ATLANTA — It's a question many people are asked around their birthday: "How does it feel to be another year older?"
The answer is almost invariably simple: "About the same."
It turns out it's the same for quarterbacks who win their first playoff game.
Even after mounting criticism, years of raised eyebrows suggesting Matt Ryan might not be equipped to win in the postseason and coming up short in his first three tries, the Falcons standout 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 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 be a playoff-winning quarterback?
"I feel the same as I did last week," he said as he prepares to face San Francisco in Sunday's NFC title game.
"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."
Ryan has gone from never having a playoff win to needing just one more to get to the Super Bowl. Legacies can change that quickly. Earlier this week, as he sat at a news conference with the NFC championship trophy next to him, Ryan admitted there are some never-before-seen hurdles at this point in the season.
His news conference was moved to a different room, for example. And he said he is glad he does not have to answer any more questions about never winning in the playoffs because they can be a distraction.
"It's a little different," he said. "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."