It may sound strange considering Matt Ryan won 33 games in his first three seasons, won games that got the Falcons into the playoffs, won games in the fourth quarter and has beaten Green Bay (twice), New Orleans (twice) Baltimore and the New York Jets, among others.
But a win Sunday would be the biggest of Ryan’s career.
The Falcons play Philadelphia, a potential Super Bowl team. More importantly, the game is the first meeting between Ryan and Michael Vick as starters. (Ryan was injured during the first meeting between the teams with Vick coming off the bench; Ryan started the second meeting but Vick was injured.)
Regardless of who wins this game, there still will be Ryan fans and Vick fans, Falcons fans and anti-Falcons fans. But this will be Ryan’s first chance to win a game over Vick, who at his peak probably had a bigger hold on this city than any athlete in history.
Vick’s post-prison rebirth has been an amazing story, and the fact he is playing for one of the NFL’s premier teams makes it even bigger. For those who’ve held a grudge against Vick since he was instrumental in trainwrecking the Falcons franchise, that has been difficult to take.
There is no question the Falcons made the right call on Vick. He had inflicted too much damage on the franchise, betrayed trusts and burned bridges. Beyond the fact that there were no guarantees he ever would be a premier player again – and the odds certainly were against it — the team couldn’t wait around for two or three years without a starting quarterback. Going after Ryan was the absolute correct move.
But Vick hangover still exists, and this is Ryan’s opportunity to ease that.
It’s only the second game of the season. But if the Falcons win, Ryan won’t have a bigger one on his resume.
By Jeff Schultz