We're taking a look at the 5 most memorable Matt Ryan led fourth quarter comebacks. Today, we look at #2.
October 12th 2008 at The Georgia Dome
Relive the end of the game here.
In a year where many analysts thought the Falcons would be one of the worst teams in the league while they began rebuilding after the loss of Michael Vick, a young Matt Ryan and unknown coach Mike Smith would come in and surprise the NFL. At this point in the season, the Falcons were 3-2 and fresh off a win over the Green Bay Packers. In fact, the previous game in Green Bay was Ryan's first ever game winning drive.
This game would end up also being Matt Ryan's first 300 yard game of his career, even though it wasn't a particularly thrilling game, with the Falcons scoring mostly field goals in this contest. In fact, the Falcons would enter halftime with a 9-3 lead and would eventually be up 19-10 by the early fourth quarter after the Falcons first (and only) touchdown to Roddy White. That's when Chicago would begin it's own comeback.
Down 19-10, the Bears would close the gap to 19-13 with just 4 minutes left in the game. On the ensuing possession, in an effort to burn the clock, the Falcons would run the ball with Michael Turner three straight times and gain a total of 2 yards. The Falcons would attempt a field goal that would all but ice the game, but kicker Jason Elam missed the 33 yarder, giving the Bears the ball back on their own 23 with 2:43 left in the game and needing a touchdown for the win.
Orton and the Bears would drive down the field over the next 2 plus minutes, giving Falcons fans small heart attacks with each pass that completed. The Bears would end up on the Falcons 17 with just 17 seconds remaining when Orton would find WR Rashied Davis in the end zone for the TD. The Bears would punch in the extra point to take a 20-19 lead. What should have been a certain win for the Falcons ended up as a certain loss with only 10 seconds or so left on the clock. In fact, the projected win % for the Falcons would stand at exactly 0 as the Bears made the final kick off.
In what seemed like a formality, the Bears would kick off to the Falcons. Harry Douglas would return the ball an additional 10 yards to give the Falcons the ball at their own 44 with only 6 seconds left on the clock. On the ensuing first down, Matt Ryan would drop back and throw what is arguably one of his most memorable passes of his career. With pressure bearing down on him, Ryan would release the ball towards the sidelines - getting hit almost as soon as the ball left his fingertips. The ball would travel 26 yards, perfectly placed into the hands of Michael Jenkins, who would get both feet in bounds and magically maintain control of the ball as he stepped out. One. Second. Left. On. The. Clock.
Jason Elam - who earlier was held in disdain for failing to help ice the game - would get a rare chance at redemption. With the ball at the Chicago 30 and only 1 second left, Elam would drill the 48 yard field goal. The game clock would read 00:00 and the scoreboard would shine the final score of Falcons 22, Bears 20. The improbable comeback was complete.
Though this game wasn't a revenge game or one against a hated rival, it carries significant weight with Falcons fans. It was really as unexpected a comeback as you could ever dream up. It would also be the symbolic beginning of the monicker "Matty Ice" in Atlanta. Ryan would go on to notch 2 more game winning drives/fourth quarter comebacks in the 2008 season, giving him 4 for the year en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Falcons would ultimately finish the year with a completely unexpected 11-5 record and a playoff berth. But the belief that this team could do something special really began with this game and this comeback. The 2008 season still feels magical, and this is the game that really made it feel that way.
For the fact that it is one of the most memorable comebacks ever, if not one of the most improbable, the 2008 fourth quarter comeback against the Bears is one of the top comebacks ever led by Matt Ryan and the Falcons.