Throughout his nine-year NFL career, Atlanta Falcons’ starting quarterback Matt Ryan has been overshadowed by big-name quarterbacks who’ve proven themselves in the post-season such as New England’s Tom Brady, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, and both Manning brothers. This season however, not even a trio of future hall-of-famers have managed to out-shine Atlanta’s star signal-caller.
In his first playoff appearance in four years, Ryan came through with another M.VP.-like performance to guide Atlanta past the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 in last Saturday’s NFC divisional showdown, finishing with 338 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a passer rating rating of 125.7. Following what was easily one of the most significant wins of his career, Ryan told reporters that the entire offense deserved credit for dropping 36 points on Seattle’s defense.
”I thought we played well today,” said Ryan via ESPN. ”I did. I thought we had a really good plan all week. [Offensive Coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan] did a good job of letting us know what he expected from us, and what he wanted us to do, and how we could win the game. I was proud of how the guys went out there and executed.”
Prior to the Falcons’ first playoff win since they ended Seattle’s season following the 2012 campaign, the knock on Ryan had been his inability to win when it matters most—evidenced by the 1-4 playoff record that followed him into last weekend’s start. But Ryan wasn’t fazed by Richard Sherman and Seattle’s often-stout secondary, and he’s the reason that Atlanta will play in its fourth NFC Championship game in franchise history when it hosts the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon.
Recently chosen as the NFC South Comeback Player Of The Year by ESPN’s NFL Nation, Ryan recovered from an off year in 2015, in which the Falcons finished just 8-8, to lead Atlanta to its first wining season since 2012. However, Ryan was rarely the problem during those losing efforts, and now that the Falcons have shed the majority of their shortcomings there’s reason to believe that this is his best shot at a Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Ryan, the other three remaining playoff quarterbacks—Rodgers, Brady, and Pittsburgh’s Ben Rothlisberger, are also potential post-season nightmares for any opponent. For now, Ryan only has to worry about out-dueling Rodgers, and statistically speaking, he out-performed Rodgers in passing yards, quarterback rating, completion percentage, passer rating, and average completion during the regular season.
None of that will matter when these two teams square-off on Sunday. In fact, on top of entering the playoffs as football’s most feared quarterback, Rodgers managed to throw for 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys without the services of lead receiver Jordy Nelson by connecting with six different targets. Even with the injured receiver expected to miss a second straight week, Rodgers’ most recent performance was more than enough to ensure that Falcons’ defensive coordinator Richard Smith won’t sleep this week.
In Week 9, Ryan ended Atlanta’s two-game slide by leading his team to a 33-32 win over the visiting Packers with a last-second touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu. Rodgers torched Atlanta’s defense for four touchdowns and registered a passer rating of 125.5 in the loss, but that victory was extremely significant for a Falcons’ defense that currently consists of 18 players with zero playoff experience, and it should give the youngsters some added confidence entering round two.
Realistically, as impressive as Ryan’s regular season was, it won’t mean much of anything unless he leads Atlanta to the Super Bowl—the one thing that could grant him a spot alongside those previously-mentioned quarterback greats. And while you’ll probably hear folks arguing that Atlanta’s young defense is in trouble, or claiming that Green Bay can’t stop the run ahead of Sunday’s NFC slug-fest, we already know that the fate of these Falcons rests solely on the shoulders of Matt Ryan.
Patriots’ Acquire Mohamed Sanu
The New England Patriots have acquired veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons for a second-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Patriots have been banged up in the receiver corps with injuries hitting the likes of Julian Edelman (ribs), Josh Gordon (knee) and Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) during recent weeks.
Sanu now gives the Patriots, and Tom Brady, an inside target and 3rd down receiver that can help alleviate the pressure off of Edelman.
Sanu, 30, has 33 receptions for 313 yards and one touchdown thus far during the 2019 season.
Sanu is under contract through the 2020 season, and is reportedly “good” with the trade and excited to try to win a Super Bowl, per the report.
Both Sanu and Brady issued the following on Twitter.
I appreciate everything the organization has done for my family & I. Mr. Blank, TD, Coach Q, & everyone through the organization, I am forever grateful for the opportunity. To my Teammates & fan y’all know how I feel about y’all love y’all to death. #ThankYou
— Mohamed Sanu Sr. (@Mo_12_Sanu) October 22, 2019
See you soon. https://t.co/2QgSuWbTXB
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) October 22, 2019
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Falcons’ Qadree Ollison Switches Numbers to Honor Slain Brother
Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Qadree Ollison was given permission by head coach Dan Quinn to switch numbers from #32 to #30 to honor his brother who was slain back in 2017, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
Ollison’s older brother, LeRowne Harris, wore the #30 as a youth league standout players back in Niagara Falls, New York, and died at the age of 35 when he was shot three times in a gas station parking lot.
Quinn approached Ollison with the idea of the number switch when the number became available following the release of fullback Ricky Ortiz, who was waived with an injury settlement.
“They’ve got to call and ask the league, but [Quinn] said it shouldn’t be a problem,” Ollison said. “A number is a number, but this means a little bit more to me. It’s going to be really nice to have that. It’s going to be exciting for everybody, just wearing that number and what it represents to me and my family.”
Ollison’s teammate Devonta Freeman wears #24 in honor of his late aunt who died at the young age of 24 due to a heart attack, and Freeman can relate to Ollison.
“I definitely respect it, for him to represent his brother like that,” Freeman said. “Everything I do and when I perform, it’s about my family, my auntie, and success for generations.”
Ollison may have to wait up to 7 days for the league to approve the number change, so he may not be wearing it when the Atlanta Falcons kick off the 2019 season on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Under Armour, Julio Jones Part Ways with One Year Left On Contract
Under Armour and Atlanta Falcons superstar wide receiver Julio Jones have officially mutually parted ways with a year remaining on their contract.
According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Under Armour spokesperson Dean Stoyer confirmed on Saturday that Jones had left the brand after Jones was sporting Nike shoes on the sideline during Friday’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Per Rovell, Jones has worn Under Armour cleats during Falcons’ training camp because he still felt more comfortable in the shoes after exploring other brands, adding that Jones can cover up the logo since there’s no longer a deal in place between the brand and the elite receiver.
Jones initially signed with Under Armour back in 2011 prior to being selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by Atlanta.
As of this writing, Jones has not inked a new deal with an apparel brand.
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