We're taking a look at the 5 most memorable Matt Ryan lead fourth quarter comebacks. Today, we take a look at #4.
September 30th, 2012 at The Georgia Dome
Coming into this game, the Falcons were already 3-0, having gone on an AFC West beating spree by taking down the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers. The newly unveiled Nolan defense had confused Peyton Manning and shutdown the Chargers offense, while the pass-first offense under Dirk Koetter gave Ryan the best start to his career.
The Panthers, on the other hand, were 1-2 and coming off an ugly loss to the New York Giants the week before. This was a team that wanted to bounce back, and a win over the undefeated Falcons in their home would have been a great way to do it.
The game was a mostly back and forth affair, though the Panthers would go on a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter, in what could be considered yet another third quarter lull. And stop me if you've heard this before, but Ryan was getting beat up all afternoon, with Charles Johnson using him as his own personal punching bag to the tune of 3.5 sacks on the evening, with the Panthers getting 7 total on the day.
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Panthers would take a 28-24 lead on a poorly defended screen pass that went for 36 yards. The Falcons would drive the ball but settle for a field goal with under 5 minutes left in the game. As the Panthers tried to run down the clock late in the game, Cam Newton would fumble on a 3rd and 2 rush that would have iced the game. Instead, the Panthers would punt the ball with a little over a minute left in the game and would end up downing the ball on the Falcons 1 yard line.
With the ball on the 1 yard line, 59 seconds left to play, and no timeouts remaining the Falcons offense took the field. Even though Ryan had been pummeled all day, the first play was a drop-back off a play action. Ryan had enough of a pocket to step into and let it rip. The ball would travel over 60 yards in the air - to the frustration of fans who had accused Ryan of having a "noodle" arm - and land in the trusted hands of Roddy White, who had somehow gotten behind the safety on the play. First. Down.
Like clockwork, Ryan would go on to complete two more passes (and essentially a third, on a called defensive pass interference) to put the team at the 23 yard line. With 10 seconds still on the clock, Matt Bryant would drill the 40 yard FG to put the Falcons ahead 30-28.
Arguably, this comeback was almost as unlikely as any we've seen. With under a minute and no timeouts, a comeback is hard enough. Tack on the fact that you're getting the ball on your own 1 yard line, and the odds of your team winning are somewhere between "what, are you crazy?" and "you should share what you're smoking." Kicking off that comeback with a 60-yard bomb out of the end-zone - when your QB has been getting hit/sacked all night? That's just stupid.
Yet, with all of these odds stacked against the team, they still found a way. Though we had seen comebacks before that were just as miraculous, this one seemed ridiculous in its setup, and yet it still happened. It was not a particularly important game, but it was as exciting a finish as I can remember. For those reasons, this game has found itself at #4 on the list of the top fourth quarter comebacks.
You can see the highlights for this game here.