<span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Q AND A with [Atlanta Falcons](http://www.atlantafalcons.com/) QB Matt Ryan</span>
<span style="">Q: Can you talk about the performance of Darren Sharper?</span>
A: He's certainly done a great job this year. He has a knack for understanding where a quarterback's going to go with the football then making plays when the ball does come his way. We're definitely going to have to be aware of where he's at and do our best to try and protect the football.
Q: Have you been frustrated the past couple weeks the way things have gone with your team and your offense?
A: No, I don't think so. I think that we've played against some good teams. We haven't played as well as we liked, but with that said, our focus is on continuing to get better, working hard during the week so that we do play well on Sundays and in this case Monday. There's not frustration, just motivation to continue to work as hard as we can.
Q: Internally are you pleased with how you guys have followed up from the 2008 season?
A: I think we've definitely done a good job of that. That speaks to the character of our coaching staff and the guys in our locker room that everybody wants to build on what we started last year. We know that's a difficult thing to do. Winning in this league is tough and it takes hard work. There are not shortcuts to get to it. Our focus has been on taking care of the day to day, working as hard as we possibly can during the offseason, OTA's, training camp and now during the course of the week to prepare. We feel like that's the way to get it done and we're not going to waver from that.
Q: Are you guys a better team than a year ago?
A: I think so. I think we've continued to improve in what we do, offensively, defensively and special teams. We just have to let it play out. We're only six games into it at this point. It's a long season. I feel like we've improved. Definitely guys have improved personally and as a team. We feel like we still have a long way to go.
Q: Atlanta has never had back to back winning seasons. Is stemming that a matter of changing the culture in the locker room?
A: It's tough for me to talk about that, because since I've been here it's been a winning atmosphere. I think Coach Smith has set that tone. I can't speak on anything before, but since I've been there, the culture throughout the locker room and the organization has been that we expect to win. We have high expectations for ourselves and certainly work hard to live up to those expectations that we set for ourselves.
Q: Do you put any pressure on yourself to stop that trend?
A: I think everybody puts that pressure on themselves to play well, do what it takes to win games, but we're not completely focused on what's gone on here in the past. Our focus is on this season, taking care of what's going on this week, doing everything we can to get a win this week and beyond that those other things will take care of themselves.
Q: Do you think that this would be a great opportunity to close the NFC South gap with the Saints?
A: Division games are always important. It's a tough game every time we play the Saints. I know last year both home and away were good games, physical games. They're playing at a high level right now. Division games are important. We know that. We'll be prepared to go on Monday night.
Q: Is this a measuring stick game that will tell you where your team is at?
A: It's definitely a good football team. We know that. We're preparing because we know it's going to be a tough game. With that said, our focus is just on winning, not trying to find out where we are or anything like that, just trying to win and at the end of the year, you count them up, find out if you are in the playoffs. That's our focus.
Q: The Saints are tied for the league lead in takeaways. What do you see as the biggest difference this year as opposed to last?
A: Guys are making plays when balls are in the air and they've taken advantage of the opportunities that they've had. The addition of (Darren) Sharper is big. He's done a great job, very good player. Their scheme is good. They bring a lot of pressure and do a very good job, but the biggest thing is they're making plays. It comes down to that. They're making plays at the important time in games, so we've been impressed with their defense on tape.
Q: Is it like watching a different defense than the one you studied to play twice last year?
A: I think personnel's very similar. A lot of the guys we played against are still there, but with that said, the scheme is different. There is obviously a new defensive coordinator and so in that sense, the preparation is a little different. In effect it is different.
Q: Are the Saints cornerbacks making quarterbacks pay when they are not as precise as they should be?
A: Their DB's are putting the onus on the quarterback to be accurate with the football and to make good decisions. Some of that has to do with the pressure. Some of that has to do with their secondary, but they're playing very good team defense. The front end is connected to the back end and the back end is connected to the front end. When you have that, you're going to have a good defense.
Q; Talk about Tony Gonzalez's addition and what it's meant to you?
A: Tony has been a great pickup for us this offseason, certainly a really good player on the field, has made plays for us week in and week out. It's been a huge addition for me. I've learned a lot from him with his experience in the league the last 12 or 13 seasons. I've learned a lot from him on and off the field. I've learned a lot from him in terms of preparation. He's meticulous in his preparation and there's really no mystery as to what kind of player he is because he works hard during the week.
Q: Do you see Aaron Stecker contributing this week?
A: It will be interesting to see. Aaron's a good guy. I've talked to him briefly the past couple of days. He seems to be doing a great job of picking things up. He's worked hard in the meetings and out on the practice field so far. Hopefully we can get him involved. It's another good pickup for us. He's a hard-working guy who has a good attitude and is a good fit for our locker room.