Where does the time go? Matt Ryan will be heading into his 12th season under center as the leader of the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, and it feels like just yesterday that he was drafted with the third overall pick out of Boston College.
Join us in dwelling on the past a bit, as we wait for year 12 of the Matt Ryan era to commence. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look back at each of Ryan’s 11 seasons individually — his best game, his worst game and what we learned from each season. You can find the 2008 article here and the 2009 article here.
Today, Ryan’s 2010 campaign is on tap.
His best game - Week 10 vs. Baltimore (TNF)
Riding a 6-2 record throughout the first half of the season, and with aspirations of winning the NFC South for the first time since 2004, the Atlanta Falcons went into a Thursday Night Football matchup against the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens (the Number 1 seed in the AFC at the time) looking to make a statement.
This is back when Matt Ryan vs. Joe Flacco was an actual debate, as the two would be forever linked after being the only quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. It was a stifling Ravens defense, which ranked top 10 in fewest yards allowed in 2010, which Ryan would have to figure out in primetime.
Simply put, Matt Ryan was dazzling under the lights on that November night — and he needed to be, with the Ravens shutting Michael Turner down to the tune of 17 rushes for just 39 yards. Ryan threw for a season-high 316 passing yards (his only 300-yard game of the season) and tied a season-high with three touchdown passes, while not throwing a single interception.
Down 21-19 with 1:05 left in the game, the Falcons called on Ryan to deliver yet another fourth-quarter comeback and game-winning drive — something he became an expert at doing in the 2010 season, with a league-leading five such comebacks and six such drives throughout the course of that year.
Ryan delivered as usual, with a drive which culminated in a game-winning touchdown pass to Roddy White (their second touchdown connection of the evening) with 20 seconds left to play. Ryan’s heroics would result in a 26-21 triumph en route to a 13-3 season, and the Number 1 seed in the NFC. It would set the mark for most wins in a regular season for the Falcons since 1998.
His worst game - Divisional Round vs. Green Bay
After an incredible regular season which saw Ryan lead the Birds to the 1-seed, and earn his first ever Pro Bowl appearance, the Boston College product had a disastrous performance in the team’s playoff game.
Statistically, his worst game actually came in Week 1’s defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but given the circumstances, this Packers game is the one that’s been remembered after all these years.
It all started out so well in Atlanta’s first home playoff game since 2004 — they led 14-7 after Eric Weems returned a kickoff for a touchdown, which had the Georgia Dome rocking. After that, however, the rails fell completely off.
Ryan cracked under the pressure of having to match an immaculate game from Aaron Rodgers on the opposite side, and he made two crucial mistakes which buried Atlanta’s chances.
Down 21-14 and in Field Goal range with 10 seconds left in the half, Ryan threw a horrible pass which was intercepted by Tramon Williams and returned for a touchdown, and that crushed the team’s psyche. Instead of going into the break down 21-17, the Falcons trailed 28-14. With Rodgers playing the way he was, everyone knew that that was an early dagger into the heart of Atlanta’s season.
Green Bay would go on to win the Super Bowl.
What we learned
We learned that Matt Ryan had taken the next step in his development and that he was in the upper-echelon of clutch quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite not having a top 10 defense (something he’s had only once in his entire career), Ryan still quarterbacked the Falcons to a 13-3 record. He was knocking on the door of top-tier QBs in the league, and Falcons fans knew that it was only a matter of time before he would bust that door open.
We also learned that Ryan wasn’t quite ready to make his mark in the playoffs yet. That would have to come with experience, as he was still a young QB who seemed intimidated by the post season. There’s an overwhelming difference between the Matt Ryan who faced the Packers in the 2010 playoffs and the Matt Ryan who faced the Packers in the 2016 playoffs.
What are some of your favorite moments from that 2010 season?