Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan’s Top 10 Performances – #6


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. 6.

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.

#6 – Atlanta Falcons 30, New Orleans Saints 14 – 2014 “The Sweep”

This was it. The first time that Matt Ryan managed to pull off a sweep of the New Orleans Saints. By god, was it a glorious day.

A team that the Falcons had historically dominated was beginning to make a mockery of them. For some reason, Mike Smith and Matt Ryan could simply not find a way to defeat the Saints twice in a single season. It was infuriating for fans especially, as the New Orleans-Atlanta rivalry is one of the hottest (and most under-appreciated) in football.

Luckily, the two broke the “curse” just in the nick of time. The Falcons completed their sweep of the Saints for the first time in nearly a decade.

Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball in front of New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans struck first, scoring on a 1-yd run by Mark Ingram after returning the opening kickoff 99 yards. Atlanta would answer with a 44-yd field goal by Matt Bryant to make the game 7-3 Saints.

The second quarter was all Falcons. Bryant would nail another 50-yd attempt to make it 7-6. Then, with only three seconds to go before the half, Matt Ryan would find Eric Weems on a 3-yd TD pass to put Atlanta up 13-7.

The Falcons would add to their lead on a beautiful 31-yd TD run by Devonta Freeman (here’s to hoping we see more of that this year) midway through the third quarter to make the game 20-7.

Atlanta’s defense would show up big in the fourth. Kemal Ishmael would rip the ball out of Jimmy Graham’s hands on the 1-yd line, recovering the ball and keeping New Orleans out of the endzone.

Ryan broke the Saints’ domination of the Falcons in the most emphatic way possible: in their house, with everything on the line.

The Saints weren’t giving up yet, however. They drove down the field yet again, with Drew Brees connecting with Graham for a 4-yd TD to make the game 20-14.

Matt Bryant would pad the Falcons lead with another field goal, this time a 32-yarder, to make it a two-score game once again at 23-14.

Remember how I mentioned the defense came up big in the fourth? On the final drive of the game, with the Saints threatening at the Atlanta 12, Dwight Lowery forced a fumble on Mark Ingram. Osi Umenyiora would recover the ball and return it 86 yards, waving goodbye to the helpless Saints players attempting to catch him.

The game ended in, quite frankly, the best way imaginable. Atlanta humiliated the Saints on their home turf, 30-14. They also eliminated New Orleans from playoff contention while completing their sweep. All in all, a good day for Falcons fans everywhere.

Ryan had a great day on the field, completing 30-40 (75 percent, his second highest percentage of the season) for 322 yds and 1 TD. While that’s not a mind-blowing stat line, this game is important for other reasons too.

Ryan broke the Saints’ domination of the Falcons in the most emphatic way possible: in their house, with everything on the line. It was a statement game for him and the team, and what a statement it was.

Unfortunately, the team blew it the very next week against Carolina. But that’s not important. What is important is that Ryan led the Falcons to a sweep of their most bitter rival, and he did it with gusto.

What are some of your fond memories of the game? Did you nearly come to tears when you watched Osi Umenyiora troll the Saints players? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Stay tuned tomorrow for #5 on the list, another memorable game from the 2012 season in which Matt Ryan showcased an aspect of his game that is not normally talked about: his toughness.

Next: Making a case for Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman

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