watching tape of this cat, and these last two months, man, he’s been unbelievable. He’s been accurate. His look-off I think is one of the best in the league as far as going through his progression. We were just talking about that earlier, I think he’s playing some good ball.”

QB Drew Brees: “I think he’s got great command of the offense. I think he’s extremely intelligent. I think he’s tough. He can make all the throws. I don’t really see him getting rattled. I think he’s a really calm, composed guy who loves to compete.”

Coach Sean Payton: “He’s got good feet, great awareness, arm strength, he’s accurate. I think he’s a guy that doesn’t just sit and hold the ball in the pocket. I think he knows when the play’s over -- you’ll see him throw it away. And yet he can flush, and he has, to his right and to his left and make plays with his feet throwing the ball or keeping it. So he does a lot of the things you look for. That’s why you’re looking at the numbers he’s put up and the season he’s having, it’s been pretty good.”

Payton on Ryan’s tendency to get rid of the ball quickly: “He throws with real good rhythm and anticipation. They do a great job with their spacing in regards to their route trees. And I think that group in front, these last six or seven weeks, has really gelled and [is] playing a lot better. So obviously I think it’s important that the looks are different and you’re able to maybe eliminate some of that timing. But he’s got real good awareness as to what you’re doing coverage-wise, man or zone, where he wants to go with the football. And so that clock operates very efficiently with him.”

Vaccaro on whether Ryan’s quick throws are essentially ‘jump balls’ he thinks his receivers can win: “Not necessarily. I think he’s a good pre-snap reader. He knows where to go with the ball based on the coverage he’s getting. He has a quick release. And he just anticipates what the defense is doing. … I don’t think he forces throws, I think he just knows where to go with it.”