Quarterbacks aren’t always the reason a team loses a game. So the fact the Falcons were 1-4 in playoff games started by Matt Ryan doesn’t mean every loss was on him. There were games when the defense collapsed, when the offensive line couldn’t run or pass block, when others around him failed.
But it’s fair to say Ryan hasn’t come up big enough in the postseason for playing the most important position on the field. That wasn’t the case in Saturday’s 36-20 divisional playoff win over Seattle. Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, and registered an efficiency rating of 125.7. The highlight of his day was a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, during which he completed seven of nine passes for all 99 yards, including a 14-yard score to Tevin Coleman.
He was the superior quarterback to Russell Wilson (two touchdowns, two interceptions, 75.0 rating). He also was the superior leader. After the Falcons drove 75 yards for a touchdown to open the second half, taking a 26-10, Ryan came to the sideline and called all of his teammates together for an impromptu pep rally.
Maybe he was thinking of the 2012 playoff game against Seattle, when the Seahawks rallied from a 20-point deficit to take a lead 28-27 lead in the Georgia Dome, forcing the Falcons to scramble for a last-second win.
Maybe he was thinking of the following week when the Falcons blew a 17-0 lead to San Francisco in the NFC title game and lost 28-24.
“Matt got us all together and he wanted to us to realize we need to keep our poise,” tackle Ryan Schraeder said. “If we got out of funk, it could throw our rhythm off. Being the leader that Matt is, guys listened to him. That was pretty cool, getting us together like that. That really shows what he’s about and I think guys responded very well.”
Ryan has received more than his share of criticism and some wondered about his future after having had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2015. But he has responded with the best season of his career and he may win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.
As for the sideline meeting: “In those situations, you have to remember that at the end of the day, what’s our objective and our objective is to win the game. In order to do that I felt like we needed to keep our composure. That was it. Just a reminder to play to the whistle and not worry about all of that stuff that was going on. That’s what happens this time of the year. Games get tough and physical. I thought our guys stepped up to that challenge and kept their composure really, really well.”
The Falcons looked like they belonged on this stage Saturday. So did Ryan.
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