By Michael Cunningham
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s numbers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome suggested he was the losing quarterback.
Ryan had five interceptions and no touchdowns against the Cardinals. His fourth pick, the most egregious, led to Arizona taking the lead with a field goal early in the fourth quarter.
But the Falcons won, anyway, because their defense bailed them out and Ryan managed to patch together one touchdown drive for a 23-19 victory. In doing so Ryan became the first winning quarterback with five interceptions and no touchdowns since Packers great Bart Starr in 1967.
“That’s great company to be in,” Ryan said, smiling. “Bart is one of the greats of all time. It doesn’t happen very often, it really doesn’t. But it comes down to really good teammates that really picked us up today and made the plays when we needed to.”
Ryan washed away his earlier mistakes by leading Atlanta to its only offensive touchdown of the game. That came not long after his fourth interception threatened to put the Falcons behind by a touchdown.
Ryan rolled to his right and threw a pass that went right to Arizona’s standout linebacker, Daryl Washington. That set the Cardinals up at the Atlanta 16 but they were held to a field goal for a 19-16 lead.
At that point, Ryan went to his teammates to try to boost their confidence
“He said, ‘I don’t know what I was thinking’ and was shaking everybody’s hand,’” Falcons running back Michael Turner said. “Then he said, ‘Let’s go get them again.’”
After their next drive stalled at their 44-yard line, the Falcons finally got in the end zone.
Staring from their 30-yard line, the Falcons got back-to-back catches from Harry Douglas for 11 and 26 yards and an 18-yard catch from Roddy White. A five-yard run by Turner was followed by a nine-yard catch by tight end Tony Gonzalez, and Turner finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Douglas said the Falcons never lost confidence in their offense, in part because the Cardinals weren’t doing much with the turnovers they forced.
“When we saw them just settling for field goals and not really getting any points out of it really, we knew we were still in the ballgame,” he said.
The Falcons still had to survive one more Ryan interception, a deflected pass that Arizona’s Sam Acho returned to the Atlanta 32 with about four minutes left. Atlanta’s defense held again when Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t hang on to a fourth-down pass.
Ryan’s first interception was a ball that White bobbled. Three of Ryan’s interceptions came after balls that were tipped by Cardinals defenders near the line of scrimmage.
“I just need to do a better job of finding passing lanes and finding a spot where it’s not going to get tipped,” Ryan said.
Turner said Ryan’s teammates knew he would eventually play better.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Matt,” Turner said. “We know he’s going to get it done in the end.”
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