ARLINGTON, Texas — “It was all good just a week ago.” This simple reality offered from Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artist Jay-Z in yesteryear often rings true in the NFL on a consistent basis, as Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were reminded of in Week 10. Winners of three of their previous four games, the Falcons were flying high as they readied to square off with the Dallas Cowboys, and especially after having just defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Instead, Ryan went from soaring like a falcon to being basted and carved like a Thanksgiving turkey, in a 43-3 rout he and his team will likely never forget.
It wasn’t simply that the Cowboys defense bested him, but it was also the manner in which they did it. If the Falcons thought Ryan would stand to do well in the absence of DeMarcus Lawrence, Neville Gallimore and Randy Gregory — the latter having been moved to injured reserve late in the week with a calf strain — they should’ve thought again.
With the aid of Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Dorance Armstrong and others who stepped up big in a needed statement game for the Cowboys, Ryan finished with a paltry passer rating of 21.4 — the worst of his 14-year career and the lowest since Week 2 of his rookie season (29.6) — on nine-for-21 passing for 117 yards and two interceptions.
It was a nightmare only Father Time could save him from.
“Hopefully it will be another 13 years until I have another rating like that,” said Ryan after the game, still attempting to process what had just occurred. “That is kind of the way I view it. It’s one of the days that just wasn’t for us. We didn’t play well, I didn’t play well.
“You gotta get back to work. I really believe we are going to get back there in the next week and play well.”
And, according to Ryan (and anyone with working retinas), it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off at AT&T Stadium.
“It was early,” he added. “I thought the first two drives were pretty good. We moved the ball down there, had opportunities. We knew coming into it that that is an explosive offense we were going against.
“We had to capitalize. Couldn’t convert the third downs in the red area on the first two drives, couldn’t convert the fourth down. From there it got ugly quick.”
The former league MVP isn’t taking anything away from what the Cowboys defense did, one that’s led by his former head coach Dan Quinn. When asked if Quinn’s inside knowledge of how best to stop him came into play on Sunday, Ryan sidestepped the question and instead offered a general salute to defensive scheme that landed Quinn a game ball in the Cowboys locker room once the clock hit all zeroes on had to be the longest 60 football minutes of Ryan’s life.
“I saw Dan briefly before the game,” said Ryan. “Just gave him a hug and said, ‘Good luck today. I’ll catch up with you at some point after.’ Credit to them. Credit to him and credit to their defense.
“I thought he did a great job putting those guys in position to be successful, and their guys made plays. I thought Dan coached a really good game. … I thought they played very well. I thought we played poorly. When you do that and you are going against a good football team, it can get ugly quickly.”
It can and it did, and the Falcons won’t have much time to forget about how they were victimized by an angry Cowboys team. With the surging New England Patriots waiting to take them on this coming Thursday, things have the potential to get even uglier for Ryan and Co. In 2017, it was Matty Ice enjoying “The Burning of Atlanta” at the expense of Dak Prescott. But, in 2021, the ice skipped the melting faze and went straight to evaporation en route to Atlanta being the ones burned, and all the way to the gristle.
And Ryan, to his own admission, can’t knock the hustle.