Falcons vs. Seahawks: Matt Ryan Must Deliver in Divisional Round to Remain Elite

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt RyanScott Cunningham/Getty Images

In order to be considered among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Matt Ryan needs to have a good divisional round game.

The Atlanta Falcons QB is 0-3 for his career in the postseason. In those games, he's failed to assert himself. Ryan has thrown for just 584 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Those aren't the numbers of an elite quarterback.

Ryan took to the league like a fish to water ever since coming into the league in 2008. He's helped turn around a Falcons franchise that was 4-12 and made them consistent contenders.

His play during the regular season can't be disputed, but his postseason play is a massive monkey on his back that he needs to shake off.

Until last year, he wasn't blessed with a solid group of receivers, as Roddy White was all alone. He was one of the better receivers in the league, yet had nobody to provide support from opposing secondaries.

With the selection of Julio Jones in the draft last year, Ryan now has the weapons to succeed in the postseason.

Postseason play can make or break a player's career, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Stats alone don't cut it when trying to determine a player's legacy.

That's why Dan Fouts and Dan Marino can rack up all the numbers they want, but are universally regarded as inferior to Joe Montana.

Ryan is following along the path of Fouts and Marino. He has very good numbers without the runs through the postseason.

In Ryan's defense, and the defense of many players throughout history, with the sheer numbers on the field at one time, it's hard for one singular player to make a difference.

This argument isn't about Ryan absolutely positively needing to win a Super Bowl. Too often, Super Bowl rings alone are the sole defense of choosing one player over another.

This is more about having the QB perform in the playoffs the same way he has during the regular season. Postseason football is a much tougher beast, but that isn't enough to excuse his performances.

It would be different if Ryan was like Peyton Manning, where he put up the numbers without much success. The Indianapolis Colts' defense let down Manning and the team's high-powered offense time and again.

Winning Super Bowl XLI was a huge catharsis for the player and finally affirmed the greatness that his numbers illustrated.

Coincidentally, Manning started out 0-3 in his first three postseason games.

Then he exploded in 2003, throwing for 918 yards and nine touchdowns. Manning did finish with five interceptions, but four of them came in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots.

If Ryan goes another playoffs getting bounced in the first game while managing to put in an uninspiring performance, then he'll deserve much of the criticism and declarations that he isn't an elite quarterback.

He has the talent to continue making playoff appearances, and at just 27 years old, Ryan will have plenty of opportunities to succeed in the postseason.

Until that success and/or production comes, Ryan deserves to be on the periphery of the elite NFL QB discussion.


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