Will the real Matt Ryan please stand up?
Never have Matt Ryan's inconsistencies been better on display than in the Atlanta Falcons' 30-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Those inconsistencies are going to be a big story when the Falcons take on the 49ers in the NFC Conference Championship.
Despite the win, the Falcons' performance was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the only blemish on an otherwise dominant performance from the Falcons was a Ryan interception. Beyond that pick, Ryan and the Falcons were dominant, outscoring the Seahawks 20-0 in the first half and scoring practically at will.
Even in the third quarter, Ryan did some good things. He led a touchdown drive that lasted over half the quarter, and he threw his third touchdown of the day.
Then the wheels fell off.
Before the game-winning drive, Ryan was just 2-of-5 passing for three yards and an interception in the fourth quarter. Granted, the Falcons running game was struggling to close out the game, but Ryan had chances of his own to do so. He failed in those chances.
The interception was especially brutal, as Ryan forced the ball into double coverage despite limited pressure. A top-tier quarterback needs to know not to take pointless risks in that scenario.
The fourth quarter was certainly a horror show for Ryan and the Falcons, as they saw a 27-7 lead turn into a 28-27 deficit.
Then, all of a sudden, Matty Ice caught fire.
With 25 seconds left in the game, Ryan hit Harry Douglas for 22 yards and Tony Gonzalez for 19 to set up a 49-yard field-goal attempt that eventually won the game.
The question remains: Who is the real Matt Ryan? Is he the quarterback who dominated for three quarters of this football game, or is he the choker who sports a 1-3 career record in the playoffs and nearly led his team to a historic meltdown?
We know the real Ryan can take over any game. He dominated the 2012 season, throwing for 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. He led his team to a 13-3 record, best in the NFL. Ryan is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Yet Ryan always remains prone to massive meltdowns. He threw five interceptions against the lowly Arizona Cardinals and three against the even worse Oakland Raiders. His second-half meltdown against the Seahawks threatened to be the latest in a line of embarrassing playoff losses for Ryan.
Good for Ryan for finally winning a playoff game, and even better that he helped Tony Gonzalez win the first playoff game of his career.
One win does not make a championship, however. Ryan needs to overcome his inconsistencies and finally sustain excellence to take his team to the Super Bowl. The Falcons will not be able to overcome another meltdown.