You’ve heard it all week. You’ve heard it all postseason. You’ve heard it since Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons fell to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card Matchup in 2009 by a score of 30-24. Matt Ryan, entering the 2017 playoffs, was 1-4 in the postseason. Everyone cites it as a reason that Ryan and the Falcons can’t advance to the Super Bowl, much less win it. The former has been conquered, now it’s time to face the latter. But before we look there, let’s look at that playoff record and how weak the argument is.
Sure, the Falcons from 2009 – 2016 had just one playoff win. One win under Mike Smith. One win under three different coordinators. One win with a defense that could blow leads with the best of them. The defense blew a 17-14 lead against the Cardinals in 2009, a 20-0 lead against the Seahawks in 2013 and a 17-0 lead against the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. So we are to blame Matt Ryan for the defense blowing small and big leads in the playoffs? That hardly seems fair. It also hardly seems fair to hold the defense accountable for the collapses. So who is to blame? Mike Smith.
The Falcons were a team that would jump to big leads in the first half of the 2012-13 season, including the playoffs. Unfortunately, they were also a team that would give up substantial points in the second half, which would come close, but never cost them a game until the 2013 NFC Championship Game. Smith would build up leads and then expect the Atlanta defense, which everyone knew to be flawed, hold said leads. Is that Matt Ryan’s fault? No, it’s not. Those mistakes fall solely on Smith. The guy was a great man and a pretty good head coach, but he cost the Dirty Birds at least one Super Bowl appearance.
If you’re not buying that argument, maybe you can buy this one: all four the Falcons playoff losses during that span played in the Super Bowl. Go ahead and say what you want, but they didn’t lose to a team that got bounced out in the next round. They lost to teams that went to the Super Bowl. Two of those teams won the whole, damn thing, while the Arizona Cardinals were one, incredible Santonio Holmes catch away from making it three. The 2010 Green Bay Packers won it and the 2011 New York Giants won it. Since Matt Ryan has lost to teams that won the Super Bowl and two others that went there, it means he’s not to be trusted? The only time you can make that argument would be the 2012 wildcard match-up against the Giants when the Falcons scored two points on a safety.
Matt Ryan has thrown seven interceptions in the playoffs, all occurring from 20009-2013. He threw nine touchdowns and completed 67 percent of his passes totaling 1,230 yards. Sure you could do without the interceptions, but Ryan could have done with an offensive line in 2012 and 2013. Strangely it was the Packers defense that sacked Ryan the most: five times, or 14.7 percent. His QBR was 95, which is a little better than average. Has Ryan been an awful quarterback in the playoffs? No. Has he had some of the blame? Three interceptions against the 49ers suggest so, but he’s certainly not all of the blame.
It’s odd to look at the Falcons playoff record pre-Dan Quinn. Different, coach, regime, philosophy, and more. It’s really a different team. So don’t pay attention to the pundits quoting Atlanta’s playoff record. Dan Quinn, as a head coach, is 2-0 in playoff games. Ryan with Quinn and Kyle Shanahan is a great quarterback in playoff games. Don’t worry about the past, but, instead, look at the present. This is a fun team that should be competitive with the New England Patriots on Sunday. This shouldn’t be as bad as what happened in Miami in 1999. No matter what the franchise encyclopedia says, this is a different Falcons team.