Since 2009, anytime Matt Ryan has gotten the Atlanta Falcons into field goal range, the team would turn to kicker Matt Bryant. That’ll obviously change in 2019, as the Falcons parted ways with Bryant this offseason.
According to Pro Football Reference, Matt Ryan has 36 total game-winning drives to his name. While on the roster, Bryant was able to take a shot at the field goal for 31 of the game-winning drives. The question is, how many of Ryan’s game-winning drives were settled thanks to the leg of Matt Bryant?
The quick answer is 11 of them. I excluded games where the Falcons were already leading, and Matt Bryant kicked another field goal to extend the lead, because there were of course a few of those. Additionally, the kick against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2012-2013 Divisional Round was not included. Here are the three games where Bryant saved the day.
Falcons at Saints – Sep 26, 2010
In 2010 we witnessed what led to a decade of confidence in Matt Bryant to win games. Against the loathed New Orleans Saints, the Falcons took the lead late in the fourth quarter due to a 22-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. This led to the Saints having plenty of time to mount a comeback, which they did, kicking a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 24. Overtime was upon us, and the Falcons received the ball first. The Falcons eventually punted, and the Saints missed a field goal on their procession. The Falcons moved the ball for nearly seven minutes before being in a 4th and 7 spot, looking at a 46-yard field goal attempt from Bryant.
He made it, of course, and the Falcons won 27-24.
Falcons vs. Raiders – Oct 14, 2012
Remember when Carson Palmer was the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders? It was a while ago. In this matchup, Matt Bryant made two field goals in the third quarter, which tied the game at 13. With 2:40 remaining in the game, the Falcons’ Asante Samuel returned an interception 79-yards for a touchdown, putting the Falcons’ lead at 20-13.
The Falcons naturally allowed the Raiders to come back and score, which tied the game at 20 with 40 seconds remaining. With the assistance of tight end Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan was able to get the Falcons into favorable territory. With 5 seconds remaining, Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal to win the game.
Falcons at Buccaneers – Dec 30, 2018
Unless you just became a fan this offseason, this game should be fresh in your mind. After dealing with a hamstring injury in 2018, Matt Bryant was active for the season finale against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After a pair of Calvin Ridley and Tevin Coleman touchdowns in the third quarter, Tampa answered back taking the lead 32-31 with a little over five minutes remaining. After a long drive by Matt Ryan, the Falcons put the always-reliable Bryant in position to end the season with a win. Bryant was money, per usual, and knocked down a 37-yarder for the Falcons’ victory.
This article wasn’t intended to take anything away from Matt Ryan. His list of accomplishments speaks for itself. It was more to show that throughout his NFL-career, Ryan has had the luxury of being able to rely on the 8th most accurate kicker in NFL history, Matt Bryant. As previously mentioned, the team has moved on from Bryant, which saved them close to $3 million in 2019, and close to $4 million in 2020. Hopefully, the Falcons will have equal confidence in Giorgio Tavecchio, who will be the starting kicker entering the 2019 season.