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. 5.
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.
#5 – Carolina Panthers 28, Atlanta Falcons 30 “Ryan Proves His Toughness”
Some games you dominate. Some games you get dominated. Some games you get dominated but you still find a way to win. That is what happened to Matt Ryan in Week 4 of the 2012 season against the Carolina Panthers.
It’s bad for a QB when you get sacked. It’s worse when you get sacked multiple times. It’s embarrassing when you get sacked seven times in one game. How do you keep your composure when you’re getting hammered to the turf every other play?
Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Somehow, Ryan figured it out. He endured seven sacks (and 12 QB hits), and still managed to lead the Falcons to victory.
That is toughness.
Let’s relive the game, shall we?
Carolina struck first, with Cam Newton finding Greg Olsen on a 17-yd TD pass.
The Falcons would respond in kind at the end of the first quarter, with Ryan finding Roddy White on a 49-yd bomb to tie the game up at 7-7. Ryan had already endured two sacks at this point.
Soon after, Matt Bryant would complete a 41-yd field goal, but not before Ryan was sacked yet again. The score was tipped in favor of Atlanta, 10-7.
Atlanta and Carolina would trade touchdowns before halftime. DeAngelo Williams would break off a 13-yd TD run, while Ryan would find White again on a 14-yd TD pass. The score was 17-14 Falcons heading into the half.
The Falcons would start the scoring in the second half, with Ryan completing a rare pass to Michael Turner for a 60-yd TD. That made it 24-14 Atlanta, with the Falcons looking to be in control.
It was time for more fourth-quarter heroics by a battered and bruised Matty Ice. On the first play from scrimmage, Ryan completed a beautiful 59-yd pass to Roddy White to put the Falcons at the Carolina 40.
Carolina would fight back, however, with Newton scrambling for a 4-yd TD run with 3:16 left in the third to put the game back within one score. They would also manage sack Ryan two more times (we’re up to five now, if you’re counting).
The Panthers would continue their scoring, with Newton finding Kealoha Pilares for a 36-yd TD to put Carolina up 28-24 with 7:55 left in the game.
Atlanta appeared to be in dire straits, with Ryan getting sacked again on the ensuing drive. He still managed to get the Falcons into field goal range, and Bryant completed a 33-yarder to make it a 1-point game with 4:57 remaining.
The teams would trade three-and-outs, with the Falcons’ caused by—you guessed it—another sack. Carolina would get the ball back with 2:26 remaining, and would run the clock down to 0:59 while pinning the Falcons at their own 1-yd line.
It was time for more fourth-quarter heroics by a battered and bruised Matty Ice. On the first play from scrimmage, Ryan completed a beautiful 59-yd pass to Roddy White to put the Falcons at the Carolina 40. A few short passes later and the Falcons were in field goal range at the Carolina 22.
The other Matty Ice, Matt Bryant, would kick the game winner with :05 remaining, a 40 yarder. Atlanta would come away with the victory despite Matt Ryan being put on the turf a shocking seven times.
Ryan had an excellent stat line for the day, going 25-40 (62.5%) for 369 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. That ended up being his highest yardage total during the 2012 regular season, and it was made all the more impressive when factoring in the punishment he took.
How many NFL QB’s could have taken those sacks, then turned around and won the game on a last second drive? Matt Ryan is one tough cookie, and doesn’t get anywhere near enough praise for it.
This game was impressive not just because of the stats, or the fantastic fourth-quarter game-winning drive, or because he managed to do those things while taking a ridiculous number of sacks. It is impressive because of all those things bundled together.
What were some of your thoughts on the game? Did you cringe every time you saw Ryan end up on the turf? Share your happy (or otherwise) memories in the comments below.
Keep an eye out tomorrow for #4 on our countdown, where Matt Ryan first earned the nickname “Matty Ice”.