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. 4.
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.
#4 – Chicago Bears 20, Atlanta Falcons 22 – 2008 “Matty Nice Becomes Matty Ice”
There are some games that are simply iconic to a player’s career. This is one of those games.
It was Ryan’s rookie season. He was already shattering any and all expectations we had placed on him by taking down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Lambeau. The Falcons were 3-2 going into a match-up against the Chicago Bears at home.
It was a game the team needed to win, with a two-game road stretch coming up. The contest was competitive the whole way through, but the way this one ended would become Matt Ryan’s legacy. This is the game that would earn Ryan the nickname “Matty Ice”.
Oct 12, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It was all Falcons early on, with Jason Elam providing the majority of the scoring in the first and second quarters. He would connect from 29, 48, and 32 yards out, respectively, putting Atlanta up 9-0 midway through the second quarter.
Chicago would get on the board with a 36-yarder from Robbie Gould, but Atlanta would take a 9-3 lead into halftime.
The Falcons would continue the field-goal spree with a 41-yarder from Elam to make it 12-3.
At this point, the defenses were the stars of the show. But the Bears would finally get a TD on a 3-yd run from Matt Forte, making the score 12-10 Falcons at the conclusion of the third quarter.
Ryan would get involved in the touchdown-scoring, tossing a 3-yd TD pass to Roddy White to make it 19-10. The teams would trade punts until around the 4-minute mark, when Gould would nail another field goal, this time a 32-yarder, to make it a one-score game at 19-13.
Atlanta would get the ball on the Chicago 17-yd line, but thanks to some classic Mike Smith clock management and a missed field goal by Elam, the Falcons would only burn 1:17 off the clock.
Chicago would get the ball back with 2:43 remaining, and a TD would put them in the lead.
Because the football gods hate Atlanta, the Bears managed to drive deep into Atlanta territory. They would manage the clock almost expertly, scoring on a 17-yd TD pass from Kyle Orton to Rashied Davis. Chicago would go up 20-19 with only :11 remaining, and the hopes of Falcons fans everywhere were dashed.
It was now that Matt Ryan morphed into his superhuman form which would later be known only as “Matty Ice”.
But Ryan wasn’t finished quite yet, and neither was Harry Douglas. Douglas would return Chicago’s kickoff all the way to the Bears’ 44-yd line, giving the Falcons a shot at making it into field goal range.
They might have time for one good play, and they would have to get out-of-bounds as they had used up all their timeouts (thanks, Mike Smith).
It was now that Ryan morphed into his superhuman form which would later be known only as “Matty Ice”.
Channeling his newfound power, Ryan would find Michael Jenkins on the sideline to put the Falcons inside field goal range. He would step out with only :01 precious second remaining, giving Jason Elam a chance to kick the game-winner.
Elam nailed the 48-yd kick, and Atlanta won as time expired, 22-20. And so the man, the myth, the legend, Matty Ice was born.
Even disregarding the last-second heroics and remarkable poise shown by Ryan – who was in only his sixth game as a pro – he had a great day.
Ryan went 22-30 (73.3 percent) for 301 yds and 1 TD, his first time over 70 percent and his first 300-yd game. This was but the first showcase of Ryan’s remarkable ability to lead the team on game-winning drives as time expired.
Luckily for Falcons fans, we would get to experience many more of these game-winning drives, and Ryan still leads all QBs in 4th-quarter comebacks/game-winning drives from 2008-2014. Here’s to hoping that we get to experience many more of them in the future.
What are some of your fond memories of the game? Did you have a heart attack when the Bears scored that TD, then have another heart attack when Elam connected on the 48-yd game winner? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Stay tuned tomorrow for #3, a game that will certainly be controversial among fans because of the painful memories. But we’re talking about Matt Ryan here, not the defense, or Mike Smith. And boy, did Ryan have the performance of a lifetime.