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Matt Ryan And His Quest For Approval

Scott Cunningham

The Falcons beat the Saints last night on national television, but you might not have been able to tell by the flurry of questioning comments surrounding the win afterwards. Matt Ryan didn't win a playoff game again on Thursday night, just so you know.

Since entering the NFL, Ryan has been presented with an uphill battle against his critics. He's led the Falcons to the playoffs in three of four seasons during his tenure (soon to be five). However, his lack of success it the postseason remains the only aspect of his game that seems to stick out in anyone's mind.

If you haven't read Bill Barnwell's latest post on this predicament, I suggest you check it out. "The Incomplete Tale of Matt Ryan" fully encompasses the precise nature of this ongoing situation. Ryan hasn't won a playoff game, so why should we give him credit? Regular season wins are for chumps, apparently.

It suggests that there's something lacking about Ryan's abilities or even Atlanta's character. That both Ryan and his team truly can't be taken seriously - that they don'tdeserve to be taken seriously - until they beat somebody in January. I don't know that the Falcons will win the Super Bowl or even that lone playoff game this year, but impugning Ryan and his team on some sort of illegitimate-until-they-win argument is lazy.

He, and the Falcons, can't hack it in the playoffs. Of course Saints fans were quick to point out the issue after last night. "Don't worry, they won't win any big games anyways," said the disgruntled onlookers from the bayou. Can we really fault Ryan, though?

Barnwell breaks down the three playoff games from No. 2's career, noting how each was far from a blowout, as some would insinuate. Even last season, the Falcons were only trailing 10-2 in the third quarter. They were stopped on fourth-and-1 and shortly afterwards came a huge bomb to Hakeem Nicks. It was a disheartening display to say the least, but saying Matt Ryan can't win a playoff game because he hasn't won a playoff game is absurd.

Also noted in Barnwell's article is the fact that Peyton Manning lost his first three playoff games as well. His third postseason appearance in 2002 (man, he's old) resulted in a 41-0 debacle against the Jets, as Manning completed 45.2 percent of his passes and threw two picks. How did the following season go? Well, the Colts ended up in the Super Bowl, so there's that.

The overall point made here is how difficult of a task changing your perception is. Once a player starts out struggling in the playoffs, they will always be viewed as someone who struggles in the playoffs, until a resounding case is presented otherwise. Manning was finally able to erase his reputation down the road. So can Ryan.

Wouldn't you know it? Ryan's in his fifth season as well, the same as Manning when he captured his first January victory. Doesn't matter to the critics, though. It's still the regular season.

You're right, Peter King. It's hard to love a team sitting at 11-1 with the potential to claim the division title in Week 13. It's hard to love a team that picked off Drew Brees five times and ended his consecutive touchdown streak. I mean, Brees turned it over, the Falcons didn't force the turnovers. My mistake.

Damn you Matt Ryan and the Falcons for winning the wrong way. Why can't you just blow out every team and be completely perfect and never show any sign of weakness?

Critics are coming around a bit with Matty Ice or The Mattural or whatever, but he still needs a playoff win to solidify any talk of being an elite quarterback. Until that time, we'll just sit back and enjoy watching Atlanta pile up the wins.

Keep that in mind when January rolls around.