clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Matty Ice Moments: The unbelievable comeback against Chicago

six seconds, no timeouts, and one of the best passes you will ever see.

Cincinnati Bengals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Last offseason, I wrote a series of Throwback Thursday articles looking back at some of the most memorable moments in Atlanta Falcons history. That series culminated with an article looking back at the time newly minted General Manager Thomas Dimitroff drafted Matt Ryan with the third overall pick. Here’s how that specific article concluded:

As you may or may not have noticed, there wasn’t a single one of these articles which was dedicated to any moment in the Matt Ryan era; that was by design. In this upcoming offseason, I hope to write a series of “Matty Ice Moments” articles, which look back on nothing but moments in the Matt Ryan era.

Well, that time has come — welcome to the “Matty Ice Moments” series. This will be a series of articles dedicated to looking back on Matt Ryan-centric moments, in an attempt to help distract us from the dead period a little bit.

And if you don’t like Matt Ryan and think that we’re focusing on him too much this offseason, then that’s just too bad I guess.

You can find last week’s article in this series, looking back on Ryan’s first professional pass, here.

The improbable 2008 comeback against Chicago:

Behind their workhorse running back Michael Turner and rookie sensation quarterback Matt Ryan, the 2008 Atlanta Falcons came out of the gates swinging in what most expected to be a lost season.

When Week 6 rolled around the team was sitting pretty with a 3-2 record when they welcomed the also 3-2 Chicago Bears to the Georgia Dome for an important NFC matchup.

Chicago boasted a very formidable defense anchored by names such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Charles Tillman. On offense they had the solid Kyle Orton at QB, but were driven by their phenomenal young running back Matt Forte. This was a team just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

The Falcons had the lead throughout most of this game, going up 19-10 at one point early in the fourth quarter. Orton would lead an impressive comeback which culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass to Rashied Davis to take a 20-19 lead with 11 seconds left, however.

Atlanta seemed dead in the water — the Bears sideline was celebrating what seemed to be a sure victory, and Orton was leaned back on the sideline doing fist bumps and hugging teammates after going 7-11 for 71 yards (and the touchdown) on what looked to be the game-winning drive.

Harry Douglas returned the ensuing kickoff to Atlanta’s 44-yard-line, leaving six seconds on the clock, and no timeouts for Matt Ryan to try and pull off a minor miracle. Most of us remember Ryan’s portion of this comeback fondly, but some tend to forget that it was Douglas’ excellent return which made it all possible (Edit: I am also among those who was among the forgetful, since I originally thought it was Norwood who returned the kick, but it was in fact Douglas).

Out of the double back shotgun formation, Ryan took the snap, dropped back, and made one of the best throws you will ever see, across his body while getting crushed by a defender. The pass found the waiting hands of Michael Jenkins at Chicago 29-yard-line, and he had just enough space to tap his toes before falling out of bounds. This entire sequence took five seconds, and left Atlanta with just enough time on the clock to attempt a field goal.

Following a Ryan point to Jenkins and a celebratory fist pump, Jason Elam nailed a 48-yard field goal to secure an improbable victory. Now sitting at 4-2, the Falcons had matched their win total from the entire 2007 season before even the halfway point in 2008. They went into the Week 7 bye week with new life, having now won back to back games for the first time all season.

In the postgame press conference, head coach Mike Smith stated something everyone had just learned in real time just a few minutes prior — “Matt’s go it, I don’t know what it is, but he’s got it.”

This was the moment when Falcons fans realized that they had something special with their quarterback, and that general manager Thomas Dimitroff did indeed make the right decision in selecting him third overall. Matt Ryan was the real deal, and he showcased it with this brazen moment against all odds.

After not having passed for 200 yards in a game in his professional career up until that point, Ryan threw for 301 passing yards and a touchdown in this one. With Michael Turner held completely in check, this was the first game in his career where Ryan really had to take over and win the game.

This comeback against the Bears ended up being the defining moment of the 2008 season. It was the turning point, where most fans realized that this team was the real deal and not just some fluke.

They had realized that Matt Ryan was the real deal and not just some fluke.