ATLANTA -- It's a question many people are asked around their birthdays.
"How does it feel to be another year older?"
The answer is almost invariably simple. "About the same."
Well, it turns out it's the same for NFL quarterbacks who win playoff games. Even after mounting criticism, years of raised eyebrows suggesting Matt Ryan may not be equipped to win in the postseason, and coming up short in his first three tries, the Falcons' quarterback said there is very little difference now that he has shed the persona of being a perennial playoff loser. His engineering of a last-minute drive to avoid a heartbreaking loss to the Seahawks on Sunday means he will never again be counted among those who could not get it done in the postseason. His Falcons logo no longer looks like an albatross.
So, Matt, how does it feel to finally be a playoff-winning quarterback?
"I feel the same as I did last week," he said Wednesday as he prepares to face the 49ers in the NFC title game on Sunday. "When you walk in and you turn on the film on a Monday or a Tuesday and you're getting ready to play your next game there's a whole new laundry list of problems that you need to address. That's more of where my focus has been and that's where I think it needs to be."
He's gone from never having a playoff win to needing just one more to get to the Super Bowl. Legacies can change that quickly. Wednesday, as he sat at a news conference with the NFC Championship trophy tantalizingly next to him, Ryan admitted that there are some never-before-seen hurdles at this point in the season. His news conference was moved to a different room, for example.
"It's a little different," he conceded. "You have to be able to adjust. It's just a little bit different schedule, but that's part of the deal. You adjust, you work through it. It's not that big of a deal."
Once on the field, though, Ryan is confident he will be able to get back to the type of play that earned the Falcons the top seed in the conference and the right to host this upcoming game. He said he is glad he doesn't have to answer any more questions about never winning in the playoffs because they can be a distraction from the task at hand.