For two quarters, it looked as if Jacoby Brissett was going to be the only quarterback anyone would be talking about following the Falcons-Colts game on Sunday, certainly not Matt Ryan.
Brissett, the Indianapolis Colts’ fourth-year quarterback who took over as the starter after Andrew Luck abruptly retired right before the season started, put on a show in front of the home crowd, completing 16 straight passes to open the game (which was the fifth-longest streak in team history).
At one point, Brissett was on pace to throw for a whopping 436 yards and four touchdowns against the Falcons. Fueled by the young gun’s blistering start, the Colts jumped out to a 20-3 lead after two quarters.
Just as everything seemed to be going Indy’s way early on, nothing was for the Falcons. And Ryan, who completed just 7 of 11 passes for 88 yards and tossed a red-zone interception in the first half, was having a very forgettable day at the office.
That all changed in the third quarter.
Ryan, who has thrown six interceptions in three games now (remember, he had only seven in 2018), put the frosty start behind him and jump-started the Falcons’ offense.
As hot as Brissett was to start the game, Ryan came out even hotter in the third quarter, completing 18 straight passes and leading the Falcons to 14 unanswered points to make it a three-point game early in the fourth quarter.
And when Indianapolis scored midway through the fourth on Marlon Mack’s 4-yard run to put the Colts up by 10 with 8:47 remaining, Ryan and Co. responded.
Ryan led the Falcons on a 10-play, 71-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones to pull the Falcons within three points once again.
All Ryan needed was just one more possession to pull off what earlier seemed like an improbable comeback. But it wasn’t to be.
“Today, on limited possessions, we had two good opportunities to come away with points and didn’t come away with points on either of those possessions,” Ryan said. “I was proud of the way the guys fought in the second half, but in this league it’s about every snap and we’ve got to find a way to be better every snap.”
Still, overshadowed in the 27-24 loss to the Colts, was a gritty performance by Ryan and a memorable quarterback duel.
Ryan was sensational in the second half, completing 22 of 23 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He went from 50.6 quarterback rating to a near-perfect 145.5 second-half rating. Brissett, meanwhile, cooled down a bit over the final two quarters, but was still an efficient 7-of-10 passing for 92 yards.
By game’s end, the two quarterbacks combined for 604 passing yards and five touchdowns.
The Falcons ultimately fell to 1-2 on the season, and that’s all that matters. They committed 16 penalties for 128 yards and are also awaiting further test results on Keanu Neal’s Achilles injury.
Those are what most Falcons will take away from this one, and I get it. But it was also one special quarterback duel that I won’t soon forget.