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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Ryan let his footwork get away from him

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Matt Ryan had the opportunity to subtly admit he needed better protection. Instead, true to his character, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback took ownership for a problem not solely his fault.

In revisiting his struggles during last Sunday's 33-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Ryan admitted his footwork wasn't quite where it needed to be, at least in the first half.

He made his halftime adjustments.

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan knows that his footwork needs to be better when throwing the ball.
"As a player, you always look for reasons why you're a little bit out of sync, and as a quarterback I think it always comes down to footwork,'' Ryan said Wednesday. "That was something that I tried to be a little bit more settled in the pocket last week, get my feet underneath me a little bit better. And I think I did a good job of adjusting. But, yeah, that's something that comes up all the time.''

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter pointed to footwork in explaining why a number of Ryan's passes were off in the first half against the Seahawks. Ryan had seven incompletions in 16 attempts before halftime. He was more accurate (14-of-20) in the second half.

"Like any position in football, it all starts with your footwork; it all starts with your footwork and your base,'' Koetter said. "For the quarterback, that's his drop, his setup, his weight transfer and his movement in the pocket. And we talk about three-, five- and seven-step drops. In real football, it's very rarely a pure three, five or seven. It's usually three and slide to this side or [that side] to avoid this rusher and move around.

"But again, Matt worked hard on his footwork in the second half, tried to be more consistent. When you're facing a ferocious pass rush, it's sometimes hard to stand in there and take it in the teeth. But he did a better job of getting his initial setup in the second half. And I think that showed in his throws.''

The footwork issues were evident on Ryan's third incomplete pass. Working out of the shotgun, he retreated five steps, rocked left and right then fired a pass off his back foot to a crossing Roddy White as three blitzing Seahawks swarmed. The ball was nearly intercepted by Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner.

"Just being a little bit off-balance, getting my feet a little bit outside of where my base needed to be,'' Ryan explained. "Those are little things that we work on in practice week in and week out. And I felt like I was a little bit out of there in the first half.''

When pressed on whether his footwork issues were a product of facing constant pressure due to lack of protection, Ryan responded, "No, no, no.''

So what was the reason?

"It happens,'' Ryan said. "If you always knew the reason why, you wouldn't do it in the first place. I think one of the important things is when you do notice it you've got to nip it in the bud. And I thought we did a good job of that.''

Ryan said footwork is a detail sometimes overlooked at the quarterback position. He knows his footwork has to be more on point than a player such as Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton -- quarterbacks more accustomed to improvising on the run.

"It's incredibly important,'' Ryan said of footwork. "And it's one of those things that we do harp on all the time; trying to keep that base and balance underneath you. And, for the most part, I feel like I do a good job with it. But at certain times, for whatever reason, there are times where it gets away from you. And sometimes you need to get it back as fast as you can.''