We're taking a look at the 5 most memorable Matt Ryan lead fourth quarter comebacks. Today, we look at #3.
September 7, 2014 at The Georgia Dome
For many fans, the 2014 season would be defined by how the team would play in this game (not true apparently) and anything other than a win would have been devastating. After all, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have a dominant record against the Falcons, though most of the games are very close and hard fought battles. But too often, the Falcons have found themselves on the wrong side of those battles, including twice the year before.
The game started poorly for the Falcons, as they quickly were down 13-0. The offense was playing well, but an untimely Julio Jones fumble helped give some momentum to the Saints. The Saints would take a 20-7 lead before Ryan lead a very efficient end of half drive that closed the gap to 20-10.
However, going into the second half, Roddy was banged up and Jake Matthews had to sit due to having his ankle stepped on. That left Ryan to be protected by Carimi and Holmes at LT and RT respectively. The line constantly gave up pressure, but Ryan was evading the pressure all night and turning it into big plays.
The Falcons would enter the fourth quarter with a 24-20 lead, after a phenomenal Antone Smith catch and run for a TD. Not a team to be held down, the Saints would bounce back and take a 27-24 lead. The Falcons would respond in kind with a Jaquizz Rodgers TD run that left several Saints players with sprained necks and ankles - giving them a 31-27 lead. However, on the ensuing drive, the Saints offense would drive right down the field and take a 34-31 lead, leaving only 1:20 on the game clock.
With the ball on their 20 and 1:20 left on the clock, the Falcons offense took the field. Ryan quickly completed passes of 13 and 12 yards to Harry Douglas and Julio Jones respectively. After an incompletion to Julio, Ryan dropped back on a 2nd and 10 and with pressure in his face, he miraculously gets off a throw that is on target to Devin Hester for a huge 21 yard gain. That pass put the Falcons on the New Orleans 34 with just :25 left on the clock. After a few plays to run down the clock, Matt Bryant would punch the ball in for a 51 yard field goal that would tie the game at 34-34 and send the game into overtime.
Though the Saints would get the ball first, a fantastic strip by William Moore would give the Falcons the ball back in field goal range. After some questionable play calls (what in the world were they thinking), Matt Bryant would drill the ball through for a 52-yard field goal and give the Falcons the 37-34 win over the rival Saints.
As mentioned earlier, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have dominated the Falcons since they came to New Orleans. Though the games have generally been close, it has only served to intensify the desire of Falcons fans to see the their team take one away from our hated rival. Though it was only the first game of the season, it was an amazing one with incredible offense from both teams (and awful defense as well).
On top of it all, Falcons fans saw a different Matt Ryan than they had in previous contests. He was moving in and out of the pocket all day including converting a third down on his own. Of Ryan and Brees, it was Ryan that had the better overall game though Brees was no slouch. Despite the Julio fumble early in the game, the offense was generally unstoppable for most of the game.
The energy at the game was insane, and when the Falcons tied the game at the end of the fourth quarter, there was a manic energy in the GA Dome. When Bryant punched it in to win the game, the Dome was deafeningly loud. As Saints fans made their way out of the Dome, a chant filled the halls of the Georgia Dome: "Who Dat? We Dat!"
For the fact that it was a comeback against our rival, and a phenomenal all-around game (especially from our QB), this game easily belongs as one of the top fourth quarter comebacks since Ryan took over this team.