NEW ORLEANS – The Falcons had a commanding three-score lead late in Sunday's game with the Saints. They lost it and all the momentum built over the course of three-and-a-half quarters well played, with time ready to expire.
The Dirty Birds were in dire freaking straits. A loss like this, to a hated rival, would've been nothing short of disastrous.
Matt Ryan didn't carry that burden with him onto the field with 61 seconds remaining, a full 75 yards from pay dirt. He didn't let the tension overtake him. He wasn't distracted or deterred by rising decibels inside a Caesars Superdome full of Saints fans smelling blood.
He was, instead, exactly what the Falcons needed him to be. Cool, calm, collected and projecting confidence.
"That's just Matty Ice, man," offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson said. "He's not nervous. He has been doing this his whole career, bringing teams back and doing what he do. The 10 other guys out there just trust and believe in him."
Their confidence is well placed. Ryan led yet another game-winning drive in the waning moments to secure a 27-25 victory over the Saints, snatching a victory against all odds.
He essentially did it with one perfect strike. Ryan identified a mismatch with Patterson working outside, let the speed demon run and dropped an absolute dime on him for a 64-yard gain that set up Younghoe Koo's game-winning field goal.
A lesser quarterback doesn't make that perfect throw. A lesser quarterback doesn't own the do-or-die moments. A lesser quarterback wilts under diamond-creating pressure. A lesser quarterback goes down with a seemingly sinking ship.
Ryan does none of those things. He's the man you want in that situation.
"When you put the ball in Matt Ryan's hand with the game on the line, my money's on Matt," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "He's as cool as they can be. His comebacks are getting up there. It certainly helps when you have a veteran, Hall-of-Fame type quarterback. It certainly makes it easier."
His comeback drives are getting up there, reaching elite levels. Sunday's decisive drive was the 41st of his illustrious career, breaking a tie with John Elway and Matt Stafford to take sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list.
Ryan doesn't like evaluating his legacy in real time, nor should he. The legend of Matt Ryan, after all, continues to grow. He also doesn't care to make things too big a deal, even when so many are extolling his virtues.
That's part of his ability to perform under pressure. The moment doesn't get too big. He plans well for every possible scenario, including those at the end of a tight game. And, maybe most important of all, he doesn't let the context of a moment become an obstacle to quality execution.
"I just try to do the same thing I'm always doing," Ryan said. "I don't try to overcomplicate it. I really feel like, the longer you play, the more you realize you have to keep things simple. Know the play call, the coverage, the matchups, and then go make a good throw. Don't make it any more difficult than it needs to be."
The confidence in his approach as proven infectious. The players around him believe they'll come through in the clutch simply by following Ryan's lead.
"You tell the guys that we're going to get the job done, and that they have to do their specific job to run the play really well," Ryan said. "That's all you have to do. Whether it's a protection, a route or a read, do that thing really well and believe that we're going to get the job done."
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.