Atlanta Falcons 50: Matt Ryan’s Top 10 Performances – #9


Today, we continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with our mini-series written by staff writer Kevin Knight. Kevin is counting down Matt Ryan’s top 10 performances, and today moves onto No. 9.

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50” posts here.

The Atlanta Falcons have an amazing quarterback in Matt Ryan. After so many years of sub-par QB play and the debacle that was the 2007 season, the team struck gold in the young signal caller from Boston College. Since then, Atlanta has experienced years of consistent leadership and competent quarterbacking from Ryan.

Ryan is, without a doubt, the best QB in Atlanta Falcons history. His numbers speak for themselves, but his play goes beyond the numbers. He’s the unquestioned leader of this team and the face of the franchise. Ryan is a top-10 QB in the NFL today and, in my mind, is either elite or borderline elite already.

More from Atlanta Falcons News

His ability to stay cool and collected during the biggest moments of games, commonly the last drive of the fourth quarter, and engineer comeback after comeback has earned him the nickname “Matty Ice”.

Ryan has built an excellent rapport with star WR Julio Jones, and the two of them combine for one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL.

As we count down the final fifty days until the beginning of the NFL season, let us fondly remember some of Matt Ryan’s greatest games with the Atlanta Falcons. Keep in mind that these are based on Ryan’s performance, not the entire team’s performance.

#9 – Philadelphia Eagles 31, Atlanta Falcons 35 – 2011 “Vick Returns to the Dome”

At #9 on our list is the epic, Monday Night Football clash of the Falcons’ two most recent quarterbacks. Michael Vick, after being released from prison, had become the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was leading a high-caliber offense into the Georgia Dome in game that was rife with mixed emotions for Falcons fans.

Many fans still had enormous respect and affection for Vick, with some going so far as to call for the Falcons to re-sign him. Others were too hurt by his actions, and just wanted to move on. The casual observer, however, just wanted to see a good game between two of the top offenses in the NFC. Who would come out on top: the run-and-gun style of Vick, or the pro-style pocket passing of Ryan?

The stage was set for an epic battle in front of a national audience. It was the perfect opportunity for Matt Ryan to cement himself as the future of the Falcons organization. The only question was, could he pull it off?

Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) scrambles against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The game was quite competitive early on. Atlanta struck first, with Matt Ryan delivering a 2-yd TD strike to Roddy White late in the first quarter.

The Eagles were quick to answer, however, with Vick marching down the field and tossing a 5-yd TD to Jeremy Maclin. Philadelphia continued to build on their lead with Alex Henery kicking a 22-yd field goal halfway through the second quarter, making the score 7-10 Eagles.

The Falcons wouldn’t allow the Eagles to lead into halftime, as Matt Ryan found Tony Gonzalez on a 4-yd TD pass to make the score 14-10 Falcons with only 0:44 left in the half.

Atlanta would add to their lead again early in the third quarter, with Ryan completing a long 17-yd TD pass to Gonzalez to make the score 21-10.

The Eagles weren’t done just yet, however.

Vick would lead the Eagles’ high-powered offense on a scoring spree in the third quarter. He completed a 36-yd bomb to Maclin less than two minutes after the Falcons last score.

LeSean McCoy would then find the endzone twice in the next eight minutes, pushing the Eagles out a 31-21 lead with 1:59 left in the third. However, Vick was injured on the drive and would not return.

Matt Ryan would not be phased. Proving his nickname of “Matty Ice”, he led Atlanta down the field early in the fourth.

Matt Ryan would not be phased. Proving his nickname of “Matty Ice”, he led Atlanta down the field early in the fourth. Ryan would find Ovie Mughelli on a 1-yd TD pass to put the game within one score with 10:45 remaining.

The Falcons’ defense would hold steady against the Eagles’ reserve QB Mike Kafka, giving Ryan another opportunity to score late in the quarter. With 4:48 left in the game, Michael Turner would find the endzone on a 3-yd TD run, putting the Falcons up 35-31. Philadelphia was unable to recover, and the Falcons escaped with yet another fourth quarter comeback win.

This game is special on many levels. In some ways it was the end of an era in Atlanta – the moment when the majority of Falcons fans fully switched their “allegiance” to Ryan. It was also a record-setting day for Matty Ice, who tossed 4 TD passes to go along with 17/28 (60.7 percent) for 195 yards.

Not to mention it was simply a very entertaining game: both teams played quite well, and the offenses were impressive. It was unfortunate that Vick was injured in the game, but it cemented Ryan’s status as the future of the franchise. That alone is worth remembering, and marks an important milestone in Ryan’s career.

What do you think about the game? Were you still a fan of Vick going into the game, or had you already bought into the Matt Ryan hype? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Keep an eye out tomorrow for #8, a game that is particularly fondly remembered for Falcons’ fans and those of us who dislike Warren Sapp.

Next: December will make or break the Falcons' season

More from Blogging Dirty