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Ryan gets test from the Saints

ATLANTA - Matt Ryan has enjoyed such a strong start to his rookie season, he's drawing comparisons from his coach to one of the league's top quarterbacks, Drew Brees.

That comparison will be tested today when Brees, the NFL's leading in yards passing, leads the New Orleans Saints against Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan, this year's No. 3 overall draft pick, has started every game for the surprising Falcons (5-3). He's added surprising stability to a quarterback position left in chaos last season following Michael Vick's guilty plea and prison sentence on dogfighting charges.

Ryan ranks a modest 19th with 1,661 yards passing, but he's thrown only five interceptions. Ryan passed for two touchdowns with no interceptions in last week's dominating 24-0 win at Oakland, when the Falcons had a 30-3 advantage in first downs.

The rookie completed 17 of 22 passes for 220 yards against the Raiders and led the Falcons to touchdowns on their first three possessions.

'Matt has an outstanding work ethic, has all the attributes that you're looking for,' said Falcons coach Mike Smith. 'He's a big, strong guy and he has a sense of getting the ball out of his hands, very similar to (Brees).'

Brees has 2,563 yards passing, completing 60 percent of his throws, and has 15 touchdown passes.

Ryan's quick transition from college to the NFL has helped the Falcons remain in contention in the tough NFC South, where the Saints (4-4) are in last place.

'He's been nothing but outstanding,' said Saints coach Sean Payton. 'For a young player to come in and really contribute right away, I wish I could say it's been nice to see, because it's in our division.'

Even Ryan mentioned Brees when asked this week if he hopes his skills compare with any another quarterback in the league.

'I think that I've never tried to play exactly like someone,' Ryan said. 'I think that when you watch tape, you look at players that do things very well. When we watch tape of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has done a great job down there this year. He's made as good decisions as anybody I've seen on tape.'

SideBar: Saints at Falcons

· When: Today, 1 p.m.

· Where: Georgia Dome

· TV/Radio: Fox/92.9-FM