Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan’s Top 10 Performances – #7


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. 7.

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.

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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 Matt Ryan’s performance, not the entire team’s performance.

#7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14, Atlanta Falcons 56 – 2014 “The Fifty-Burger”

At #7 on the list is one of the highest scoring games in Falcons history. It was also a record setting day for Matt Ryan and return specialist Devin Hester.

There are plenty of reasons why this game is simply one of the best in franchise history, but we’re talking about Matt Ryan here. And boy did he put on a show. Perhaps even more impressive was that he did so in less than three quarters of game action.

Sep 18, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Buccaneers 56-14. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan had a record-setting day, eviscerating a Bucs defense that did not look ready for prime time. The Falcons piled up nearly 500 yards of offense and were leading 35-0 before Tampa Bay even managed a first down.

Atlanta got the scoring started early in the first quarter with Ryan tossing a 3-yd TD to Harry Douglas. He followed that up later in the quarter with an 8-yd TD pass to Julio Jones.

Thirty seconds later, Kemal Ishmael would intercept Josh McCown and return it 23 yds for another TD. The score was already 21-0 Falcons before the end of the first quarter.

Seven seconds into the second quarter, Devin Hester would begin his stellar day. He took a hand-off for a 20-yd TD run, making several defenders look silly. Several minutes later, he broke Deion Sanders’ kick return record by returning a Tampa Bay punt 62 yds for his 20th return TD.

The score was 35-0 Falcons going into the half, but the scoring bonanza wouldn’t stop there.

Ryan would find Julio Jones on a beautiful 40-yd bomb to make the score 42-0. Then the running game would get involved, with Steven Jackson scoring on a 2-yd run after Glennon fumbled a snap.

The starters would be pulled after that, but Antone Smith would show off his explosive speed on a 38-yd TD run to make the score a truly embarrassing 56-0.

Matt Ryan shattered the team record for completion percentage with a near-perfect 87.5 percent. His passer rating was an insane 155.9, and his yards-per-pass average was a massive 11.92.

Tampa Bay would go on to score two garbage time TDs, one provided by Falcons’ back-up QB T.J. Yates who tossed an interception that was returned for a TD.

The game would end at an impressive 56-14, becoming the second highest margin-of-victory for Atlanta behind the 62-7 shellacking of the Saints in 1973.

Ryan shattered the team record for completion percentage with a near-perfect 87.5 percent. He ended the day 21-24 for 286 yds and 3 TDs. His passer rating was an insane 155.9, and his yards-per-pass average was a massive 11.92.

In short, it was a nearly flawless performance for Ryan. Fans, myself included, believed that this is what Ryan could look like on a weekly basis with adequate protection.

This game got our hopes up for a strong season, and put the Falcons in good position with a 2-1 record. Unfortunately, that strong season never materialized, and Atlanta’s offensive line would be decimated by injury in the next several weeks.

Still, that doesn’t detract from how amazingly fun this game was to watch. It was the first game in a long time that was not a “nail-biter” – a game where the Falcons dominated so thoroughly that a comeback was completely out of the question.

While this game was an exceptional performance for Ryan, the whole team had a great day. Jones had nine receptions for 161 yds and 2 TDs; Kemal Ishmael would show off his excellent hands with an INT-return TD; Hester would break records.

Even the defense looked competent, save for one drive in the final quarter. Unfortunately, that unit would return to mediocrity the following week.

What did you think of the game? How fun was it to not have a heart attack during the fourth quarter? Share your memories and comments below!

We continue our series tomorrow with #6, another memorable game from the 2014 season that showcased an excellent performance by Ryan along with beating the tar out of the Saints. That’s a win-win in my book.

Next: Fantasy Football: Breaking down the rookie running backs

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