Matt Ryan and Antrel Rolle made their postseason debuts against each other nearly three years ago to the day. Ryan, still cutting his teeth as a rookie at the time, was intercepted twice, tackled in the end zone for a safety and fumbled a botched handoff.
Rolle, then in his fourth season with the Arizona Cardinals, scooped up that fumble and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. His former team went on to win the Wild Card matchup, advancing all the way to Super Bowl XLIII (Rolle also had a 47-yard interception return in the second round against Carolina).
Sunday will be Rolle's fourth time against the Falcons since the January 2009 meeting against Atlanta, but his first with the Giants. Ryan and the Falcons, however, have grown since then with key additions like future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and their 2011 first-round draft pick, wide receiver Julio Jones.
"They are extremely balanced," Rolle said. "You have Matty-Ice at quarterback and he has been doing a phenomenal job since he has come into the league and you have Michael Turner. You have all those core guys like Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and they are stacked at every position so they present a lot of threats your way. You have to go out there and play ball and stick to the game plan and go out there and be better than them."
That's not to mention Roddy White, who was one of only two players to notch 100 receptions this season (Wes Welker of New England was the other).
White hit the century mark right on the head this year and leads the Falcons with 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns, despite leading the league in dropped passes (14). Meanwhile, of 54 receptions, Jones has 16 plays of more than 20 yards.
"They're very explosive," safety Kenny Phillips said of the entire corps. "I think they're very explosive. They have a good runner, which means the play action pass is pretty good. I think they try to stretch the field with Julio Jones. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we're up for it."
And you can't forget Gonzalez, now a 12-time Pro Bowler.
"You can tell he's a smart player," Phillips continued. "Just the way he runs his route, he knows who's covering him and how to beat him. Even in the run game, he's a pretty good blocker. He's not going to blow you off the ball, but he knows how to use his body. You can tell he's been in the game for a long time."
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