Why NFL fans should remember Matt Ryan as a great quarterback
Atlanta Falcons may be struggling but they’ve got one of the last great gunslingers
The heroes of the wild west were the gunslingers, with legends told of their bravery, speed and charisma. They would stand and stare death down, with the quickest draw generally being the winning shooter.
In the NFL there are gunslingers too, although their days seem to be in decline. They would sit back in the pocket, firing balls all over the field, throwing bombs over the top of secondaries, picking holes in the armoured defence they faced and staring certain death in the face. Ok, maybe not the last part but I’m sure a few felt like they might die as 300lbs lineman hit them.
But these quarterbacks seem to be in decline as the newer run-and-gun quarterbacks make their way through the ranks. Players like Patrick Mahomes, pictured inset, and Lamar Jackson are the future, while those who can adapt will try – Aaron Rodgers – and a player like Matt Ryan will be lost to the annals.
The reason I say Ryan is because at the weekend his Atlanta Falcons team lost again despite leading for almost the entire game.
Heading into the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears, the Falcons were starting to sweat. For the second time in two weeks, they had a three-score lead with 15 minutes to play.
But heading into the locker room at the end of the game the air had been sucked out of the team. On both occasions, the Falcons had seemingly blown impossible leads, with win probabilities in the game being above 99 per cent.
Before this, no team had blown two 15-point leads in the fourth quarter during any season this century. Atlanta have now lost two in two weeks, not to mention the 25-point lead they gave up in the Super Bowl a few years back.
Ryan has been with the Falcons since 2008 when they drafted him from Boston College. Now in his 13th season, he has thrown for over 50,000 yards, 328 touchdowns and has only once posted a completion percentage below 60 per cent for a season. He has been a franchise quarterback that any general manager would be happy to claim.
But Ryan has a dark side. Late in the game on Sunday he threw a ball deep as the Falcons tried to take the lead back. The pass sailed a few feet too far and was collected by Chicago safety Tashaun Gipson for a game-ending play. Ryan has a history of interceptions, with 149 in his 12 years – in the same period Tom Brady has thrown 96, and Aaron Rodgers has 83.
While this may signal the beginning of the end of Ryan’s time in Atlanta, it’s important to remember the last few weeks weren’t his fault. In both games the defense gave up massive leads. The quarterback wasn’t on the field when the Falcons gave up the three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
After all, there’s a 53-man squad sent out to win a game, and if Atlanta had ever had a solid defense, maybe Ryan would be wearing a ring, perhaps even two or three.
So if it is time for the Falcons to move on let’s remember Matt Ryan as the gifted passer he was, the player that lit up the league for years, the passer who was willing to put it all on the line when it really mattered. Ryan is a risk-taker and because of that he is and will be remembered as one of the last great gunslingers.
Around the league, there was disappointment for LA Rams as they overcame a 25-point deficit against Buffalo Bills only to lose the game to a disputed late call. At the same time, Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostowski struck six field goals to help them top Minnesota 31-30.
Tom Brady picked up his second win with Tampa as they took on the winless Broncos, while his former head coach Bill Belichick became the third person to win 275 regular-season games as the Patriots beat the Raiders.
The two New York monikered teams both lost to move to a combined 0-6 on the season while there were wins for the Dolphins, Browns and Steelers while Cincinnati and Philadelphia played out a 23-23 draw to leave both teams winless on the season.
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