Looking to Rebound

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Matt Ryan and handed him the starting quarterback job, knowing he would make mistakes as he learned.

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The Kansas City Chiefs only wish they had someone to put in such a scenario.

Two teams dealing with opposite situations at quarterback meet when the Falcons host the Chiefs on Sunday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Falcons -5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Falcons -5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Ryan was superb in his first NFL start, throwing a 62-yard touchdown pass on his first throw and leading Atlanta to a 34-21 win over Detroit in the season opener. Last week, he played more like a rookie, making several mistakes as the Falcons lost 24-9 to Tampa Bay.

"Obviously, you don't want to start 0-for-9 and throw two interceptions. But you've got to keep battling," said Ryan, who finished 13-of-33 for 158 yards. "Everybody on our team did that. You've got to love that."

The Falcons (1-1) knew there would be ups and downs for Ryan, but they gave the No. 3 overall pick the starting job so he could gain valuable experience.

"As a rookie, it's not going to be easy. There's going to be ups and downs. You've got to weather the storm," Ryan said. "You've got to learn from experiences like this, take what you can from the film and get better."

While Ryan is likely to be inconsistent as he grows into the job, the Chiefs (0-2) have been unable to find anyone to stabilize the quarterback position this season. With Brodie Croyle out two weeks with a separated shoulder, Kansas City tried three quarterbacks last week against Oakland, and none of them had much success in a 23-8 loss.

The Chiefs have lost 11 straight dating to last season, and their rebuilding effort has been held up by the uncertainty under center. After veteran Damon Huard started against the Raiders, Chiefs coach Herman Edwards made the decision Wednesday to go with second-year player Tyler Thigpen against the Falcons.

Thigpen, who played most of the game against the Raiders after Huard left with what was described as a stiff neck, threw a short touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez, but struggled to move the offense. Marques Hagans, a reserve wide receiver for most of his brief NFL career, also took some snaps.

Ryan and the Falcons appear to have a much more stable foundation to build upon. Atlanta leads the NFC in rushing, with Michael Turner running for 262 yards in his first two games with the team.

Ryan also has two solid receivers in Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, and both could have big days Sunday with the Chiefs starting rookie cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Flowers was given his starting job right after the draft while Carr will replace veteran Patrick Surtain, who injured his shoulder against Oakland.

"For the most part, I thought they did a good job against the Raiders," Edwards said. "We put them in a lot of man-to-man situations, they played a lot of bump-and-run. We got no problem playing man-to-man with these guys. They go up there and bump them and run with them and press them. No one gets nervous about it. They do pretty good."

Oakland ran for 300 yards against Kansas City last week, the third-highest total in Chiefs history, so Ryan may not need to throw the ball very much anyway. And that would be good news for Turner, who rushed for just 42 yards against Tampa Bay's stout defense after piling up 220 in Week 1.

Turner, who knows Kansas City well after spending his first four years in San Diego, made his first career start against the Chiefs in the last game of the 2004 season, rushing for 87 yards on 15 carries.

His counterpart on the Chiefs, Larry Johnson, is hoping to get his season turned around this week after a frustrating start. Johnson, who has 96 yards on 34 carries, voiced his concerns about his role with the team after the loss to the Raiders, but Edwards tried to downplay the comments this week.

"We just have different personnel groups," Edwards said. "I think for the most part, L.J. is very competitive, and rightly so. And our plans are always to get him the ball. He's going to touch the ball 20-25 times. But as the game played out when it got late in the third quarter, we went into a different mode of having to try to throw the ball."

Kansas City set a single-game NFL record with eight rushing touchdowns in a 56-10 win over Atlanta in 2004, the last meeting between the teams. The Falcons won 29-13 in the last matchup at Atlanta in 2000, the Falcons' only victory over the Chiefs in the six-game all-time series.

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