Before quarterback Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons heads into the NFL off-season, the three-time Pro Bowler got a chance to take in the experience of Super Bowl week in San Francisco, California. Ryan was in town to promote his new partnership with Gillette during the festivities leading up to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.
Earlier this week, Ryan took some time out of his schedule for a wide-ranging exclusive interview with byteclay.com. The veteran quarterback touched on many different topics from his Super Bowl 50 prediction, Peyton Manning’s legacy, Cam Newton, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones to the NFL heading back to Los Angeles next season.
Ryan Ward: As the only quarterback to beat the Carolina Panthers this season, how do you think Peyton Manning should attack the defense?
Matt Ryan: Well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure. Obviously, Carolina has a great defense. They’re extremely talented. I think it is important to stay balanced, you know, running the ball, throwing the ball. Trying to create play-action against them to try and get their linebackers up into the line of scrimmage, so you can have some windows to throw the ball behind.
That was part of our success, and you’ve got to be great on third down on the offensive side of the ball. That’s something we did really well the second time we played them, allowed us to win the time of possession battle, take the ball out of Cam’s hand a little bit, and ultimately we found a way to get it done.
RW: If this is Peyton Manning’s last game, what do you think his legacy will be win or lose?
MR: He’s one of the greatest of all-time. To me, there’s no question about that. He’s been unbelievable. His production is second to none, statistically. He’s won so many games. I’ve always been a huge fan of his, and if it is his last game, it’s been an unbelievable ride for him and a really unbelievable career.
RW: Do you believe Cam Newton is this season’s NFL MVP?
MR: Yeah. I think he has had as good a season as anyone in the league, and I know that from firsthand experience going against him twice.
He’s a great player, certainly a great competitor, and is definitely deserving of the MVP.
RW: Did you know Cam Newton would turn into the dominant quarterback he is today?
MR: Yeah, I think so. They’ve continued to improve since he’s gotten there. Their team has continued to get better, and he has as well, but certainly early on you could tell he was talented. He is very physically gifted. Strong, big, athletic, throws the ball really well. He’s accurate. He’s the complete package, and I think he showcased that this year.
RW: Do you think it will be Cam Newton’s performance that dictates whether the Carolina Panthers win Super Bowl 50?
MR: No. Obviously, I expect him to play great because he’s done that all year. It’s about a lot of things to determine the outcome in games. Whether it’s turnovers, fumbles, or whatever it is. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but my expectation is that Cam will play really well.
RW: What’s your prediction for Super Bowl 50?
MR: I’ve got to go with Carolina. I think having gone against them twice, I think they’re about as complete a football team as there is. I think they’re very good on offense, they’re very good on defense. They’re great on special teams, and they don’t really do anything to beat themselves. They make it a really tough team to beat, and I just think they’ve got too much firepower.
RW: On his new partnership with Gillette for the Gillette Fusion ProShield.
MR: Great partnership. Playing quarterback you know a lot about protection and shielding. I rely on our offensive line to give me time throughout an entire game. So when Gillette asked me to partner up with them, I thought it made perfect sense because what the Fusion ProShield is all about protection and shielding.
I think it’s a great partnership and something that makes a lot of sense. Anytime you can align yourself with a premier brand and the absolute best razor out there, it’s a no-brainer from my perspective.
RW: Do you have anything you’d like to improve on during the off-season?
MR: Definitely. I feel like every off-season there’s tons of stuff you can improve at. I think for me, this off-season, it’s about trying to figure out how we can finish games better than we did this year. I thought we had a lot of chances to win games late last year, and we didn’t find a way to get it done. That starts with film study, taking a really honest evaluation of what we did last year and trying to determine what I can do and what we can do as an offense to help close those games out better.”
RW: Is Devonta Freeman now in the elite class of running backs in the NFL after his breakout year?
MR: Yeah. Devonta is a great player. He burst onto the scene for us a couple games into the season, and he never took his foot off the gas. He played extremely well for us. I think he’s a guy that is going to be extremely productive and a great player for a long time and I’m really glad that we have him.
RW: Is Julius Jones the best wide receiver in the NFL?
MR: Absolutely! In my opinion, he’s absolutely the best. His production week in and week out. Having defenses game plan for him and still being able to produce the way that he did, to me he’s absolutely the best wide receiver in the NFL, and one of the best players in the league. That’s just who he is and his talent level.
RW: Where do you see the Atlanta Falcons next season in a competitive NFC South?
MR: I think we’re certainly in the mix. We finished 8-8 and had opportunities to win more games and we didn’t get it done. I think we’ll find ways to get better to improve this off-season, I certainly expect us to contend next year.
RW: Thoughts on the NFL being back in Los Angeles.
MR: I think it’s great. Obviously, L.A. is such a huge market. For the NFL and the Rams to be able to be able to get back into that market, I think it’s a good thing. We’re going to play out there next year; we have the Rams on our schedule out there next year. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play out there.