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Falcons’ Week 9 player of the game: Matt Ryan delivers vintage performance in the Superdome

Matt Ryan delivered against Atlanta’s most hated rival.

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

No player on the Falcons roster knows how much the rivalry against the New Orleans Saints means to this franchise than Matt Ryan, given that he is by far the longest-tenured Falcon on the team. Once again going into the Louisiana Superdome as marked underdogs, the Birds knew that any hope of pulling off an upset would come by way of Ryan’s right arm.

Matt Ryan delivered an incredible performance against the league’s fifth ranked scoring defense in front of a vehemently hostile New Orleans crowd. The Boston College alum had a season high 343 passing yards, three total touchdowns, no turnovers and by far his best passer rating in a game this season of 135.8.

Ryan’s performance is even better when you consider poor performances in other aspects of the team which made his play even more crucial. The run game was non existent — Atlanta had 34 total rushing yards against the best run defense in the NFL, and eight of those yards came from Ryan himself. That meager amount of yardage came on 24 carries, for a pathetic mark of 1.4 yards per carry.

The first half was an absolute grind for an Atlanta offense which kept running into a brick wall, while the team’s defense was giving up yardage but not points thanks to a number of Saints mental errors.

The half was brought to a close by a special offensive drive put together by Ryan, which saw the offense go 92 yards down the field and into the end zone on 15 plays. Atlanta gave the Saints no time left on the clock by the end of it, and I would like to highlight the touchdown itself:

Ryan fit a tight pass into Olamide Zaccheaus in the narrowest of windows in between three Saints. It was a perfect throw which was either going to be caught low by Zaccheaus for a touchdown, or it would have fallen incomplete and given the Birds one more shot before having to kick a field goal.

Number 2 hooked up with the “Llama” once more in the next quarter, on a perfectly lofted pass which hit Zacchaeus in stride for what turned into a 49-yard reception:

That play helped the Falcons get downfield and in position to score their second touchdown of the afternoon, which was run in by Ryan on a beautifully designed bootleg play by Arthur Smith.

With everyone covered one-on-one, and the type of chaos ensuing that only comes when a quarterback scrambles out of a goal line package, Ryan directs traffic and uses a pump fake to catch Kaden Ellis in no man’s land, making the linebacker decide between pursuing the ball carrier or covering his assignment. Either way, a touchdown was inevitable when Ryan got into this position.

Of course, while the Saints defense was fearsome and ferocious coming into this game, Atlanta’s defensive unit was a leaking bucket of yardage and points — the fifth-worst scoring defense in the NFL coming into this week at 27.5 ppg given up. They surrendered 19 fourth quarter points to turn what should have been a comfortable win into a near catastrophe.

The Saints took their first lead of the game with 1:01 remaining in the fourth quarter when Trevor Siemian connected with Kenny Stills for an 8-yard touchdown. They made a mistake in leaving a vintage Matt Ryan too much time on the clock, however.

“Mattie Ice” hooked up with seven different receivers, none more so impactful than the incomparable Cordarrelle Patterson, who had a season high 126 receiving yards. A total of 64 of those yards came in one go, and it was the most important play of the game:

Patterson, the first read on this play. completely toasts rookie Paulsen Adebo in coverage before Ryan delivers the most pristine pass possible in this situation, hitting his running back/wide receiver hybrid extraordinaire right in the bread basket. Patterson didn’t have to break stride at all.

This is reminiscent of Ryan’s perfect pass to Kyle Pitts, against the Dolphins, to put the Birds in range for the game-winning field goal back in Week 7.

Atlanta was immediately well within Younhoe Koo’s range following this play, and the Georgia Southern alum kicked in his third game-winning field goal of the season three plays later to give the Falcons just their second victory against the Saints in the last seven meetings.

This was Matt Ryan’s third fourth quarter comeback of the season and the 33rd of his career, which moves him into a tie with Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford for sixth-most all time. It was also Ryan’s 41st career game-wining drive, which moves him into seventh place all time by himself, ahead of John Elway and Stafford.