We're taking a deeper look at the 5 most memorable Matt Ryan lead fourth quarter comebacks. Today, we start with number 5.
September 18th, 2011 at The Georgia Dome
After suffering a tough loss to the Bears in week 1, the Falcons found themselves at home in week 2 in need of a win. Unfortunately, this would not be just any game. This Sunday night game featured the return of Michael Vick - as a starting QB - to the GA Dome. Though Vick was the starting QB for the Eagles, the GA Dome was full of red #7 jerseys, a sign that Vick had many fans remaining in Atlanta.
The Falcons would jump out to the early lead. In fact, by the time the first drive of the third quarter had finished, the Falcons would have a 21-10 lead. That's when the dreaded third quarter lull - a staple of the Falcons teams under Mike Smith - would kick in.
The Eagles would take command in the third quarter - lead of course by one Mike Vick - and would score 21 unanswered points. On the last offensive drive for the Eagles in the third quarter, Vick would take a nasty shot and ultimately have to leave the game. As he makes his way off the field, a notable chorus of boos greets him. Upon hearing it, Vick looks up and points to the scoreboard - which at that point, showed Eagles 31 - Falcons 21.
Even though Vick was knocked out of the game, it was Ryan who was taking a beating all day. The Eagles defense was getting to the QB and at one point in the late third quarter, Ryan was nearly broken in half on a sack that scared half the fanbase when they saw it.
The Falcons would enter the fourth quarter down 31-21. Despite his struggles earlier in the evening, including two interceptions, Ryan would finally find a rhythm in the fourth quarter. Continuing a drive that started at the end of the third quarter, Ryan would march the team down the field. On a second and one on the Philly one yard line, Ryan would scramble and awkwardly find Ovie Mughelli in the end-zone for the TD. Eagles 31, Falcons 28.
After the Eagles failed to do anything on the next possession, the Falcons had the ball again. This game winning drive came alive when Michael Turner busted up the middle for a 61 yard run. After a key third down conversion to - you guessed it - Tony Gonzalez, Turner would punch it in from 3 yards out. Falcons 35, Eagles 31.
The Falcons and Eagles would both go scoreless on the remaining possessions with Atlanta winning with a final score of 35 - 31.
Though this game didn't have the last second thrill of some of the others, it's significant for a few reasons. First, it was a comeback that followed a significant lull where the Falcons gave up 21 unanswered points. Second, Ryan didn't have his greatest game, but it didn't stop him from coming alive when it mattered most.
But more important than those factors was who was on the other side of the field. Much was made of Vick's return to Atlanta, and even in 2011 - after 3 years of success under Ryan - there were still many fans who missed Mike Vick and even some who wanted him back. This game was as much about the past and future as it was about anything else. While Vick would march off the field with a lead, it was ultimately Ryan that would storm back and actually secure the win. In many ways, it was symbolic of what the franchise had gone through: with Vick abruptly leaving the field, and Ryan coming in to save the day.
So while this game lacked some of the last second heroics that Ryan would accomplish in other games, the fact that he walked off the field as the winner - over the beloved and disgraced man that he replaced - puts this game in the top 5 of his all-time fourth quarter comebacks.