BALTIMORE (AP) — Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, the two best quarterbacks to come out of the 2008 draft, see more of each other on the dinner circuit than on the football field.
Because Flacco plays for the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC and Ryan stars for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC, the only time the quarterbacks have been matched in a regular-season game was in 2010.
In that one, after Flacco directed a late scoring drive to put the Ravens ahead, Ryan came up with one of his own to give the Falcons a 26-21 victory.
The rematch comes Sunday, and reintroductions might be in order before the opening kickoff.
“It is a shame that we’re in different conferences and we don’t get to play each other as often as we’d probably like to,” Flacco said. “It would be pretty fun.”
Ryan was drafted third overall out of Boston College and Flacco, who played at Delaware, was selected 18th. Both have accomplished plenty since then — Flacco helped Baltimore win a Super Bowl and Ryan has performed in the Pro Bowl.
Before this year, Flacco won 62 games and Ryan 60 — the most and second-most by quarterbacks in their first six seasons since the 1970 merger.
“I think we’ve both played well at different times,” Ryan said.
They got to know each other before the draft, but since that time there has been little interaction.
“I’ve seen him at various charity events and things like that during our career,” Ryan said.
On Sunday, Flacco will seek an encore to a five-touchdown performance that carried Baltimore (4-2) over Tampa Bay 48-17 and Ryan will attempt to help the Falcons (2-4) snap a three-game skid.
“We’re behind the 8-ball a little bit,” Ryan conceded. “I think there’s a real sense of urgency in our locker room.”
Some other things to know about the Ravens-Falcons matchup:
FIZZLE OUT: The Falcons have been outscored 49-0 in the fourth quarter of their past four games.
“We have to finish. We have to be better in the fourth quarter,” Ryan said. “We haven’t done that up until this point. We have to figure it out.”
It might be a tough task against the Ravens, who have outscored the opposition 47-22 over the final 15 minutes.
PROTECT JOE: The Ravens allowed 48 sacks last year and only seven this season despite playing the past three games with rookie James Hurst at left tackle in place of the injured Eugene Monroe.
Not only that, but last week rookie John Urschel started for injured Kelechi Osemele at left guard and Baltimore didn’t let the Bucs get to Flacco even once.
“Obviously, we’ve had some new guys in there with injuries and stuff, and the guys have stepped up and played well,” right guard Marshal Yanda said.
RUNNING WILD: Atlanta rookie Antone Smith has totaled 255 yards on his five touchdowns, including a 41-yard reception from Ryan last week in a 27-13 loss to Chicago.
Smith could see extended time behind starter Steven Jackson, who’s scored only two TDs on the ground. Smith also has two rushing touchdowns, but on 56 fewer carries, and is averaging a whopping 9.7 yards per carry.
With Smith leading the way, the Falcons have an NFL-high nine touchdowns of 20 yards or more.
AVOID THE LETDOWN: Baltimore led 38-0 at halftime against Tampa Bay and cruised to an easy win. That was fun, but the Ravens know that won’t guarantee a similar result against Atlanta.
“We had a lot of success last week, but we’re not really banking our season on going out there and playing (that) way every week,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
Flacco said: “The biggest thing is, during the week is coming in here and reminding yourself and everybody to put the work in. That comes naturally for us. It’s something that we’re good at doing.”
HOME AGAIN: This is Baltimore’s lone home game over a five-week stretch. The Ravens are coming off trips to Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, and after facing Atlanta they take to the road against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Baltimore has already matched its win total from last year on the road (two), and for the Ravens to return to the playoffs, success at home is a must.
Since coach John Harbaugh took over in 2008, Baltimore is 41-10 at home, including 12-1 against NFC foes.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)