Ranking Matt Ryan's 10 Most Memorable Moments as an Atlanta Falcon
Granted, he hasn't reached a Super Bowl like the 1998 team did, but he has ushered in consistent success the likes of which the organization has never seen before.
In his six seasons as the Falcons' starting quarterback, Ryan has a 60-34 record in the regular season and has taken the team to the playoffs four times. Ryan was the first Falcon quarterback to lead the team to consecutive winning seasons, and he holds the franchise record for passing yards.
Only 29 years old, Ryan is already the best quarterback in Falcon history and has made a lasting imprint on the franchise. Here are 10 of his most memorable moments.
10. His 1st Pass
The first pass Matt Ryan ever threw in the NFL was a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins—not a bad way to start your career.
The Falcons went on to win the game 34-21, and Ryan was able to show the Falcon fanbase right away that he was something special.
The Falcons needed this after a horrible 2007 season during which they finished 4-12 and saw former quarterback and face of the franchise Michael Vick thrown in jail.
This pass was the start of the Ryan era in Atlanta.
9. 90-Yard Touchdown Pass to Roddy White
The most impressive of those eight completions was a 90-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The play set new career highs for White and Ryan, and represented the third-longest play in franchise history. At the time, it was the team's longest play since 2001.
8. Comeback Against the Chicago Bears
Ryan has earned the nickname Matty Ice because of his ability to stay cool under pressure. In 2008, the Chicago Bears scored a touchdown with 11 seconds left to give them a 20-19 lead.
They celebrated like they had won the game because they didn't know just how cool Ryan was. No one did. He was still a rookie.
Ryan and the Falcons got the ball with six seconds remaining in the game. Ryan dropped back and threw a 26-yard pass to Michael Jenkins, who managed to get out of bounds with one second left. After that, Jason Elam came in and made a 48-yard field goal to win the contest.
7. 1st Playoff Start
Ryan's showing against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs wasn't his finest performance. He only threw for 190 yards and the Falcons lost the game 30-24, but appearing in that game was huge.
When Vick was indicted on dogfighting charges before the 2007 season, not many people would have believed that it would only take the Falcons one year to recover.
However, that's exactly what happened.
Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record in his first season, and while it ended in the first round of the playoffs, it showed the Falcons that they had found their franchise quarterback.
6. Comeback Against the Baltimore Ravens
In 2010, Ryan's reputation as a clutch player had already taken root. The league had gotten accustomed to his late-game heroics, but this time he was up against Ray Lewis and the stingy Baltimore defense.
Oh, and he had to go 80 yards in just over one minute.
No problem. Ryan drove the Falcons downfield with total command, capping off the drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White. He did it with time to spare, too, scoring the touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the game.
The game took place on a Thursday night, which meant a national audience. The win moved the Falcons to 7-2 and showcased Ryan and the Falcons as an elite player and team, respectively.
5. Victory over Tampa Bay in Week 17, 2009
The game itself wasn't too eventful, but what it signified was monumental. The Falcons won the game 20-10 and improved their record to 9-7.
They didn't make the playoffs, but it was the first time in franchise history that they had put together consecutive winning seasons.
It's hard to believe that a team established in 1965 hadn't been able to have back-to-back winning seasons until 2009, but the Falcons had always been mired in mediocrity prior to Ryan's arrival.
Ryan and head coach Mike Smith brought a new attitude and energy to the franchise. 2009 was in some ways a disappointment, since the Falcons missed the playoffs after making it the previous season, but it gave the Falcons something they'd never had: positive consistency.
4. Victory over New Orleans in 2010
The New Orleans Saints have been the biggest thorn in the Falcons' side during the Ryan era. In Week 3 of the 2010 season, the Falcons played the Saints in the Superdome.
This was the first meeting between the teams since the Saints' Super Bowl victory the season prior. It was a chance for Ryan and the Falcons to make a statement, and that's exactly what they did.
Ryan went back and forth with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in what turned out to be a thrilling shootout. Ryan threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't good enough to win the game in regulation.
After a stunning missed 29-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley and the Saints, Ryan led the Falcons down the field for Matt Bryant to make the game-winning 47-yard field goal in overtime.
3. Single-Season Touchdown Record
The 2012 regular season was a magical one for Ryan and the Falcons. Going into their Week 17 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons were 13-2 and had already locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
However, there was one more thing left to do before turning their attention to the playoffs. Ryan came into the game tied with Steve Bartkowski for the franchise's single-season passing touchdown record.
Ryan broke the record in the fourth quarter when he threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas. 2012 was by far Ryan's best year as a pro. He finished with 4,719 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and a 68.8 completion percentage—all career highs.
2. Breaking the Franchise Record for Career Passing Yards
In the midst of the misery that was the 2013 season for the Atlanta Falcons, there was one glimmer of positivity.
In Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, Ryan broke the franchise record for career passing yards.
This record also belonged to Bartkowski, who had thrown for 23,470 yards as a Falcon. Ryan has currently thrown for 23,472 yards and appears to have a lot left in the tank.
The record cemented Ryan's place as the best quarterback in the history of the Atlanta Falcons.
He's one touchdown behind Bartkowski's career franchise record of 154 passing touchdowns, but Falcons fans are more interested in seeing Ryan do something no one has ever done: lead the Falcons to a Super Bowl championship.
1. Victory over Seattle in the 2012 Playoffs
The Falcons' 30-28 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round of the 2012 playoffs was the biggest moment in Ryan's career—and he did it in typical Matty Ice fashion.
It looked like the Falcons had blown the game when Marshawn Lynch ran into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the game. The score gave the Seahawks a 28-27 lead and capped a 21-0 scoring run for the Seahawks in the fourth quarter.
It looked like Ryan's postseason record would fall to 0-4 and he would again have to answer questions about why he couldn't win in the playoffs.
Fortunately for Ryan, he had ice in his veins—and one of the best kickers in the league on his team.
Ryan used two plays, a 29-yard pass to Harry Douglas and a 19-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez, to get Matt Bryant in position to make the game-winning, 49-yard field goal.
It was a special moment for Ryan—who hadn't won a playoff game before—and the franchise, as they finally got over the first hurdle on their quest to win a Super Bowl.