Seahawks vs. Falcons: Matt Ryan's NFL Career Will Be Defined by Game's Outcome

Jeremy Sickel@ IIIJanuary 11, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 30:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons points out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense at Georgia Dome on December 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks travel to the Georgia Dome (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET) to take on the NFC’s top-seeded Atlanta Falcons. This matchup will feature plenty of storylines to help the broadcasters fill the typical voids in the action.

The Seahawks have been a surprise team this season, led by equally surprising rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Also, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez could be playing the last game of his Hall of Fame career.

The notion that Atlanta head coach Mike Smith could suddenly find himself on the hot seat—should the Falcons fail to capitalize on yet another favorable postseason setup—cannot be disregarded either.

However, the NFL is defined by quarterbacks, from the Ryan Leafs to the Joe Montanas.

The Falcons selected Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, and he has been a regular-season success, compiling a 56-22 record, 127 touchdowns and just shy of 19,000 passing yards.

However, an 0-4 playoff record could be hard to recover from if his Falcons fall to the Seahawks.

Ryan's starting job certainly wouldn't be in jeopardy moving forward, but he can't keep blowing opportunities in the postseason. After all, there is no guarantee the Falcons will make it back next season. 

In 2008, the Falcons lost to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. In the last two postseasons, Atlanta was hit by the Green Bay Packers (2010) and New York Giants (2011)—both of whom went on to win the Super Bowl.

Unlucky? Possibly. But Ryan did little to help reverse Atlanta’s fortunes.

In those three losses, Ryan completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 584 yards. He had three touchdowns and four interceptions, posting a passer rating of 71.2.

While other quarterbacks have experienced belated postseason fortune—Peyton Manning didn’t notch his first playoff victory until his fourth try—Ryan needs to start posting some positive results. 

Sunday’s contest against Seattle’s well-rounded group of defensive backs will give Ryan and his receivers a true test. If Atlanta loses, though, Ryan’s narrative could be stuck in the opening chapter.


Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy