- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Matt Ryan understands what it takes to be considered among the elite.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback doesn't get caught up in individual statistics, although he owns almost every significant passing record in franchise history.
One thing he doesn't possess is a Super Bowl ring -- he's just 1-4 in the postseason -- which is why folks continue to say he is just shy of joining Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the elite category.
"Everybody wants to be the best, there's no doubt about it," Ryan said. "One thing that I understand at this position is you're judged on what's done in the playoffs. And we've got to get back to it. We've got to get back to being in there and being a contender at the end of the year.
"At the end of the day, I don't worry too much about [rankings]. Certainly I feel like I'm talented enough and experienced enough to be as good as anybody. And now you just have to go out there and do it and play that way."
Ryan comes in at No. 55 on this year's#NFLRank list. He comes off a disappointing 4-12 record last season, yet he still put up solid numbers despite the lack of protection in front of him. In fact, a couple of more completions per game would have put him above a 70 percent completion rate during a season when he was sacked a career-high 44 times.
If the offensive line truly performs better with the additions of Jon Asamoah at right guard and rookie Jake Matthews at left tackle, Ryan could have a career season, particularly with top receivers Julio Jones (foot) and Roddy White (ankle/hamstring) fully healthy again. Sure, he'll miss safety net Tony Gonzalez, who is now retired. But Ryan will have other weapons such as Harry Douglas and Devin Hester to spread the ball around to.
Ryan led the NFL with a 68.6 percent completion rate during a 13-3 campaign in 2012. Completing at least 70 percent of his passes is a personal goal he'd like to surpass this season. But something else is much more important.
"First and foremost, I think it's about winning games," he said. "In our quarterback room, we talk a lot about 'What are the factors that help win games?' And completion percentage is certainly one of them.
"At the beginning of this year, I said something along the lines of wanting to get toward that 70 percent. And I don't think it's unrealistic. We were 67, 68 the last two years. We talk about there being three or four plays a game we feel we could do better. If we do that, we can easily get about that 70 percent range."
Achieving that might put Ryan a cut above the rest.
3hEric D. Williams