One more look back, and then we will charge forward, pun very much intended.
The Atlanta Falcons did a lot of things Monday night that were fairly astounding, but lost in the crazy nature of the game and the endless (justified) griping about Peyton Manning and ESPN were the milestones. You see, two nights ago, Michael Turner broke the franchise rushing touchdown record and Matt Ryan chucked his 100th career touchdown pass.
Obviously, these are both big marks for the franchise, and they speak well of both current players but also the team over the last four-plus years. That's a remarkably short time span to achieve these kinds of numbers within, I'll say that.
After the jump, a closer look at why these matter.
Matt Ryan's 100 Touchdowns
Only two quarterbacks in Falcons history have 100 or more touchdown passes. One of them is Steve Bartkowski, the living legend who spent his career with Atlanta and threw for 154 over 11 seasons. The other is Matt Ryan, with exactly 100.
Consider how much Ryan has done for the franchise already—four straight winning seasons, three playoff berths, many games won on his arm and wiles—and 100 touchdowns looks just like a pretty, round number. Then consider, though, that it took him all of four seasons and two games to get there, whereas it took Bart 11 to get to 154. Different eras and vastly different supporting casts, I know, but that's pretty incredible.
Ryan looks like he's headed for the best career a Falcons quarterback has ever had, and the 100 touchdowns are just the latest milestone along the way. I think it's worth lingering on these moments as they happen, because they're part of the road map of Ryan's career. Whether it leads him to greatness or merely to good, we'll want to remember this.
Plus, 100! Sparkly number.
Michael Turner's 51 Rushing Touchdowns
Consider the great running backs who have passed through Atlanta. Gerald Riggs. William Andrews. Jamal Anderson. Warrick Dunn.
All of those guys were terrific players, but Turner just surpassed them all in rushing touchdowns. He seems exceedingly unlikely to catch the top of the yardage chart—he needs over 1,300, and by a combination of poor blocking, aging legs and now legal troubles, this may be his last season in the red and black—so this is going to be his big milestone. It's a great one.
Lost in all the barbs headed Turner's way this off-season—and I'm not denying that those barbs are justified in some cases—is how much he mattered to the Falcons over the past four seasons. One does not simply score 51 touchdowns and rush for over 5,000 yards in just four years without considerable talent, and the Falcons went to the playoffs in 2008 and 2010 on Turner's back. Mike Mularkey ran him into the ground, yes, but he did so because Turner proved time and time again he could handle the load and he could handle the goal line work.
So I guess what I'm saying: Even if things continue to go south for the Burner, remember this stretch fondly. In this pass-friendly era, it seems unlikely we'll see a Falcons running back put up numbers like him again.
Your thoughts on these milestones?