Numbers don't lie. The Atlanta Falcons started the regular season with an impressive 9-0 record. Despite this great start, the Falcons were never considered an elite team in the NFL. Up to that point, they had not beaten a team with at least a .500 record. Since drafting Matt Ryan as the starting QB in 2008, until this year he had been 0-3 in the post-season.
The Falcons did silence their critics this year by finally winning its first post-season game in the Matt Ryan era last week against the Seahawks. Even after entering the post-season as the No. 1 seed in the NFC Division and posting a14-4 record, no one expected the Falcons to make it to the Super Bowl.
Last week the Falcons almost became the first team in NFL playoffs history to lose after having a 20-point lead entering the fourth quarter against Seattle. The Falcons jumped out to a strong start—they led Seattle 20-0 at the half and had to rely on kicker Matt Bryant's last second field goal to secure a 30-28 victory in the NFL Divisional round last weekend.
Fast forward to Sunday's NFC Championship game; the Falcons matched up against the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1). The 49ers rebounded from a 17-0 deficit at the half to beat the Falcons 28-24 to send San Francisco to the Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years (San Francisco last Super Bowl appearance was in 1995 which they won).
The Falcons started quickly for the second straight week in the post-season. Matt Ryan was impressive throwing 3 touchdown passes in the first half, including a 10-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez. He also had two touchdowns passes to Julio Jones. He completed 18 of 24 passes for a total of 271passing yards in the first half. However, he also had two critical turnovers including an interception by San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver and a fumbled snap in the shotgun, both in the third quarter. These all contributed to the 49ers pulling off the biggest comeback victory in an NFC Championship game (overcoming a 17-0 halftime deficit to beat the Falcons 28-24).
After Sunday's devastating loss, the first thing that came out of Atlanta's camp was not how this was possibly the last game for the classy-future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez; nor the disappointment of not making it to the Super Bowl considering it's been 14 years since the franchise last trip to the big game. Instead, the biggest news coming out of Atlanta were reports of the franchise intentions to offer Matt Ryan a “mega” contract extension after leading the Falcons to the NFC's No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. (The report further stated, win or lose after the regular season this extravagant contract extension would take effect according to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer). This after winning his first career playoff game in five seasons since being selected No. 3 overall by the Falcons in 2008. Ryan is set to make $10 million in 2013, in the final season of a mega $91 million rookie contact back in 2008.
There is no denying Ryan's stock has grown this season but to offer him such a huge contract especially since the franchise is now on the rise but has so much issues that need to be addressed—including an anemic defense that got exposed on so many occasions during the last two weeks of the post-season—as Mike Tyson would say is ludicrous!
Matt Ryan is not going anywhere. There is no question he has established himself among the upper echelons of QBs in the league. The Falcons had a great year and if they want to earn the respect of being an elite team in the NFL, they have to be more diligent and become a well balanced team in all faucets of the game. They already have a prolific offense but there are too many holes on special teams and defense. These flaws became crystal clear during the last two weeks where they allowed the Seahawks to score 38 points in the second half last week, as well as surrendering another 28 points in the second half on Sunday against the 49ers—and eventually the chance to play in the Super Bowl.
Although the terms of Matt Ryan’s new contract have not yet been disclosed, we already know it is going to be ridiculous huge.
Way to go Falcons—how does it feel knowing this is the only thing relevant about your franchise in the post-season.
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