The Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, in 2008. Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds traveled to Arizona to face another kind of species, the Cardinals. The game was hyped up by a horde of NFL pundits because of the resurrection of Kurt Warner’s career and the resuscitation of a franchise that had been nonexistent since its St. Louis days during the 1970s. Matt Ryan, a rookie quarterback who had looked like much more of a pro than most rookies you usually observe, had the lowest total of interceptions during the regular season that a rookie has ever had (Ryan only threw 12 picks).
With Arizona leading 14-3 during the second quarter, the Falcons fought back, with Ryan throwing dazzling strikes to receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins respectively. Tight End Justin Peelle caught a pass from Ryan during the late first half to put the Falcons up 17-14 at the break.
The third quarter was a disaster. Matt Ryan threw an interception, a fumble that was incurred by a sabotaged handoff from Ryan to running back Michael Turner (who struggled, only rushing for 42 irrelevant yards) was returned for a touchdown by the Cardinals’ Antrel Rolle.
The Cardinals, who ended up leading by 13 at one point, won the game 30-24.
If you look at Atlanta’s season from the forefront, you will quickly notice that Ryan’s success was instigated by the debonair play of Michael Turner. Turner was a newly acquired member during the 2008 offseason, signing a big mega deal with Atlanta, to come in and be a franchise back. He sure as hell looked like one this season, rushing for 1700 yards, leading the Falcons to a playoff berth.
Any team who has a deft running game is apt to have a solid passing game if their quarterback is competent enough to make smart passes, have good footing, and be a leader. Matt Ryan has all three of those aptitudes. With defenses looking for Turner to run the ball, play-action fakes opened up holes for Ryan and the Atlanta receivers to get downfield fast and look to get open. Atlanta thrived.
Nice season, Falcons.